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If you’ve never read a Nordic fairy tale, you might not need to. There’s a Moss girl with a little deer tied behind her back, crouched on the floor to the left, and another one looking upwards with voodoo eyes to the right. In fact, if you’ve visited one of Kim Simonsson‘s latest exhibitions in New York, or Helsinki, you’re quite surrounded by mythical non-beings. It is very much like the mischievous Finnish sculptor to immerse you in ancient history and forgotten dreams with his untamed imagination, and one of his seemingly naive, unusually haunting ceramic figures – made of clay, out of the earth, but ingeniously finished with conflicting touches of glass, gold and nylon fiber.
Kim Simonsson loves subverting expectations, and we love watching him go about it. Tinkerbell just turned platinum and images from the dark forest surrounding him and his studio in Fiskars, Finland have been translated into ominous visual narratives (that dead deer on the pedestal is a mind-boggling magenta) in a gallery right in the middle of Manhattan. Expect to be confused, spooked and profoundly astounded at this fiercely talented sculptor’s singular work, spreading around the globe the tales of the ancient North hand-in-hand with modern pop culture. You can read a lot more than you ever thought in those hollow, lifeless, crouching children’s eyes. Discover his work in this interview for Issue 013 of beautiful.bizarre.
b.b: You have been challenging the traditional perception of ceramics for many years now. Any good old vases, or bowls yet? For your own house, if anything!…
KS: Very early on when I was studying at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, I realised that product design is not my niche. I have made one silicon vase that imitates ceramics and a recreation of a highly detailed Wedgewood vase. The idea behind them is merely trompe l’oeil.
b.b: Are there any other material you consistently have worked with, or you would like to work more with in the future?
KS: I have studied and worked with glass. Also with bronze and cement.
b.b: Andre Breton, writer of the first surrealist manifesto said, “Objects seen in dreams should be manufactured and put on sale”. I feel like your sculptures are magnificent creations I would’ve seen in my dreams, and they now appear in front of me.
KS: I often don’t actually remember my dreams. I talk, walk and sometimes even sculpt in my dreams but the themes of my work come from popular culture, Nordic fairy tales ancient myths and religious imagery. Old churches and classical sculptures sometimes inspire me. I talk, walk and sometimes even sculpt in my dreams, but the themes and imagery of my work come from popular culture combined with ancient myths.
“Moss Girl With Mirror Ball”
b.b: What do you feel is the most fascinating part of your work? Coming up with an idea, trying to figure out how to make it a reality, or hands-on ceramic work and being covered in clay or moss?
KS: The most fascinating part of my work is hands-on sculpting, giving a concrete form to my thoughts.
b.b: What’s the most challenging part of sculpting? Does it involve continuous research and resourcefulness to make your idea reality?
KS: I consider myself a craftsman. I am captivated by the incredible element given to us, our hands. It demands constant training with the material, researching ancient sculptors and their works. Clay as a flexible three-dimensional material is ideal for me to sculpt. Combining different methods with it requires time, patience and making, making, making.
b.b: There’s an Instagram picture where you are trimming the green top layer of one of the moss children, it looks very intriguing. What exactly is the method there?
KS: I use a technique called flocking, where you electrostatically transfer nylon fiber on an object.
b.b: You have worked in different studios in Fiskars Village, Sevres and Shigaraki. How much do your particular surroundings inspire your work – a busy or serene environment, nature or the city?
KS: I currently live and work at the Fiskars Village. I also have a studio in a former ceramic factory in Helsinki. I have been in different residencies, such as Sevres in France and Shigaraki in Japan. It has been interesting to work in different sceneries that share the common factor, ceramics. Each place has its unique history and use of material that affect the creation. Now I find the deep forest with its creatures in Fiskars the most inspiring. In Shigaraki, I worked with large twin girl sculptures called “Feeding the Eagle”. The theme came from eagle that flew around the ceramic park. I left the surface of the sculptures quite rough; somehow, the Tadao Ando-like workshop inspired that. In Sevres, I was impressed by the exquisite techniques that the factory workers used, and the pride of the knowledge built through decades. It was also interesting to spend time at their large museum studying both old ceramics and the residence artists, such as Louise Bourgeois’s pieces.
b.b: Twisted children, fancy porcelain VS moss, spit made out of gold – you seem to thrive on contradictions. Is taking the conventional road more comfortable these days? Have you ever thought of your art as an incentive to help the world see the unexpected side of things?
KS: I think nowadays in the Western world people do want to be unconventional, and it is ok to be unconventional. Tension created by the contradictions and beauty fascinate me. It is very important to me that my works have something unexpected in them whether it is the choice of material, or subject matter.
b.b: What is it, you think, your most twisted sculpture so far?
KS: When I was studying, I made a large ceramic sliced dog. That probably was the most twisted one!
b.b: Do you encounter many situations in life where things are not always as transparent as they may seem at first? Is this something that you strive to reflect on your art?
KS: I sculpt images. My work is pure imagination, but as I live in society, my work reflects it. I have always been interested in history. In fact, my mother has told me that as a kid I would choose a museum instead of an amusement park during holidays.
b.b: What are you preparing next? Where can people admire your work from up close?
KS: I am currently working on a large bronze sculpture that will be placed to a new metro station in Finland. Besides that, I am preparing a private show in Paris that opens in September at NeC gallery. My works can be also seen in several art fairs, Helsinki based Gallerist Galerie Forsblom and New York based Gallerist Jason Jacques Gallery.
“Voodoo Moss Girl”
“Golden Sacrificial Deer”
“Mossgirl And River”
“Pikku Prinssi ja Samalväki”
“Lisa ja Louise”
“Moss Girl And Deer”