When a Swedish artist rakes the autumn leaves: Gunilla Klemendz
Gunilla Klemendz’ artwork mimics the fairy lore that is widely celebrated in her region Skane, Sweden. The aesthetics of her work personalize the essence of her natural surroundings in vibrant, energetic colours that one can instantly attribute to the hues of autumn. This Swedish artist is bold in her work and demeanor. Her ceramic sculptures reverberate the experiences felt when one’s connected with mother earth.
Growing up, Klemendz used to explore the farms in the southern portion of Sweden, Skane, with her grandparents, this is where her deep interest in nature first took root. Vocationally trained as a dentist, she was already sensitive to visualizing and making subtle changes for pleasant aesthetics and was used to the dexterity that would be required for her work as an artist. Initially, she would make works with hues of greys, browns and blues, absorbing her interaction with her environs, but later her work evolved in a radically different manner, as a challenging personal event drastically changed her perceptions.
She recalls, the year of 2009 was a terrible year for me because my daughter got very sick in cancer and I also lost a very good friend. By walking in the big forests of Smaland, near the lakes, I discovered new vivid colours in nature. It was red, orange, pink and green. I brought my daughter here and she started to heal. The nature gave me the strength to carry on. From that point on, I changed my art. Now I always use very strong colours. Infact, her most memorable work is one of her first big bowls she made in 2009. She says that it was executed with extreme colours, it was for my daughter, it was all about death and heaven and leaves. I have it for myself, I haven’t exhibited that one. But that is the most important [one] as that is when I started to make art with all these feelings.
Klemendz work deconstructs nature with simplified elements. Leaves are a ubiquitous motif in her work, supported by saturated colours that are textured in an almost playful manner. The amalgamation of these strong hues, however, are visually pleasing as they are compositionally balanced, and upon further inspection, one can always notice an element or two of surprise, such as a cat or a human figure. To Klemendz, these figures become the messenger of the profound awareness and feeling one has when they are in nature. They also provide a sense of companionship.
Klemendz’ work are often functional works of art. The utilitarian purpose it serves is an added element to her work. She says, I would love my art to be used, not just watched. I also want to create a feeling of happiness inside people who look at or use my art. Indeed, the idea of using art as a part of one’s lifestyle, which exudes such warmth and earthy vibe would provide one an immense feeling of joy. Moreover, the banality that we are constantly surrounded with in our lives can definitely be placated with these cheerful and contemplative works.
When asked about the artistic process of creating her work, Klemendz said, It comes to me like pictures, I don’t know how. She said that she uses different kinds of clays to execute bowls of different sizes. Her primary focus has always been to lend her sculptures vivid colours, I want it to be like, I am coming to you, you can’t miss me! Afterwards I have to burn it. It can be a bit difficult because sometimes it will be broken, sometimes it won’t be colours that I wanted it to be, but sometimes it´s good. I have to do it several times before I can say I like it, I want to show it. So, each piece ends up being a result of careful measurements, several attempts and only after thorough examination and satisfaction, she decides to exhibit her pieces.
With the current climate of the coronavirus pandemic, things have been stagnant for the globe and it is no different for Klemendz. She was supposed to be at an exhibition in Milan at this point in time, as she was supposed to receive an award from the USA, but with the pandemic, it seems that this might get rescheduled to September. All her scheduled exhibitions have been cancelled or at least postponed. After her previous exhibition in London, she has been spending her time in a little cabin in Smaland. It’s located in the middle of the woods and the surroundings are very inspiring, so I have started working with new art, with new things, which I hope I can show next year.
Klemendz ends our interview by saying, I hope to go there [New York] again and I hope to do some exhibition there, once it’s all over. We are very excited to see Klemendz’ work in New York whenever the situation normalizes and she gets the opportunity to exhibit here. Her bright works would truly be a relief, especially in these colourless and turbulent times. You can view more of her work on.