Grace Schwindt Finds Strengthin Fragility at Zeno X Gallery
Advisory Perspective

Grace Schwindt Finds Strength
in Fragility at Zeno X Gallery

By Annabel Downes | Antwerp, 13 April 2023

Fragility and strength are two sides of the same coin for Grace Schwindt. Sculptures seem in a constant state of flux, bearing voids or 'wounds' that do little in the way of inviting repair, but rather a form to be celebrated.

With an artistic remit covering sculpture, drawing, performance, and video, two days are never the same for the London-based artist. Mornings are reserved for the hands-on tasks of sculpture and ceramics, broken up by script-writing sessions at Lewisham Arthouse—where her South London studio is based—for performance rehearsals.

An extension of her solo exhibition, Defiant Bodies (17 September 2022–5 February 2023), at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen in Switzerland earlier this year, Zeno X Gallery now presents Lacuna (19 April–24 June 2023), featuring her latest sculptures and drawings.

Grace Schwindt, Becoming a Figure (2022). Bronze, patinated. 22.5 x 11.5 x 6 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP.

Grace Schwindt, Becoming a Figure (2022). Bronze, patinated. 22.5 x 11.5 x 6 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery. Photo: Peter Cox.

On the occasion of this show, Schwindt speaks with Ocula Advisory about the conversations that drove this latest body of work with her German Jewish grandfather, notably his experience as a prisoner of war during World War II, her sculptural process, and her plans beyond this exhibition.

Your work covers a variety of disciplinesthe sculpture and drawing that we see in this showbut also performance and video. Have you always had a well-rounded practice?

Since I was a child, I've been making sculptures, paintings, and drawings. I started to make videos and performances when I was a teenager. From the beginning, it was very natural for me to work with different mediums to express various ideas.

I don't see disciplines as separate structures. For instance, I like to think of sculpture as performative and vice versa. Sculpture can be a documentation of a sound, a movement, or an event, like a performance. The costumes I create for my performances and choreography are often sculptural in form and play with the idea to perceive the body sculpturally.

What is the relationship between the drawings and sculptures in your show?

Grace Schwindt, Deppea Splendens (2023). Watercolour, ink and pencil on paper. 61 x 45.6 cm.

Grace Schwindt, Deppea Splendens (2023). Watercolour, ink and pencil on paper. 61 x 45.6 cm. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp. Photo: Peter Cox.

My drawings are often developed from sculptures, but there are occasions when I will make a sculpture and develop a series of drawings from it.

Sometimes my sculptures and drawings can be independent from one another—I'll work with a subject to find different expressions through the two mediums. I've found you can create a different vocabulary through sculpture and drawing that can be in close dialogue with each other.

Your works are known to be products of conversations that you've had with activists, artists, musicians, politicians or refugees. What conversations inspired these works?

The starting point for this exhibition was The Boxer (2018), a performance I did for The Roberts Institute of Art, London. It was based on interviews and conversations I had with my grandfather.

Grace Schwindt, Resting Point (2022). Bronze, patinated, natural rope, steel. Variable dimensions. Edition of 3.

Grace Schwindt, Resting Point (2022). Bronze, patinated, natural rope, steel. Variable dimensions. Edition of 3. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp.

He was a German Jew living in Berlin and fled the Nazis by infiltrating the German army. He crossed the border as a German soldier and then immediately handed himself in to the British. He became a prisoner of war, and remained so for almost the entire war.

In these camps, they organised secret boxing matches. What interested me most, was the way he spoke about the wounds he received from these matches. The wounds were proof that it was still his own body, despite denying his Jewish identity and acting as a German soldier in order to survive.

My grandfather's wounds symbolised freedom among the imprisoned soldiers, because the matches occurred outside of the context of military control. They were a marker of hope for life after the committed atrocities.

When you get down to making sculpture, what's the process?

Exhibition view: Grace Schwindt, Lacuna, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp (19 April–24 June 2023).

Exhibition view: Grace Schwindt, Lacuna, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp (19 April–24 June 2023). Courtesy Zeno X Gallery. Photo: Peter Cox.

I always look for a tension between fragility and strength to create a specific feeling in my sculptures.

Many of the sculptures in the Zeno X exhibition deal with wounds and breakages. The exhibition's title, Lacuna, refers to the process of conservation and restoration of a breakage or void. It's this gap that can either be filled or left open that I'm interested in.

I provoke some of my sculptures to have breakages during the making process. I build in air pockets that allow for a breakage to form strong surfaces, which I then use as a canvas to glaze and draw on. The glaze often implies the strong, stable part of the sculpture, despite emerging from the most fragile point where a breakage has occurred.

Grace Schwindt, Butterfly (2022). Bronze. 36 x 53 x 44 cm. Edition of 3.

Grace Schwindt, Butterfly (2022). Bronze. 36 x 53 x 44 cm. Edition of 3. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery. Photo: Peter Cox.

The idea of transition seems to be at the centre of this body of work, with sculptures such as Butterfly (2022), sitting alongside those with the title Becoming a Figure (2022). How did the idea of transition play into your process and approach?

Part of my approach to sculpture is a theoretical thinking process, such as how histories of sculpture have taught us to look at bodies in everyday life. Specifically, how we think about beauty and how histories of sculpture have mirrored these ideas in society.

Within the context of my most recent sculptures, the medium has become something that visualises the transition of a body from a wound. It represents something becoming whole from broken parts that eventually transforms into a complete new body again.

Grace Schwindt, In Two Parts (2022). Bronze, patinated. 20.5 x 6.5 x 11.5 cm. Edition of 3.

Grace Schwindt, In Two Parts (2022). Bronze, patinated. 20.5 x 6.5 x 11.5 cm. Edition of 3. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery. Photo: Peter Cox.

The sculptures in this exhibition had the proposal of saying, 'I'm wounded, I'm traumatised, I'm wrong, but it's okay. It's perfect like it is.'

What are you working on next?

I am currently working on a project with Museum M in Leuven where I am researching the conservation and restoration of sculptures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The source images and drawings I am developing from this research will form the basis of a new series of works. —[O]

Main image: Exhibition view: Grace Schwindt, Lacuna, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp (19 April–24 June 2023). Courtesy Zeno X Gallery. Photo: Peter Cox.

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