Conversation with Tilda Lovell

Curator Susanne Ewerlöf (SE) in conversation with Tilda Lovell (TL).

SE: Your works feature characters that seem to have longed for life and sprang from the ground and soil. Sometimes, you intimate that they belong in primordial mythologies or a collective imaginary world. At others, we sense a spontaneous genesis, an existence that arose from illusion or the shape of a branch or conch. Tell us how one of your beings evolves in you and in the world!

TL: They come into being in different ways. I rarely know what I’m searching for, I venture into different landscapes. There is a desire or quest to merge with something greater. I seek contact, experiences, reflecting and noticing what stands out. Natures many spaces offer me both focus and presence. Take an uprooted tree, for instance, it easily grabs our attention with its drama. It has a kind of violence. Torn from the earth, its life is over in some ways, and yet so expressive. It moves, it screams, and you feel it. I often see body parts in nature, a twisted root becomes an outstretched limb that I want to care for. It’s interesting, its shape tells of movement downward, to something deep and cold. In the dark, it has grown and overcome obstacles, which have shaped it. It’s about valuable bearers of meaning, ingredients for a potential future recipe. Sometimes, when I look more closely, I discover that there is already a context, that I would destroy another body, another existence, if I took the materials with me. Sometimes, I tear them up with violence, sometimes they fall limply into my hand at the slightest touch. We go home, to continue.

SE: The exhibition presents works by you both that sometimes exist in the same mood, in the same habitat, or activate the same point in my body as a viewer, while you both portray multilayered chains of events in every individual work. Given that individuality is born in interaction with the surroundings, how does it feel to present works so closely with another artist?

TL: I see a kinship between us, our works and processes. But everything passes through the systems, wills and hands of our bodies, with different methods, so the works look unsimilar out in the world. I am interested in Sara-Vide’s practice and her person. This opportunity to go behind the paintings and try to understand what they are, what her process looks like, how they are created is rewarding. A painting is not just a painting. It feels familiar, and I’ve been considering in what ways we are similar, despite our very different expressions and media. We have something in common in how we approach nature and the objects in our hands – bones, remnants, clothing – we seek what is felt. I see a related striving to immerse ourselves in a certain landscape, to merge with something there, and then bring the charge from that moment into the studio to recreate an object or a scene. When I take a shortcut over the mountains with my car, the hour’s distance between us, I pass through several landscapes of the kind that we both find our places in. I go to Sara-Vide’s studio to look at the model of Bonniers Konsthall, and I leave with a moss-covered elk horn and beaver feet.

SE: Your methods and media are different, but you are both meticulous in several ways to what you portray, but especially when it comes to materiality. You are both showing works that span several years; what materials do you use, and has your approach to materials changed over time?

TL: The materials I use are often from nature. Over the years, I have moved between different landscapes, when I’ve been in the desert a lot I long for the sea, when I’ve been on the beach for long, I move towards the forest. The mood from the landscapes is recreated in the works when scenes are built populated with their own flesh. I look for what is special, for remains, fragments, the lasting bits of something that died and conveys a story about a life that was. I combine these found parts with ordinary sculptural materials and mould freely out of various clays, casting the parts that would not otherwise endure, because they are too fragile or perishable, perhaps full of fluids. I can shrink things to make them fit. Every casting, every manufacturing, is an experiment with materials, there is so much room for deformity, and I often explore size. Depending on what the work will be exposed to, I choose the material for casting according to its durability, its expression. Wax, plaster, dyed material; several layers or one surface. A lot of time is spent on assembling things, invisibly or visibly, the joining of totally different materials, gluing and bandaids. The library of materials grows year by year, and I have more to choose between now, I know how to treat them and what is needed for something to happen, and can judge whether it’s worth it.

SE: You are both currently working in Hälsingland. How are places from your home environment present in the exhibition at Bonniers Konsthall?

TL: The mire, for instance, was an unknown topography for me but became accessible when I moved to Hälsingland, walking on something that billows, full of smells, gnarled and dwarfed pines, bears, golden berries, legends and stories, mylings and violent death. What we whisper or bury in the mire does not sink to the bottom – for the mire is bottomless! A cycle where the hidden corpse may be what emits the methane that combusts so that will-o-the-wisps and jack-o-lanterns start to dance around the bones that appear in the moss. Myren (The Mire, 2021) is a model of a habitat, made of full-scale plants and moss in an attempt to recreate the feeling and colours of the mire landscape, and the stories, in sculptures and animations.

Image: Tilda Lovell, Sandlands, 2017-2018. Detail from installation. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler