Karolin Schwab

By Grizedale Residency and Gilbert Bayes Award winner, Karolin Schwab

Going to residencies has been a crucial part of my practice for a long time. Usually I try to take as little as possible with me. A few years ago I would always take a good book and at least a pen with me. What is an artist without a pen? However, I often find that I don’t use these things in the end, so that’s why I’ve let go of that, too.

I believe all you need to make good works are your two hands and an open mind. The moment you don’t have your usual tools, your usual materials and you usual surrounding is the very moment where creativity kicks in and you find new ways of making. It’s the very moment that holds the potential for you and your practice to grow.

I’ve been working with landscapes for quite some time, but every environment is different and challenging in its own way. It takes time to get a deeper understanding of what’s beneath the surface.

Spending six weeks at Grizedale Forest allowed me to closely examine the very materials and processes that characterise this place. On long walks I gathered rocks and pieces of wood, which I then took apart in order to get a deeper understanding of what holds this place together and how it moves. Slate, ground to dust and mixed with rainwater, was used for drawings that reflect on just how fragile and vulnerable every mountain is. Wood, burned to charcoal and then pulverised to powder, forms a circle that suggests just as much the end of a (tree’s) life cycle as it is also a space full of potential for a new growth. In every landscape, beyond every shape, beneath every surface lies another story.

This understanding is what I’m taking home with me, back into my home studio, where it’s going to fuel me for quite some time and feed into the next works.

And again, to get there, I really didn’t need a pen after all.

Karolin Schwab is a sculptor based between London and Berlin. Using site specific installation and sculpture she explores different ideas of how we perceive a landscape as well as the space and the relationship between the viewer and their ever-changing environment.