Erika Emerén is an artist from Sweden who experiments with different media and materials.
In 2016 Erika Emerén took part in her first exhibition in Stockholm regarding female design and later participated in a few art residencies and events around Europe.
With me, she talked about her inspirations and hopes for the future.
What is your artistic path and what do you think inspired you the most?
I’m an obsessive maker. Making, no matter what, calms me down and wakes me up at the same time.
Since my studies in The Netherlands, I started writing again, which has now turned into poetry and textile sculptures and translated into videos.
I have understood that all my work is connected, dealing with tangibility and desire. I’m hoping one day to show it all together in a kind of “more is more” exhibition.
Every summer I go to an island in the Baltic sea, to spend some time in the forest and by the coast. I walk the same path every year and sometimes many days in a row, but still, everything looks different somehow. I sometimes get lost in the forest, even though I’ve known it since I was a child. This summer, I got lost in a very hilly place with tall pine trees and mosquitos covering my face and arms.
There’s something so special about feeling tiny in a place that is so much alive without the presence of human bodies.
I’m truly Swedish in the way that I can sit on a rock by the ocean for an hour and just stare.
Those moments are so crucial, after I leave the island, I always seem to carry solutions to all my questions.
This is what inspires me.
Your sculptures have a gummy and intertwined texture. How do you obtain such an effect?
I’m drawn to everything highly textural, and at times organic, leaning towards gooey surfaces.
I take a lot of inspiration from baking, but also from studying the insides of carrots, seashells and leaves. It is fascinating to just pick up a grey rock and after a while realize it is not only grey, but highly complex.My ceramics are sculpted with the use of piping bags and nozzles for cake decoration. I extrude clay and build the sculptures by layering ornamented coils.
Finally, by staining the clay and adding semi-transparent glazes, I can play with a depth of both color and texture.
Tell me about the Cake Vases project. What part of the Swedish cultural background did you elaborate on?
The very first book about making I read was a recipe book called Seven types of cookies. My grandmother had one, my mother too and I was proud to continue the tradition with the latest edition. I was seven when I started elaborating with the ingredients and temperature of the oven. Baking is so much about chemistry, and it is so easy to mess up the balance.Cakes and cookies were my very first experimental work.
For Cake Vases, I looked into the making of Spettekaka (cake on a spit) and translated the technique into a ceramic production. Spettekaka is a cake made in the South of Sweden but can also be found in similar shapes in Poland, France and Japan. Butter is added onto a rotating tube, creating an ornamented surface caused by the layering of butter combined with the horizontal movement.
This project was the start of my cake ceramics, and the beginning of my search for ways to make ornamental work.
And your “hand obsession”? Where does it come from?
I believe it all started when I almost split my thumb in two. A late night a few years ago I cut it in the band saw, by mistake of course. Today my thumb is healed and luckily it functions are as good as ever. But ever since, I have had these visions or bad daydreams where I slip and cut off all my limbs. What I have understood is that I am so dependent on my hands.
They are everything to me, they are able to speak a language I cannot express with the spoken word.Hands are powerful, sensual and tools we can use for good and bad. This year it really culminated. All of a sudden hands became weapons of contamination and something to avoid. The idea of a stranger touching me felt like forbidden fruit.
The textile hands I make are outlandish and cartoonish at the same time. They are used as props in videos, like an extension of my own body touching objects and skin.
Finally, would you like to share any hints or upcoming projects/collaborations you are planning to take on?
At the moment I’m doing a long-term residency at Ifö Center in Skåne. It is an old porcelain factory now run by a non-profit organization. It is an amazing place with so much space.
I’m producing new ceramic sculptures and focusing on making more gooey and “wet” looking shapes. There might even be some ceramic hands.
For the future, when I’m in my sixties, I think I’ll make a hand the size of my body.
Click here to discover more about Erika Emerén.