The Way an Algae Transforms into a Rock
Stockholm University Library
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand” is a famous line the poet William Blake wrote in 1803, which describes how even the smallest grain of sand can report about the material flows it has been through over the course of its life. From cosmic dust, to rock, to sand.
The artwork sits in a three story atrium at the University Library of Stockholm, Sweden and tells us about diatoms, a silica-covered algae. The narrative starts by the bottom floor. Here, the viewer meets a block of stone with reliefs of diatoms. When diatoms die, they fall down on the ocean floor, where they eventually sediment into the porous rock called diatomite. Algae transforms into rock. If the viewer turns around the corner, they will notice that the block in fact isn't solid, but cast on a wooden construction. It creates the illusory effect of a set design, a way of emphasizing a material deconstruction that both attempts to break down and build up a conception of reality.
On the second floor of the atrium the wooden construction becomes a framework for reliefs. A body pours a liquid into a mirror image, creating a figure of a closed circle and a flow.
The Bodélé desert in central Africa, an ancient evaporated sea, consists of diatomite. Enduring winds brings dust from the porous rock over the Atlantic to the Amazon, a nutritious process which is shown to be a precondition for the survival of the rainforest. The microcosmos of the diatoms conspires with the macrocosmos of the winds in a natural cycle.
By the top floor you will find a framed, enlarged diatom in clay.
“In every world thousands of worlds are hidden”, wrote the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf in 1941 as a response to William Blake. The artwork encourages us to look for the hidden cycles that can be found around us. A type of nature mysticism that goes all the way back to the origin of Western philosophy and Heraclitus thought ‘panta rhei’ - everything flows.
Photo credit: Jonas Ingerstedt
Perceived Memory, Projected Future
January 9 - February 15, 2020 at Stockholm.
Extract from exhibition text by :
In Perceived Memory, Projected Future the spectator steps inside a space that evokes thoughts on our inner sensibility and the way reality can appear to us. It is a form of memory research combined with questions about the future: it is in the union of these two that Hellström sees the present. The chronological timeline is dissolved and the past, the present and the future are here working together and are given a shared space to coexist and interact with one another. This could be seen as a manifestation of Hellström’s idea that the world is in constant transformation with fluid boundaries. It is undoubtedly a fluid concept of reality that Hellström experiments with. Her focus around transformation is being expressed mainly through the use of transformative and malleable materials, making haphazardness an element in the formation of the pieces. Hellström challenges the idea of where a process begins and where it ends. The craft is built on timely procedures where controlled processes meet the unplanned, when a material converts from one form into another, from liquid to solid, or solid to liquid. She plays with our definitions of the present, of the past and of the future, of materiality, of crafts, and of what we usually see as universally absolute. Perceived Memory, Projected Future becomes a demonstration of how to be in this world, one that resists a linear narrative and elevates transformative materials to give them emotional and physical shape.
Photo credit: Jonas Ingerstedt. Catalogue design by . Available for purchase through .
The Science of Imaginary Solutions
August 8 - September 28, 2019 at Copenhagen
Extract from exhibition text by Nanna Balslev Strøjer
The exhibition title The Science of Imaginary Solutions is inspired by French writer Alfred Jarry’s (1873–1907) literary trope ‘pataphysics’ - a type of philosophy examining imaginary phenomena existing in a world beyond metaphysics. Originally meant as a canny mockery to the rapid growth of popularisation in the 19th century, Alfred Jarry assigned meaning to the intuitive and the irrational. Subsequently, both Dadaists and Surrealists found inspiration in the quasi-science and artists like Miró and Duchamps joined the group of practitioners praising the irrational, useless, unconscious and the power of the imaginary. In the same manner, pataphysics endows meaning to Hellström by providing a type of terminology to an artistic practice falling outside traditional categories of craft making. By dismantling the conventional categories of material and craft, Hellström has left tradition, and thereby definition. As she is developing new techniques based on the unplanned, creating new realities based on the factitious, pataphysics gives Hellström a vocabulary.
Hellström explores the poetic and transformative capacities of materials through contrasting narratives and artistic methods. The process of creating, of manipulating and giving form to material, is a continuous confirmation of being and belonging in the world for Hellström. It is a physical and emotional insistence on her own existence, as an artist and living body. The Science of Imaginary Solutions is a demonstration of the energy, poetry and curiosity feeding her practice and visible in the many ways she casts and carves, makes and imagines. Always in process, and refusing to be defined, her works become beautiful hybrids existing in their own right, as imaginary solutions.
Photo credit: Rosalina Kruse Serup, David Stjernholm. Catalogue designed by Laura Silke
A four meter tall obelisk installed outside Kvibergskolan school in Gothenburg. The spine-like form is generated through the use of an elastic mould, juxtaposing the strict vertical shape with the unruly vertebraes, embodying the agency of the casting compound. The concrete structure has infused copper shavings that are slowly oxidizing, incorporating the notions of time and cycles into the work. The commission explores the many analogies the symbol of a spine contains. Commissioned by Göteborgs Lokalförvaltning.
Combined bollard and bike-stand in white concrete commissioned by , Museum of Architecture, Sweden. Later produced for the city of Stockholm's body of transport.
The form is generated through the use of an elastic mould, showcasing the materiality, volume and gravity of the casting compound.
Apparent Appearance of Life
Public commission for the birth clinic at Södersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm Sweden.
Abiogenesis is within the natural sciences a question that is trying to give an answer to how life first appeared on planet earth. Perhaps a thematics well suited for a birth clinic.
The imagery is cut out from cast, marbled plates of the composite material Jesmonite, placed on the inside of the mould prior to casting the background of the relief. The technique references intarsia inlays in stone and the motives represent seashells, fossils, stromatolites, algae, tadpoles, amphibians, a bird and an egg.
Photo credit: Åsmund Sollihøgda
Big Bang and other Explanations
November 18, 2016 - January 21, 2017. The Plinth Project at Copenhagen
Monolith resembling a core sample or a diagram over Earth's crust. Inlays depicting different understandings about the creation of the world.
Photo credit: Åsmund Sollihøgda
Residence In Nature
A project built around the local legend of Blenda and conceived during in Småland Sweden. Around the 11-1200s, a band of women from Värend seduced, tricked and killed an army of Danish invaders. After the killing they entered the lake of Åsnen to wash themselves from blood. Here, they are also said to perform fertility rites, a supposedly integral part of the lives of the local women at the time. The legend, invented by Petter Rudebeck in 1691, was long a part of serious history writing and many of the local place-names (f.ex. Blodberget, Blodviken, Skägglösa) allude to the legend. Myth has entered our everyday reality. As if the legend was materialized in the local matter, the two river sculptures are made of gault clay, sourced close to the location of the events. From the clay, two fleshy looking shapes were fired and sat bathing on the surface of the water.
Ace Hotel, London
Photo credit: Peter Guenzel
Stena Stiftelsen Award
Gothenburg Museum of Art
December 6, 2014 – January 6, 2015 at
About the in Swedish
Photo credit: Åsmund Sollihøgda
Gothenburg Museum of Art
This is anthracite. The black rock gleams in sunshine to attract crows. As the most metamorphosed type of coal, its moniker is crow coal. Coal is used by humans in every stage of its metamorphosis; peat, coal, anthracite, graphite, diamond. I stumbled upon anthracite on a hike by Loch Long during an artist residency in the western part of Scotland. The glittery black stone was lying on the side of the road with a seemingly precious appearance. Had I found a gem? When I returned to the residency main building, a person detected it as anthracite and concluded that it probably had fallen off the back of a truck during transport.
The journey of moss post mortem: If moss happens to decay in an acidic environment without oxygen, it becomes peat. Peat is the accumulated energy generated from the moss’ photosynthesis. Buried far below ground, peat will be exposed to the heat and pressure from Earth's crust. In a metamorphosis it transforms into coal. As a rock that sets on fire, coal is used as fuel. Further in the metamorphosis, coal turns into anthracite which later becomes graphite. With every transformation the molecular structure changes. Anthracite glitters, coal doesn’t. Graphite is arranged in very thin layers, each line drawn with your pencil is a layer of molecules. Graphite transforms into diamond, the hardest natural material we know and the end of the journey of moss.
A year after my hike by Loch Long I created two sculptures for an exhibition at Gothenburg Museum of Art. They would be around two meters tall and made from large blocks of anthracite. Close to Brecon Beacons National Park, in the south of Wales, I found an anthracite mine. The people working there had a profound knowledge of ecology and put a large amount of work into restoring ecosystems in closed-down pits. The crows were there too. I called the sculptures Pressure to emphasize the unfathomable weight that causes a metamorphosis. Based on traditional bridge construction, wedges of anthracite were placed in an archlike composition. Nothing but the pressure from each wedge stacked on top of each other, held the construction together, alluding to the pressure in a metamorphosis. In hindsight, I can judge that the project was a bad idea. The thin layer of black dust, which made the museum space resemble a coal mine during the set-up of the exhibition, caused a lot of annoyance amongst the technicians. For a year after the show I paid extra storage to keep the pieces. When it was time for me to move to another country, I was so fed up by the look of the crates, that I gave it to a man with a vintage steam-engine boat, who would use it for fuel.
Photo credit: Åsmund Sollihøgda
A film commissioned by for the exhibition at Tramway Glasgow. The exhibition took as its starting point a monthly Technicolor film series called Roundabout (1962-1974) which was designed to promote Britain as a progressive world leader. Produced by the British government, every issue was packed with stories that portrayed Britain in the vanguard of research, the forefront of manufacturing as well as the creative edge of the arts and design. Malleability was formed as a response to one of the films promoting the manufacturing of plastics and depicts plastic transformations.
Design Museum London
A commission for the crystal manufacturer Swarovski. Initially developed for an exhibition at the Design Museum London 2012. In 2014 a second edition was produced for Swarovski Wonder Chamber in Innsbruck. The sculpture depicts the topography of the Tyrollean mountains, where the Swarovski head-quarters are located. It was conceived using Google Earth imagery which was transferred into a 3D program and cut out in a cnc-router. The sculpture was accompanied by a film split into three screens. The film, a fictive narrative that vaguely portrays the origin of the sculpture, shows images from the Tyrollean mountains, a limestone quarry and a house interior. Director of photography Wai Ming Ng.
Photo credit: Wai Ming Ng, Åsmund Sollihøgda
The Materiality of a Natural Disaster
Royal College of Art
The graduation project The Materiality of a Natural Disaster from The Royal College of Art, is a project around a geo-specific, human-inflicted narrative transferred onto local matter. The project takes place a year after the Tohoku Daiichi power plant disaster in Japan, and is a collaboration with local rice farmer Naoto Matsumura, who was determined to stay in the evacuated area. From soil from his unusable rice fields, five muddy vessels with typologies hinting to the local produce, were created. The project's aim was to lead one’s thought to the mythological, to construct allegories to the devastating event. Although being loaded, the vessels did not contain radiation, since the soil was dug up from 40 cm below ground. A 12 minute documentary portraying Matsumura’s everyday life, accompanied the vessels in the exhibition.
There is a juxtaposition between intent and chance in casting techniques that allow the casting compound to show agency within the controlled environment of the mould. In the Sedimentation series, several pigments are incorporated within the material. Similar to the strata of bedrock, the pigments become trace detectors when the casting compound sets. In an object developed this way, the physicality of the liquid casting compound is transferred to its posterior form. Its becoming is present in its being. The typologies of these urns are taken from the collection of the in London; the appropriation of the form hints to the appropriation of the geological material.
In the 16th century the technique of scagliola was developed to imitate coloured marble and other rock formations. It was composed of gypsum, animal glue and pigments. Painted by artists, it was a process much more elaborate and costly than using natural stone. The aim was an exaggerated richness of colours which you could not find in nature. In 1984 Englishman Peter Hawkins developed a synthetic, harder type of plaster called Jesmonite. Instead of animal glue, water-based acrylic resin is added to the gypsum for strength. Jesmonite is the compound that constitutes these vessels.
Photo credit: Åsmund Sollihøgda
Hilda Hellström graduated from the Royal College of Art, London 2012. In her practice, she thematizes around the immanent forces and narratives within materials and the surrounding natural world. Her work encompasses ideas around transformation and liminal states, presented through a preoccupation in casting processes and metamorphic aspects of materials. She uses craft techniques to convey natural- and cultural histories alongside personal experiences. Her work draws upon geology, archeology, alchemy and pantheism where she interweaves fabulation and fabrication, shape and image making.
Her work has been exhibited at Gothenburg Museum of Art, The British Craft Council, MAK (Museum für Angewandte Kunst) Vienna, Victoria & Albert Museum London, Tramway Glasgow, London Design Museum, Eskilstuna Konstmuseum, Gustavsbergs Konsthall, Kalmar Konstmuseum, Röhsska Museet, Art Basel Miami, Shanghai Power Station Art Museum, Daelim Museum South Korea, Design Museo Helsinki and MUDAC Lausanne, amongst other institutions. Hellström currently lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark.
◦ Master of Arts, Royal College of Art, London 2012
Solo & Two-persons exhibitions
◦ “Perecived Memory, Projected Future” Niclas Berg Gallery SE Stockholm 2020
◦ “The Science of Imaginary Solutions” Etage Projects DK Copenhagen 2019
◦ “I do spend time in nature” Niclas Berg Gallery SE Stockholm 2017
◦ “Stenastiftelsens Art Award” Göteborgs Konstmuseum SE Gothenburg 2014/15
◦ “Still it moves” Gallery Bensimon FR Paris 2014
◦ “Hilda Hellström x Bec Brittain” Matter US New York 2014
◦ “The Monument” Swarovski Wonder Chamber, AU Innsbruck 2013- 2014
Selected Group Exhibitions
◦ “Public Luxury” Swedish Institute FR Paris
◦ “Public Luxury” Arkdes Architecture Museum, SE Stockholm
◦ “5KV” Kvalitar Gallery, CZ Prague
◦ “Twelve Tall Tales” (The British Crafts Council) Oriel Davies Gallery IR Wales
◦ “Gustavsbergs Konsthall Revisited” Gustavsbergs Konsthall SE Gustavsberg
◦ “Room With its own Rules” Chamber NYC US New York
◦ “This is Today” Chamber NYC, US New York
◦ “The Plinth Project” Etage Projects DK Copenhagen
◦ “Chamber NYC booth” Art Basel Miami US Miami Beach
◦ “Keep In Touch” Skånes Konstförening SE Malmö
◦ “Konsthantverk i Sverige” Eskilstuna Konstmuseum SE Eskilstuna
◦ “Residence-In-Nature” Växjö Konsthall SE Växjö
◦ “Objects Of Desire” Design Museo Helsinki FI Helsinki
◦ “Twelve Tall Tales” The British Craft Council UK London UK
◦ “Colour Your Life” Daelim Museum KR Seoul
◦ “Sur” Apalazzo Gallery IT Brescia
◦ “Eva Bonnier for public Art” Konstakademiet SE Stockholm
◦ “Den Nya Kvinnogruppen” Eskilstuna Konstmuseum SE Eskilstuna
◦ “Pilsen 2015 – European City of Culture” CZ Pilsen
◦ “Radikal Vänskap” Gustavsbergs Konsthall SE Gustavsberg
◦ “Samtidsarkeologi” Galleri Format NO Oslo
◦ “DNK: Så Därför Kom Vi Hit” Verkstad; Rum för Konst SE Norrköping
◦ “Atemporaneo” Apalazzo Gallery IT Brescia
◦ “Crafting Narratives“ The British Craft Council UK London
◦ “Rum 319” Crystal Gallery SE Stockholm Art Week
◦ “Den Nya Kvinnogruppen” Fullersta Gård SE Stockholm
◦ “The Future Is Handmade” Kalmar Konstmuseum SE Kalmar
◦ “NightTime DreamReal” Power Station Art Museum CN Shanghai
◦ “House Style” Tramway UK Glasgow
◦ “Mastering Design” Mudac CH Lausanne
◦ “Swarovski Digital Crystal” Beijing Design Week CN Beijing
◦ “Digital Crystal” Design Museum UK London
◦ “Royal College of Art Graduation Show” Royal College of Art Battersea UK London
Collections & Public Commissions
◦ Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, SE 2019
◦ City of Örebro SE Sweden 2018
◦ Stockholm County Council (SLL) several purchases 2017
◦ Handelsbankens Konstförening SE Stockholm 2017
◦ Eskilstuna Museum of Art SE Eskilstuna 2015
◦ SAK, Sveriges Allmänna Konstförening 2015
◦ Stenastiftelsens samling SE Gothenburg 2014
◦ MAK (Museum für Angewandte Kunst) AU Vienna 2013
◦ Stockholm University Library, SE, 2020
◦ Trafikkontoret Stockholm, SE, 2020
◦ Municipality of Gothenburg SE 2019
◦ Hallands Museum of Art SE 2019
◦ Danderyd hospital SE Stockholm 2017
◦ Södersjukhuset Maternity hospital SE Stockholm, 2017
Awards & Grants
◦ Travel grant, Statens Kunstfond DK SE 2020
◦ Travel grant, Konstnärsnämnden/Iaspis SE 2020
◦ Working grant, Statens Kunstfond DK 2019
◦ Two-year working grant, Konstnärsnämnden SE 2018
◦ Working grant, Statens Kunstfond DK 2018
◦ Travel grant, Konstnärsnämnden/Iaspis SE 2017
◦ Travel grant, Konstnärsnämnden/Iaspis SE 2016
◦ One year working grant, Konstnärsnämnden/Iaspis SE 2015
◦ The craftsman of the year, Residence Magazine SE 2015
◦ Stenastiftelsens kulturstipendiat, Gothenburg, SE 2014
◦ Helge Ax:son Johnsons stipendium SE 2014
◦ Represented in Iaspis artist archive SE since 2013
◦ 3 month Artist Residency, Cité internationale des Arts, Paris, FR 2021
◦ 2 month Artist Residency, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, US 2016
◦ Residence-In-Nature in collaboration with Växjö Konsthall, SE 2015-2016
◦ 2 month Artist Residency, Cove Park, Scotland, UK 2013
◦ Perceived Memory, Projected Future, Exhibition Catalogue. Berg Gallery, Magdalena Rozenberg, Hilda Hellström, 2020
◦ The Science of Imaginary Solutions, Exhibition Catalogue. Etage Projects, Nanna Balslev Strøjer, Hilda Hellström, 2019
◦ What’s Next; Ecomaterialism & Contemporary Art. Intellectual Books, Linda Weintraub, 2018
◦ SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, Lithic Mythology: Design and the Future of the Lithosphere, Adam Nocek (US) 2017
◦ The Nuclear Culture Source Book, professor Ele Carpenter (UK) 2016
◦ Apollo - The International Art Magazine, Atomic matter, James Purdon (UK) 2017
◦ Crafting Narratives, The British Craft Council, catalog, Onkar Kular (UK) 2014
◦ Sten A Olssons Kulturstipendiater, catalog, Sara Michaëlsson och Magnus Haglund (SVE) 2014
◦ In Residence; Identity Detectors, Barbara Brondi och Marco Rainò (IT) 2014
◦ Girls, Pig Quarterly, Rujana Rebernjak (IT) 2013
Birkedommervej 31, 1th
2400 Copenhagen, DK