by Shraddha NairFeb 12, 2020
The frequency with which idea of preserving harmony in nature is promulgated, remains a consistent exercise for searching balance in life. Easier said than done, the moment of oneness stated in a single breath is a step away from the act of its experience. Berlin-based sculptor, Karolin Schwab, with the minimalistic approach creates on-site installations to let the viewers engage with the environment, subtly yet firmly. Acting as a conduit between the spaces - whether landscape or white-cube - the geometrical-shaped works by Schwab allows her viewers to acquaint themselves with their inner self. The circular form of installation, recurrently used by the artist, could be metaphorically translated as a magnifying lens, which “allows the viewer to look far out in order to find a part of their inner self”.
Schwab is thoughtful of the universal appeal of the relationship between nature and history inspite of the shifts towards the technology-driven world. Even if the human tribe, in the current state of affairs, is distant from the sacred qualities of the harmony in nature, the artist restores the need to not break this bridge. Since Schwab’s art practice is not restricted to a single material carved to give identical shape(s), she admits, before taking on a journey of creating an art piece, “First, there is a feeling, and then there is a language. That is one of the main rules that I follow”. Then it is, “a walk through the landscape, which serves as an inspiration to develop a certain shape or structure”. Her choice of material visually translates these ideas into a physical reality. She adds, “When I made the Cloud Catcher, I thought, ‘Yes, if I was a cloud, I wouldn’t want to fly through a cold steel ring, but rather a wooden ring in red, that I can see from far away’.” At ease with both the natural and metal material, Schwab finds, “materials poetic and sensual”. She first laid her hands on wood as a material to work with for her works, “because it is easy to work with and you can realise your ideas fairly quick. Then, I also love all kinds of metals and their ability to reflect the environment and make that an essential part of my works. I also love how they can withstand the weather when left outdoors and how that changes the sculptures’ surface over time”.
As someone who was studying to pursue a professional career of a teacher, Schwab’s desire to become a full-time artist received the first trigger during her stay at the University of East London. As part of the course in Fine Art and English, Schwab had to do a semester outside the country of residence. It was during the time in London she realised her true passion as an artist, which later made her enrol in Master’s program on Fine Art at the Universität der Künste, Berlin. She was trained under the artist Ai Weiwei at the University who incessantly pushed her to see things from a variety of perspectives. She declares, “I guess we all know how harsh can be a critic and I would say that he is no different as a teacher. Being his student was surely a tough challenge as he would question my work constantly”. Neither inhibited from the inquiries Weiwei posed nor succumbing to the performance pressure, Schwab affirms, “Sometimes, after looking at things from someone else’s perspective, you find that you still disagree. In that case, learned to stand my ground and keep doing what I believe matters. I think that was the most important lesson”.
For the artist, immersive experience is crucial to have an all-encompassing understanding of the interactive artworks. Irrespective of the spaces – be it closed gallery or an open space under the wide sky - Schwab is keen to have the viewers rise to the changes around them. Be it through a movement of wind or a shift in the pattern of the colour of the light. The viewer acts as a catalyst that absorbs the changes as an effort to draw the meanings of the works. “Everything is connected. That is a fact and still something that amazes me again and again. The viewer is an essential part of my pieces. He is the one that adds his story to piece and with that activates it. As soon as I release a piece of art into the public, it’s not only mine anymore - it belongs to anyone who wants to encounter it. I truly believe in body intelligence and that we understand things differently when we move around them, touch them, feel them. It creates a different intimate connection with it,” she adds.
The connect between the human and nature somewhere lost in the noise of urban jungle is retraced via Schwab’s works. She refrains to pin a puzzle-like feature to her works that demand a solution but creates a smooth, “moment of stillness that connects outer and inner landscape. If my works can make someone pause and reflect on what’s around as well as inside them, that is already everything to me”. Her minimalistic-styled installations do not disturb the flow of harmony in nature, acts as a gateway to comprehend the ones with the larger universe.