Last week I attended a talk with the artist Ursula Von Rydingsvard who is currently exhibiting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with a collection of commissioned sculptures. I had previously attended the exhibition and immediately fell in love with her work.
At the talk, Ursula von Rydingsvard began by telling us that she actually started out as a painter; layering up her paints so that they took up a more sculptural appearance. It was at this point that she decided to work in more sculptural methods because with the shear amount of paint that she would put on the canvas, it would start to drop off due to its weight. Moving to a more 3 dimensional way of working, where her materials were less likely to drop off in quite the same manner.
Having decided that her practice needed to change, she became a welder for 2 years, but even this method did not feel right because the work that she was producing did not feel organic. The metal had very flat edges no mater what she did to it. This was when she made the move to wood, because she could ‘sculpt’ it better and get the shapes that she desired.
In her early work, she had an interest in minimalism and conceptualism; however, she slowly grew away from this because she wanted to put more of herself into her work as she felt that this was missing. She did this by moving into a practice that involved more making. This allowed her to put more emotions into her sculptures in order for her to have a direct link with her work and so, hopefully her audiences would also be able to link with her work.
Ursula was asked a question about the scale of her pieces and whether the increase in scale evolved as she did. Her reaction was that she did not feel that it evolved, it just depended on what her client was wanting and the situation of where the finished sculpture would be put. She did what felt best for the space and client, rather than ‘doing what she wants to do’. The opportunities that she was supplied with helped her to progress and therefore helped her to be more exploratory within her practice.
“The older I get, the more I trust my instincts.” Ursula Von Rydingsvard
She likes to control the visuals that are connected to her work because this means that she remains in control of her work. Her work is very important to her so it always comes first, this is why when she hires people, or they come voluntarily to help her with her work, she wants people who are able to do the work and want to do the work. These people need to be as enthusiastic as she is otherwise it will be reflected in the work. The main importance for Ursula was that they need to be people who understand her work and know what she wants to achieve.
One of the main points that interested me was that she never does drawings or sketches of her work before she makes it. This made me pay extra attention because on my current course, drawing is a major part of what we do because it is how we get our ideas for our samples. I struggle with the drawing aspect sometimes because I just want to dive straight into the making process. I found some parallels with Ursula on this topic because she said that drawings are too restricting because you have to get your sculpture to look like that drawing, and it is very hard to do. This is why she marks directly onto the wood, but every mark is carefully considered and placed where she thinks it will work best. This is very important because what she could have done in a drawing before hand may not look as good when on the sculpture, and once the mark is there, it cannot be removed. Therefore, it appears to be a very intense way of making because she is so involved with each line, but this is how she achieves the remarkable results that are faultless.
This is very important to her as her studio is her salvation; it is where she feels safe, despite it being very trying due to its physical demands.
Working on pieces
The large pieces in the collection were very intense to make because she works on them none stop. This down to their scale as they cannot be put to one side and forgotten about for a bit, which is what she can do with the smaller piece in the collection. With the smaller pieces, because she is able to take more time with them, she can consider what she does a bit more because she has time away from them doing something else, meaning that she has a fresh eye to look at them every time that she comes back to them.
Influences and meaning of her work
Ursula seemed a bit reluctant to answer this question as it perhaps was too personal, but what she did say was, her connection to the art world may have influenced her and her past due to the upbringing she and her siblings had due to their move from Germany to America and what this meant for them as a family. What she was keen to tell us, was that her work showcases metaphors and the magic of it, is that the metaphor that she thinks she is showing may not be seen by her audiences, but they may perhaps still see a metaphor; just a different one.
Her sculptures are a form of expression, this is because she sculpts what she cannot say with words; using the sculpting as an outlet of emotion, which is what she was missing in her early career.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park Exhibition
This collection took her over 10 years to produce due to the quantity of her work and the scale. Most importantly, it is her largest exhibition to date and she used 9.5, 45ft shipping containers to get the work to the sculpture park.
- Greek Period (600BC)
- Medieval Art
- Kiki Smith
The main point in her career she felt was painting. This was because she needed to go through this, in order to discover that she works more 3 dimensional, which lead her to sculpture.