Kalmar Konstmuseum, Kalmar, SE, 2024
ECHOOO, Bricks Gallery, Copenhagen, DK,2024
Alice Folker Gallery, Copenhagen, DK, 2024
Art Brussels, Berg Gallery Brussels, BE, 2024
Berg Gallery, SE, 2024
We feel in the forest how the ground carries
Ellen Ehk och Pauline Fransson
From the bottom of the forest I rise.
It dawns between the trees.
It rains over my roofs.
I am a gutter for impressions.
From “Through the forest” in The halfmade sky, Tomas Tranströmer, Bonniers förlag, 1962
In the exhibition We feel in the forest how the ground carries, the sculptor Ellen Ehk and the painter Pauline Fransson engage in dialogue with their materials, their craft, nature and each other. They have transformed one of the museum halls into a poetically and playfully constructed part of nature which simultaneously mirrors the real landscape outside the window. In their piece, the surroundings become a collaborator and interlocutor both as motif and material. Through their deeply personal and bodily experiences of nature around them, the memory of a place, a rock, a pile of snow, a tree, is converted through their artwork into a new, concentrated reality.
Ellen Ehk’s studio is both a key to her working method and an archaeological collection of sculptural conquests. Leftover materials from previous processes share the space with already existing sculptures, all with an inherent potential to give rise to new or reworked pieces. Here she assesses the properties of clay, bronze, glass, wood, and rock. She works exploratively and intuitively, close to her materials which she exposes to different elements. She dissolves clay in water and pours out a shape, she welds metals that have poured freely into water, melts layers of glaze, smashes glass and reheats it.
She often starts her sketching in clay, a material she knows well. But it can also begin in a simple pen drawing and a word that circles what she is after. Without a dialogue with the material, she feels blind. She asks questions and the material answers. In these replies she can take a position and start to arrange. It is through the work with a living material, which follows its own laws, that she finds complete freedom. In the relationship between the planned and the temporary, the conscious and the unconscious. She likes to stand surprised in front of a sculpture which did not turn out as planned in the firing. It gives her the courage to take bolder decisions and follow new paths. The unexpected and unpredictable that emerge, reverberate in the sculptures she works with.
Growing up in the countryside, in close proximity to the forest, has inspired the organic expression in Ellen Ehk’s artwork which reminds us of lichen, stones overgrown with moss, soil and rock formations. Here, a deeper understanding of nature becomes visible as a mirror image of our human existence. In the monumental sculpture Breathe, a fir branch made of bronze, shaped like a pair of lungs, blurs the lines between body and nature.
Lying on the floor or standing in front of the stretched canvas in Pauline Fransson’s studio, the process is often quick once she is painting, and the steps come naturally. It is a challenge to wait for the layers to dry so that she can continue. She observes and feels. Sometimes she leaves a painting for a while before continuing, to be able to see it properly. When she paints, she has music in her ears. She observes in silence. She works in egg tempera and oil paint in a combination which has both a saturated and transparent quality – both blurred and clear. The meeting between the materials is the conversation which the artist herself has been unable to express. The softer appeal of the egg tempera becomes something whispered. The determination and firmness of oil helps to speak clearly.
The process leading up to a painting is important. She often chooses tempera or oil depending on what her body tells her. Everything that has got hold of her from nature around the studio and her home wants to come out, insists of different ways and expressions. Lines are blurred between body, colour, canvas and surrounding. She is a colour, a strong brush stroke, the pile of snow emerging in the picture. She is the treetops outside her studio window. Discovering a landscape over and over again. That is enough. Experiencing how the body relates to the changing seasons with new light, new greenery and a new body seeing its surroundings anew. In the meeting with the canvas and material she tries to let go and follow along. Be intuitive and open to the suddenness of events. Once she has rinsed out her paintbrushes and turns back to the painting, she notices that which she has born inside, without fully understanding, now taken shape on the canvas.
The artists’ works meet in the exhibition – Ellen Ehk’s understanding of nature as a physical body, and Pauline Fransson’s experiences of the materials’ alchemical qualities. They move in the space between the representative and the abstract. Conveying a sense that the narratives are less important, but a reason to beckon us closer. Once there, if we concentrate our gaze, something disrupts the legibility. The artworks reveal themselves like a cipher and take on a new, different shape. The known becomes strange and undetermined, open to new interpretations.
We feel in the forest how the ground carries tells us something about the artists’ common backgrounds. About a shared bodily experience of a landscape. About feeling grounded somewhere and what a connection with nature means to the understanding of and being in the world.
Bettina Pehrsson, Curator