Eva Hild’s sculptures may resemble hugely enlarged fossils, skeleton parts or sea shells, but they never spring from a desire to illustrate a familiar organism. The intricate play of lines and cavities flows and drills through the white and black surfaces; meanwhile, the asymmetric compositions appear differently depending on the angle and light. The objects are multifaceted and graceful, encouraging movement and interaction. We are urged to discover what they look like from different perspectives. The rims and walls are often precariously thin – like paper. Again and again, I am amazed by how well they manage to hold up their weight without collapsing.
On a visit to the artist’s bright and spacious studio in Sparsör just outside Borås, I can’t resist letting my fingers stroke the fragile stoneware objects, in an attempt to understand the ethereal logic of the sculptures, and perhaps also to obtain tactile proof that they actually exist. The floor is cluttered with sculptural works in various creative phases: damp towels cover soft embryos with rugged clay edges; standing a few metres away are finished objects with an incredibly matte surface. This is a stage of simmering energy, strangely vibrant considering that it consists only of clay.
The labour process is surprisingly slow, each sculpture taking up to two years to complete. This time-consuming procedure is what stops these brittle constructions from caving in; the clay has to dry little by little, to avoid the effects of gravity and to enable handling of the clay. The extended production periods offer the potential for repetitive work, where every stage is allowed to take time, an aspect that in itself was a challenge to the artist, who describes herself as a rather restless person. Hild’s relationship to the material is complex and intriguing:
“It’s me and the clay. I have declined assistants, because I want to work undisturbed. It may look messy when I’m working, and the sculptures are rather rough before I start polishing and processing them. But somewhere along the line, I gain power over the material. I want to close the circuit, and need to control all the chaotic elements of life and the material. And that requires courage, since the clay has an inherent risk.”
Even when she was still at the School of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg, where she graduated in 1998, the seed had been sown for her unmistakable, pitch-perfect style. Eschewing the utility-based aspects of ceramics, she instead explored the freer potential of the medium and was inspired by sculptural artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Tony Cragg and Antony Gormley. Hild’s works are characterised by their organic, coiling movements, which seem to balance on the line between disintegration and resilience. Stability is corroded by air holes, and the complex angles and lines charge the objects with unpredictability and volume. Sara Danius has described Hild’s art as “a black-and-white film waiting to be developed”, since her perforated sculptures are partly modelled with light. This is a contemplative oeuvre that one can easily get lost in, and perhaps this is why she has been compared to modernist predecessors such as Henry Moore and Jean Arp. Personally, I am reminded of Iris van Herpen’s surrealist garments, or Franz West’s snake-like installations. The openness alludes to a rich flora of references, but her works never become affected or fragmented as a consequence. On the contrary, the broad range of potential interpretations seems only to strengthen her unique artistic style. Her art has been featured in numerous international and national exhibitions, and she was recently awarded a prestigious grant by the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation in New York.
Her sculptures have also been associated with 3D modelling and mathematics, which Hild accepts, although she has occasionally found the comparison slightly annoying, since any similarities with scientific elements or contexts relating to mechanical technology are merely superficial. The intuitive approach, the irregularity and the materiality invested in her works contribute to the earnestness of the result. It is the recklessness and the tentative process that make her craftsmanship so subtle. Moreover, the exact result can never be calculated beforehand.
Hild’s ceramic objects rely on the relationship between body and clay, and can be likened to rhythmic self-portraits or “physical volumes”, as she herself calls them. The stoneware volumes are physically relatable and also fulfil a practical purpose: they never grow too heavy to carry their own weight. Often, she elaborates on ideas from previous projects, on guiding themes that seem to stem from various emotional states. Instances of human feelings are captured in condensed abstractions that move the viewer profoundly. The titles serve to expand the visual moods of the pieces and appear to originate in a bodily subconscious. Often, they resemble spontaneous exclamations.In recent years, she has received many public commissions, and these have, for obvious reasons, been made of more durable materials, such as bronze and aluminium. As always, the final work is preceded by a large number of sketches, photomontages and small clay maquettes. The transition to larger formats has felt natural to her, since her works always appear to have harboured a monumental promise.
“When I look at my sculptures, I can tell that a larger format would suit some of them. Monumental sculptures need to work in busy environments and should preferably have some kind of graphic distinctness and structure. They don’t have to be that complex. In my studio, I have control over the creative process, but when I work in larger formats I also have to rely on good collaborative partners. That has been my biggest challenge – to find new ways. I believe the public commissions have helped me think more architectonically about the place where the work will be installed: how people move around it, and how the volumes interact.”