Grace Schwindt (b. 1979, Germany) works not only across different themes and stories but also across different media. While in her first exhibition at the gallery she presented a film and a sculptural installation with vases, she now focuses on her drawing and sculptural practice. All of her works are connected by topics such as the fragility of the body, the importance of objects in the construction of memory and history, and the influence of capitalism on society.
In 2015 Schwindt went on a research trip to the Shetland Islands, where she talked to a birdwatcher who monitored the local seabird population for oil contamination. The moment the birder picks up a bird or part of a bird that has washed ashore and checks it for oil stains became for her a symbol of fragility and caring. The act of touching and getting in touch with the wounded or 'broken' animal, purposely without gloves, is understood by Schwindt as an optimistic gesture. The man accepts the animal with its injury and without prejudice, and this can be seen as a metaphor for a society in which citizens long to get in touch with strangers without the fear of the unknown.
The animals and human figures on show in this exhibition are often in a state of transformation or mutation. Prostheses–functioning as tools–emphasize rather than hide the absence of a body part. Wounds are included and are not seen as something that needs to be overcome. The drawings speak of a desire to go on, even when injured. Moreover, Schwindt does not perceive fragility and strength as antagonistic nouns, but rather as closely connected notions which appear together quite often. On a figurative level the body is not only fragile in a physical or anatomical perspective, but also in a political, social and personal way. According to Schwindt, in a capitalist society it is easy to forget that our bodies are vulnerable because they seem quite abstract and death does not seem to exist–until it actually happens.
Schwindt explores the potential of the fragment to become a new whole by restoring its power. The injured body part should be honoured and it can also be conceived as a pars pro toto metaphor. Some of the sculptures seem to document or even contain movement as a way to preserve moments.
The When She... series of anthropomorphic sculptures, which in a sense resemble excavated antiquities, are made of ceramic mixed with stone. Schwindt is increasingly interested in developing techniques herself and in looking into the intrinsic qualities of materials. The past of a material is of great importance to her; she connects the histories and connotations of two materials, such as steel and wax, by literally bringing them together.
The ceramic sculptures and glass perfume bottles refer to the ancient tradition of offering different objects as gifts to the dead. For Schwindt the idea of the hereafter is a consequence of a desire to preserve life. In that sense her sculptural forms could also be read as containers of life, rendering an abstract idea graspable.
In 2018 Grace Schwindt will have a solo exhibition at Rozenstraat in Amsterdam. Her performance Operaand Steel, which premiered at the Kaaitheater in Brussels last year, will be reprised in March as part of the Something Raw festival in Amsterdam.
Schwindt has had solo exhibitions at Rose Lejeune in London, the Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts in Bath, MARCO in Vigo, Tramway in Glasgow, Argos in Brussels, Contemporary Calgary, Site Gallery in Sheffield, Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, The Showroom in London, Badischer Kunstverein in Karlsruhe and Eastside Projects in Birmingham, among many others. Her work has also been on view at the Anren Biennale of 2017, the Istanbul Bienniale of 2015, WIELS in Brussels, Arko Art Center in Seoul, Royal Academy of Arts in London, Weserburg Museum in Bremen, Tate Britain in London, Museum M in Leuven, Arnolfini in Bristol, etc.
Press release courtesy Zeno X Gallery.