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Magical realism of the sculptures by Nina Derkert reimagines the given world

The large and intricate sculptures carved with the cardboards by the Swedish artist Nina Derkert are a play with the conventional dimensions of the world bestowed upon us.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Mar 09, 2022

The finely shaped boxes of a variety of sizes are put together to define a particular place that might be known to a trained eye. Yet, to rightly catch the attention of the viewer it is the less common material – cardboard – of the sculptures deployed by their creator – the Swedish artist, Nina Derkert. The scale of the sculptures is a display of the creative imagination that is bold in its thinking, coupled with the dexterity of the precise movements of the hands of the visual artist. To illustrate the same, the works such as Floating City or The Passage installed in a closed space do away with the regular conventional size of the sculpture installations, but give viewers a chance to seek the idea of magical realism and reimagine the assumption of the given world. 

Cardboard Heaven,  2009, Cardboard | Nina Derkert | STIRworld
Cardboard Heaven, 2009, cardboard Image: Courtesy of Nina Derkert

Many a time, the sheen of the material steals the aesthetic value of the art sculpture. The chances of such an occurrence are heightened when the sculptures distort the regular spatial dimensions. To add, cardboard as a material is a way to reduce carbon footprint in the wake of alarming environmental changes. In an interview with STIR, Derkert talks about her proclivity towards the unpretentiousness of cardboards, “I try to think reduce-reuse-recycle in all aspects of my life and I am happy to find a way to bring that into my art as well. Materials and mediums can sometimes feel a little authoritarian as if they expect to be treated with special rituals and handled with respect. I mean, oil might be intended to be painted in a certain way, aquarelle in another way, there are strategies on how to best work with clay, a turntable, and so on. And of course, all of these best practices may be broken. But there are no rules, no custom, nothing to take into account when it comes to cardboard. To me, it is experimental and powered by curiosity.”

The Passage, 2019, Cardboard | Nina Derkert | STIRworld
The Passage, 2019, cardboard Image: Courtesy of Nina Derkert

As an ardent traveller, Derkert likes to document her adventures. The mediums of photography and drawing are a few of her first choices to recount the days of travel and experiences around it. To initiate a journey does not necessarily requires a movement across physical places, but an anatomical shift would be synonymous with an expedition also. In a bid to translate such shifts into creative form, Derkert infers that the work The Passage, “might also have been a way for me to process my pregnancy, as I was carrying my firstborn at that time. In that case, that bridge might be the umbilical cord….” The ideation for a particular work, for her, largely begins from a form or a feeling. It paves the way for details that are “more like whimsical incidents. It is like a journey that we embark on together, the artwork and I.” For the sculpture The Passage, she aspired to create an “elongated shape” and a “manneristic distortion”. Derkert adds, “I also played with the viewpoints of the artwork — in some angles the smaller island is completely hidden, in others the eye-catcher.”

Artist Nina Derkert | STIRworld
Artist Nina Derkert Image: Courtesy of Nina Derkert

The dimension plays a crucial role in the work of Derkert, nonetheless, it is the visual translation of her creative thought around the notions of big and small that she likes to highlight with her practice. Like “the waves of the great sea”, the events in history separated by spatial and temporal axes continue to replace each other. It stimulates an interest around the possibility of achieving the tangible reality around this creative thought with cardboard. To work with the versatile, expressive and easy material, she lists pros and cons, “Cardboard is an excellent medium. The different textures, thicknesses, hues, characteristics of fibres and other kinds of variations brings life to the sculptures in a subtle and delicate way.” It is not uncommon to see it as a waste and this makes it, “ridiculously simple to find too. Whenever I ask in a store, post office or café they are always happy to get rid of it. Usually, they are a little surprised too, as if it truly was just garbage I was asking to please have some of.”

Chimney Tales,  2012-2022 | Nina Derkert | STIRworld
Chimney Tales, 2012-2022 Image: Courtesy of Nina Derkert

She does not refrain from gauging its challenges such as durability, “as cardboard is not usually manufactured to have a long life span. It’s most likely not acid-free by default, for example. Another challenge, more tied to working on a large scale installation art though, is to come up with a construction that is possible to assemble and disassemble again and again. That’s both tricky and fun!”

Monochrome dwellings, 2021, Ink | Nina Derkert | STIRworld
Monochrome dwellings, 2021, Ink Image: Courtesy of Nina Derkert

The works of Derkert call for a world that creatively swifts between the realms of possibility and impossibility and reality and unreality. The childlike wonder that she fondly desires with her work, lucidly, as she puts it, anchors “a brief room for breath.”

01 min watch Behind the scenes, installation of Floating City | STIRworld
Behind the scenes, installation of Floating City Video: Courtesy of ninaderkert on Instagram

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