GLASS ARTIST KAREN NYHOLM TRANSMITS PARTS OF HER PERSONALITY TO HER WORK, ENABLING HER ENGAGEMENTS WITH ALTER-EGOS AND DOPPELGANGER
CARMEN HUST | ARTICULATE #20 | JULY 2019
Art has always been part of the life of the Danish glass artist Karen Nyholm (1975), who finds her passion creating with her hands. As a creator Nyholm always transfers a part of her personality to the pieces she’s working with, which has enabled her latest engagements with subjects such as alter-egos and Doppelganger (lookalikes).
Photo curtesy: Kurt Rodahl Hopp
“We ourselves chose which version of our personality we chose to share on our SoMe profiles. We would like to show the world how beautiful and interesting our lives are. Our profiles are a thick layer of skin, often hiding our vulnerability, insecurity and defeat. It shows an image of who you wish to be or who you’d prefer to be, maybe even with a different name. A personality emerging from your imagination and who speaks through you.
In modern society we meet our duplet daily and at random, through several identities on the internet, our digital self, as it appears on Facebook and other social media platforms.”
Karen Nyholm explores Alter Ego – The other I, or another version of one self, along with duplets or doppelganger, individual and collective identity. The part of one’s personality normally not visible to others.
In the physical world Nyholm intuitively transmits parts of her personality to the pieces she’s creating. With her hands and physical tools.
“When people by one of my works, where do I draw the line? The piece they’re buying represents a part of me. And the Instagram profile paints an idealistic picture of my life. How much of myself am I willing to give?”
In these works, Karen Nyholm is working with her own body as a starting point to explore and delineate. Stiffened in the middle of a movement or action. Something she can relate to, but not necessarily in an autobiographical context.
Nyholm has been working with glas since 1998. In 2002 she graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Art, School of Design, Bornholm, and in 2004 she opened the glasshouse Nyholm Cantrell Glas together with her husband Ned Cantrell (1975).
New thoughts and ideas emerged in Nyholm, when the couple traveled to Japan in the spring of 2018. The sublime craft behind everything. According to Nyholm, even mass-produced animé figures and dioramas are exquisitely detailed. A refined richness of detail pleasing the artist duo.
Working with the hot glass, compromise is a necessity Direct contact with the glass is not possible, it also doesn’t allow the artist to take a break. The process is immediate and demanding. A material and a craft with unlimited qualities and many limitations. Putting together the glass with other materials has always been a common theme in Nyholm’s work. Thus, the materials' properties have led Nyholm to combine the glass with ceramics, the fragile
and transparent with the solid, and in this way assemble the works. She can shape the ceramic directly with her hands to fit the glass, come and go -unlike when working with the glass, and achieve details that are impossible with hot glass.
Finally, Nyholm paints the figures partly with oil paint. The oil dampens some of the reflective surface of the glass she finds distracting, adding weight and body to the limbs. In this way, the characters become more harmonious, while at the same time having a lightness and a visual sense of evaporation.
Karen Nyholm has a wide range of themes she keeps returning to. She works roughly in a spiral, where she almost reaches back to the starting point. Displacement occurs - an ongoing trend in which one work leads to the idea of the next. Sometimes with such speed that the work never reaches its realization. In the process of selecting ideas, Nyholm uses her intuition as a guide. The work process itself is long and requires her full presence among the works for a longer period of time. Therefore, it is important for Nyholm that the intensity is maintained throughout the process.
Nyholm creates the alter egos from selfies taken with her mobile phone on self-timer. Always wearing the same black dress, bare arms, legs and feet. She imagines different situations in which she positions herself. Like frozen in a movement or action. When she is satisfied with the photograph, she makes a drawing from the photo. The drawing is not just a sketch, but also a finished work in itself.
The motives for the alter egos Nyholm extracts from her own life, an everyday culture we all live in and therefore can relate to, various symbols known from art history and religion. The Snake and the Fall, courage and feminism (or the role of women). Mixed with more modern subcultures, rock music, films, idols, Mexican wrestling, graffiti, feelings too large to contain, travels, dreams and small chunks of everyday life, and then of course with the inspiration from social media and the internet in general.
Nyholm is closely collaborating with her husband and colleague Ned Cantrell. They assist one another in the workshop and are each other's sounding board for ideas. Nyholm's sources of inspiration are dynamic and constantly moving. Right now, she is concerned with the Danish artists Rune Bosse (1987) and Eske Kath (1975), both of which work with nature and man in nature. From abroad, Nyholm is inspired by British Claire Partington (1973) and American Beth Cavener (1972), two female ceramists who both work sculpturally with clay in a yet unseen manner.
This article about KAREN NYHOLM takes part of ARTICULATE #20. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below