Ida Ekblad

There’s something macabre yet magical about Ida Ekblad’s BALTIC exhibition. The young Norwegian artist is a collector of abandoned items and scrap materials. Rusting metals, plastic bags and moulding ropes are all transformed from human waste into eerie wiry sculptures. Ekblad gathers organic matter such as shells, seaweed and driftwood off the Norwegian coast to decorate her haunting figures.

There is an undeniable energy present in her work; a momentum conjured by her attention to colour and form. Shapes are neither abstract nor figurative, but instead a muddled assortment of the two. Found materials drip and ooze from mutated bodily sculptures, with items such as sand and handbags removed from everyday context and instead spill across the floor.

It is hard to ignore the nightmarish connotations that Ekblad’s odd assortments carry, yet simultaneously there is playfulness, an almost child-like innocence. This is most evident through bold use of colour and scribble-like shapes. Ekblad became interested in graffiti and street art during her teenage years, and this influence is still evident.

There are also Situationist influences, an Avant-Garde movement active from the late fifties with a key component of their manifesto being that of capitalist critique. Though Ekblad is more playful than political, particularly when it comes to her use of the shopping trolley. Accompanying the artist during her nomadic journeys of material collection, as well as being used to collect the components of her sculptures, the trolleys are transformed into sculptures themselves. Not only are they are filled to the brim with her found items, but she paints them, etches lines of poetry into their wheels and even replaces the wheels with heavy duty ink rollers. Before transforming into a work of art, the trolley is a practical device to the artist; it is a means of transporting, yet also a means of creating. She inks up the trolley wheels and runs them sporadically across her large canvases. Hence the scrawls and scribble motifs.

The trolleys are a vital component to Ekblad’s BALTIC exhibition, arranged in a circular formation suggesting a carousel of trolleys, the stillness provides an unnerving air. This is enhanced by low lighting and extreme shadows that seem to dance along the walls. The lack of carousel music seems to emphasise the silence of the room. The arrangement of Ekblad’s work forces the viewer to navigate the space, to journey around her works in a mimic of the journeys she embarked on herself. Through her use of material Ekblad conjures elements of the past; restoring empty scrap materials with a completely unexpected vitality. She has the ability to transform human waste into something eerily beautiful that will leave the viewer in total awe.

Ida Ekblad continues at BALTIC until 31 August 2015

Camilla Irvine-Fortescue is a third year Fine Art student at Northumbria University.

Image: Ida Ekblad Nationaltheatret, Oslo 2015 Image courtesy Herald Street, London

Published 23.08.2015 by Rachel McDermott in Reviews

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