Following her inclusion at the critically-acclaimed Strange Clay exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, Lehmann Maupin
presents The Cold Wind and the Warm, an exhibition of new work by Klara Kristalova and the artists first solo presentation in London. Kristalova is best known for her figurative ceramic sculptures that incorporate both aspects of the human body and elements of nature. Across her oeuvre, Kristalova explores transitional states essential to both human and ecological life. Crafted in the artists secluded studio in Norrtälje, Sweden, Kristalovas uncanny sculptures explore the tension between innocence and horror, conjuring an awkward yet powerful presence. Building a world that bridges humanity, ecology, and fantasy, Kristalovas work emphasises the omnipresence of change across all life forms.
The works in The Cold Wind and the Warm are often influenced by small details in Kristalovas immediate surroundings. Though she has always found inspiration in her environment, Kristalova began paying closer attention to the material details of her everyday life as a result of the immense environmental changes catalysed by recent global events. The result is an imaginative juxtaposition of scale where minute details reflect the monumental impact of constant global change.
Across the exhibition, Kristalova fuses quotidian and fantastical details, extracting strangeness from mundanity. Depicting hybrid figures that contain both anthropomorphic and animalistic qualities, many of the sculptures exist in a liminal space between humanity and natureor perhaps challenge such distinctions altogether. For example, standing at the height of a human child, Mighty Mouse portrays a mouse-like figure sitting upright with its hands on its legs; the figure leans forward and appears inquisitive, as though listening intently. Throughout the body of work, the figures postures mimic ordinary human movement, while their titles reveal the artists wry sense of humour. Each sculpture is extraordinary; together, they memorialize the strangeness of everyday encounters, leaving ample room for identification and estrangement.
While they possess human qualities, many sculptures also contain the traces of ecological processes. Lust for Life comprises a figure with outstretched arms whose craggy body resembles a tree trunk, while Fireplace depicts a figure made of bricks, flickering flames eruptinging from her head. The artist constructs an ambiguity here: is the body resting or in the midst of decomposing? Is fire engulfing the figure, or is the figure itself producing the flames? Kristalovas uneven surfaces engender a sense of discomfort, mirroring the sensitive and porous state of mind one might find themselves in when weathering changes. In this sense, her rugged style reminds us that the sculptural process is inherently transformative, as natural materials are shaped into static and enduring forms.
Throughout The Cold Wind and the Warm, Kristalovas hand-built sculptures recall the fine line between construction and destruction, ultimately revealing that what lurks in the interstices is transition and change. As she draws connections between humanity and ecology, Kristalova suggests that we too are in a constant state of transformation. In her fictive world poised between birth and death, beauty and disgust, familiarity and discomfort, Kristalovas tactile and enigmatic forms locate the monumental in the ordinary. In this way, the exhibition explores the sense of anxiety and possibility inherent in the promise of change.
June 27th, 2023 September 9th, 2023