Berg Gallery – Ellen Ehk – Geomancy – August 20 to September 26 , 2022 – Hudiksvallsgatan 8 – Open Tue–Fri 11–18, Sat 12–16
ABOUT the artist
Ellen Ehk (b. 1976) lives and works outside of Nybro, Sweden. She received an MA in Ceramic Art from HDK University of Design and Crafts, Gothenburg in 2002. Ehk has presented several solo exhibitions at Berg Gallery, VIDA Museum, Öland, Galerie NeC, Paris and PULS Gallery, Brussels. In addition, her work has been exhibited at Swedish Institute, Paris, CHART Art Fair, Copenhagen, Nordic Art Center, Xiamen, Da-End Gallery, Paris, Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg and COLLECT Saatchi Gallery, London, among other galleries, museums and art fairs in Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, and Spain. Ehk is represented in several public collections, including Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Shanghai Arts and Craft Museum, and the Public Art Agency of Sweden. In 2019, she was the first artist to receive the Ulrica Hydman Vallien Memorial Grant.
ABOUT the exhibition
ELLEN EHK AND GEOMANCY by Joanna Sandell, 2020
Slick stones in a river. The thought of water running over them, rushing, gushing. Soft
algae that colour the surface, so surprisingly green, almost fluorescent. The next
object; a coarse surface, seemingly volcanic, but originating from the forest. A knotted
pine crouches down, appearing to be on the run, sneaking away from its place. What
if the trees move during the night? Fittingly, the sculpture is called “Night Tree” and
came into being through Ellen Ehk Åkesson’s research into the soul of nature.
In her art Ellen works both methodically and intuitively. In many ways you could say
that she personifies the new artist’s role. Contemporary artists today seem to take on
a role that was previously carried by many different professions; the adventurer, the
priest, the journalist, the scientist, the shaman. What kind of discoveries can be made
through a material?
In Ellen’s expertise of working with ceramics, glass and bronze, among others, it is
impossible to stay within the boundaries of the medium. The material is so intimately
tied to the story it is telling, to the question it asks. Does a stone in a river shine?
Does a tree dream at night? What does it dream about? Can the memory of a forest
hold a physical form? And what form could that possibly be?
Geomancy is a concept connecting diverse spiritual practices of fortune telling in
natural elements such as sand, bone and pebble stones. It is a method practiced
around the world in many different cultures, and the concept has guided forth new
works by Ellen Ehk Åkesson, giving weight to the form of the material, the intention of
the practitioner as well as the importance of chance. The spatial relationship between
objects are central to the belief system and tells us how life here on earth is
connected to planetary bodies. Within art, where the connection between form and
intentions of the artist is of great importance, a concept such as geomancy is also
fitting as it alludes to ancient relationships that artists have to many different
Is there a difference in growing up in rural and urban spaces? Could it be said that we
are equally brought up and fostered by surrounding rocks, plants, animals and the
elements of weather as by human kin?
Ellen grew up in proximity to the forest. As a child she spent much time in the forest, it
was her home, her place of adventure and of consolation. An informal learning
environment where she was taught strength, agility, intuition and healing. With her
(human) best friend she took turns climbing as far up in trees as possible, to
dangerous heights that pushed the boundaries of what the body might perform. The
cuts and scars in the skin of their legs became proof of victories won, something to
flaunt in school, something to use as a tool for measuring bravery. When Ellen
reached her teens “her” forest was cleared through a severe form of clearcutting that
is no longer allowed in forestry. She describes the experience as a form of silent
trauma. If her childhood house had burnt down everyone would have understood her
deep sorrow, but her home happened to be a forest that no longer existed.
In her early biography Ellen Ehk Åkesson focused on the field of craft and she
became well known and much respected in Sweden for her explorations of utility
objects. Thin cups, stylish teapots, an interest in functional objects as a form of
intimacy. A cup made by the hand to be passed on into another hand that raises the
cup toward his or her own lips. But in the creative process of making sets of beautiful
craft objects a frustration also arose in Ellen. This is how some of Ellen’s first
artworks were formed, as quite heavy rocklike forms.
These early sculptures have a heaviness and darkness attached to them. Ellen Ehk
Åkesson also completed an art exhibition where the art objects were laid onto
benches and tables of stainless steel, alluding to autopsy and dissection. The
clearcutting of her forest had now received a series of physical narratives.
What are the effects on nature in the human desire to extract value, maximize profit
and tame natural environments?
Ellen Ehk Åkesson shows us the relationship between the body of nature and our
physical bodies. The “Night Tree” that came about through Ellen’s persistent
experimentation by glazing small pine trees and firing them in the kiln illustrates both
Ellen’s interest in nature’s own intelligence and rhythm of time as well as her untiring
ways of exploring a certain material. After months of finding broken porcelain pines in
the kiln a night tree finally came out whole, unbroken but infinitely fragile. Later, she
developed a production form of creating similar trees using wax and casting them in
bronze. And, in a further development of these art objects she started building new
trees that seem to stand on or run on their roots through consolidating several
different trees and their root systems into a single sculpture.
In ceramics Ellen Ehk Åkesson continues her discoveries. After having explored the
boundaries, conditions and the limitless possibilities of clay as a material over two
decades, she has come to work mostly with liquid clay. Sometimes the work with a
sculpture begins with what is usually the finishing procedure in ceramics, the glazing
of the object. Ellen also continues to invent new ways of casting ceramics. The studio
becomes a laboratory where new findings around material and form are made. At the
same time a visit to her studio brings to mind natural phenomena such as the
elements of wind, water and heat; the weather. A sculpture takes on the form of a
coral, but the point of departure is actually forest moss. In her personal manner Ellen
manages to reveal what indigenous populations and mystics across the world have
always known. What is found on land has a mirror in the ocean. The roots beneath
earth reach forth and forward in a form that meets the crown of a tree.
In the fall of 2019 Ellen Ehk Åkesson received an award in the memory of the late
artist Ulrica Hydman Vallien that included a production residency in the glass blowing
studios of Kosta Boda, Sweden. Once again, Ellen invented her own method of
producing sculptures, this time in glass. In the material glass, as in ceramics, the
material is put under extreme physical challenge. Sand in the form of glass moves as
water and soon solidifies in the same manner as ice. Ellen asks the glassblowers to
blow the glass within large moulds that contain wet clay. Once again, nature is given
a memory that is fixed as it meets the gaze of you and I.
That which is living has a definite physical form, yet, the living is in a continuous cycle
of becoming and of disintegration. In a similar manner the forest of a child or a
beloved seaside cliff is also temporal. We grow up and develop as humans, the
perceived distance between a path in the forest and a well-known rock is different for
the person that is no longer a child. But what about an artwork, a sculpture? In the
story about an artwork and in the materialization of the artwork itself there is
something that overcomes time. I would like to suggest that this is what happens in
the experience of the art of Ellen Ehk Åkesson. I remember my own experiences of
nature, as well as Ellen’s. The material has received an exact form. It has
transgressed both time and decay.
In Ellen Ehk Åkesson’s ways of approaching a material we are given a key to the
intentions of the artist. In the contradictions of what we experience when seeing her
sculptures there is a similarity to the many questions confronting a child surrounded
by nature. To touch ice can feel both hot and cold, a spider’s web is fragile, yet
surprisingly strong, the shimmery powder of butterfly wings turns to a dull dust when
our fingers touch them too forcefully. The ceramic river stones are surprisingly light,
the Night Tree is fragile and asks for protection. But Ellen’s night trees are cast in
bronze. The trees that were once cut down have been cast in a material usually saved
to commemorate kings and powerful leaders long after their death. The young plant,
already so full of character but equally fragile and seemingly temporal in its character
has been given an eternal memory through becoming art.
ABOUT the gallery
Berg Gallery was founded in 2013 and is owned and operated by Niclas Berg. The gallery focuses on contemporary art and represents both established and emerging artists. The gallery has a special interest in material-based art. Berg Gallery is located in the Stockholm Gallery District near Vanadisplan in a 270 sqm space.https://www.berggallery.se/
SE-113 30 Stockholm
Tuesday – Friday 11.00 – 18.00
Saturday 12.00 – 16.00