Artist | Kim Simonsson (b. 1974) graduated as a ceramics major from the University of Arts and Design in 2000, and he was chosen Finland’s Young Artist of the Year in 2004. Simonsson is internationally known for his ceramic sculptures that portray characters from parallel realities. He renews the traditions of ceramic art by combining the vocabulary of classic marble sculpting with computer games and other elements of popular culture.
Featured Image | Kim Simonsson, Moss Girl, 2015, Ceramics and Flocking – at the rapid nearby Fiskars, Finland. Photo credits: Jefunne Gimpel
Article Images | Courtesy of the artist. Photo credits: Jefunne Gimpel
Silent, nearly forgotten nature sceneries host solitary travelers. Rather than passing through, the travelers stand still, as if they are caught in a dream. They do not seem to be outlanders. They rather look like they belong, like they emerged from the very ground beneath them.
Tales of the Moss People is a collection of images and stories presenting the works of Finnish sculptor Kim Simonsson. The stories are tied together in a beautiful book that was launched at the end of March at Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki.
Unlike the habitual catalogue of art works, the book instills an effect similar to that of Simonsson’s characters – enchanting the viewers, drawing them closer, grasping their curiosity.
Written by curator Veikko Halmetoja, the text is much more poetic than a narrative. It gives voices, thoughts and feelings to members of the Moss People tribe, who seem to be magically alive, despite the fact that they are not capable of moving.
A few days before the book launch, I met with artist Kim Simonsson at his studio in Arabia, Helsinki to talk more about his work and the story behind the characters he creates.
Your characters are part of an imaginary world, a fantasy setting. Yet it seems that not everything is ideal in this world. Who are these characters and what is their story?
Most of my characters are children. I imagine they live in a future time, having survived some type of mass destruction – like an illness that killed everyone who had reached the age of puberty. The kids are the only ones who survive, so they are forced to inhabit the world on their own.
What is their survival mechanism in this new setting?
They are trying to protect themselves by acting like adults, or the way they think adults are supposed to act. I want to make them strong and independent so that they survive on their own. Some of the kids have weapons, and they keep feathers or skins as trophies that decorate their bodies. The moss serves as a camouflage in a natural habitat like the forest.
The appearance of the Moss People is rather different than your earlier clean-cut, polished-look sculptures. How did you move towards this new aesthetics?
I discovered the way of creating moss-like surfaces completely by accident. I had been working with flocking technique before, covering my sculptures in black or magenta-colored fiber. I tried adding yellow on black one day and – to my surprise – it turned into this deep, mossy green instead. I really liked the result and continued using it further.
This turn in style felt a lot like a liberation to me, and at the same time it brought me closer to my origins – back to the days where my work was more playful and less polished. It took me a long time to achieve a fun and creative way of working while continuing to grow as an artist.
To me, there is also an underlying idea behind the organic green surface. Sculptures are immobile, they stand still forever. In a natural setting, they might grow moss over a long period of time.
Your characters often look sad, preoccupied or even a little bit evil. Do your works ever contain humor as well?
The humor that might pop up in my work is mostly unintentional, it’s usually a melancholic feeling that I set out to explore. Sadness also creates empathy, which can become a bridge between the work and the viewer. The children characters are both good and bad – their dual nature shows in their actions and struggles.
Aesthetics is an important dimension of my work as well. I want my sculptures to be beautiful because I think beauty is important in the world.
What part do animals play in your art story? Are they victims of the children, or does their role change depending on the work?
I think the animals are beautiful victims – not necessarily of the children, but of the world in general. I usually portray deers in my work, because they are sculptural and they are hunted by both humans and predators.
Your last solo exhibition in Helsinki was in early 2016 at Galerie Forsblom – Little Price and Moss People. What have you been up to since then?
I have been working on a sculpture for the new subway station in Tapiola, Espoo. The work is already finalized and installed, but the subway station has not opened yet. It is a 3,5-meter high bronze sculpture with a digital / animation feature.
Some of my sculptures were also presented at a few international art fairs like Chart Art Fair, Design Miami, Seattle Art Fair, ARCOmadrid and The Armory Show in New York.
Speaking of which, your “Moss People” series of works have gained a lot of popularity at art fairs and you’ve received quite a lot of commissioned work as a result. Do you feel that working on commissioned pieces limits your creativity?
Not really, because I never do the exact same work twice, but rather a version that is inspired by it. The subject matter can be the same, but not the sculpture itself. I don’t use molds, so each of my works is hand-built and unique. Plus – I really love creating them, it’s such a fun process for me!
Apart from the unveiling of the sculpture in Tapiola subway station, where can audiences get a glimpse of your works?
I will have an exhibition at Jason Jacques Gallery in New York in October this year and in January 2018 I’ll be showing at Galerie Forsblom in Stockholm.