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A beguiling exhibition of life-sized ceramic sculptures now on view at the American Swedish Institute
Glazed Dandy With Blue Shoes, 2017 Glazed stoneware, 32h x 12w x 12d in.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Fantastical Worlds of Kim Simonsson, a new exhibition at the American Swedish Institute, showcases sculptor Kim Simonsson of Fiskars, Finland, who crafts beguiling, evocative and otherworldly life-sized ceramics figures, including those he calls “Moss People.” A kneeling girl talking to a two-headed bunny and a girl with a feather headdress and a boombox, backpack are contemporary creations that invite viewers into a fairytale-like world inspired by Finland’s primeval forests. The exhibition, Simonsson’s Minnesota debut and Midwest is now on view through July 15, 2018. Nearly 35 selections of Simonsson’s work are on view in the American Swedish Institute’s (ASI) contemporary Osher Gallery, and throughout the historic Turnblad Mansion.

The Fantastical Worlds of Kim Simonsson continues the American Swedish Institute’s year of The Handmade. Simonsson combines a ceramic heritage with the contemporary influence of eastern Nordic pop culture. Instead of the usual casting of sculptures, he takes his work further by sculpting many of his pieces by hand using a unique technique that coats stoneware with a green nylon flock, which gives the figures their smooth and mossy surface. His “Moss People” figures were selected as one of Artnet’s “Nine Fascinating Objects” at 2016 Design Miami, and Finnish designer Kaj Kalin describes his creations as “spirits of dangerous toys.” The sculptures are created in the artist’s studio in Fiskars Village, an arts and design enclave west of Helsinki. Simonsson’s distinctive work has been exhibited globally and been collected by more than 20 museums and foundations around the world, in addition to being shown at galleries and art shows in New York, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Belgium and Korea.

Simonsson’s work grows from dark Nordic storytelling tradition stemming from H.C. Andersen’s fairytales and Edvard Munch’s paintings. Coating the sculptures reminds him of moss-covered flagstones in a park near his house in Fiskars village in Finland.

“My sculptures are usually very sleek and smooth. The Moss People pieces are rougher and more personal. You can see my handprint in them,” the artist states. “The nylon coating also works well when the surface of the sculpture is slightly coarser and you can see that it’s handmade.”

“Nothing that is alive stays static long enough to grow moss, but a ceramic figure is frozen in a situation,” he tells of the thoughts behind the works. In his book “Tales of the Moss People,” Simonsson explains, “the name refers to children’s innate, sensible camouflage. The moss green figures blend perfectly into their natural surroundings, just as a soft carpet of moss covers the ground, rocks and tree trunks and acts as a sort of protection.”

Simonsson implies that his forest children have experienced difficult rites of passage and he evokes a sense of a world that crosses Alice in Wonderland with Lord of the Flies. The characters he depicts are at once whimsical, yet lonely and, yes, slightly disturbing. They also exude a sense of determined strength. “As I carried on, I could be sure what mattered the most was with me,” a Moss Child says in his book.

Bruce Karstadt, ASI President/CEO, commented, “We are pleased to welcome Kim Simonsson for his Minnesota debut as we continue the year of The Handmade and open windows to Sweden’s intimate connection to the handmade form. Kim combines an artisan ceramic heritage with contemporary techniques and interpretations, and we’re honored to present this innovative and internationally acclaimed artist.”

Jason T. Busch, formerly curator of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, is Director of Jason Jacques Gallery in New York, which lent over a dozen sculptures to the exhibition. He says,“The Jason Jacques Gallery is pleased to participate in first museum exhibition of Kim Simonsson’s work in the United States, where the artist’s talent as a sculptor, and his sensitive command of human form and emotion, will be appreciated in a vibrant ceramic arts community.”

Following Kim Simonsson at ASI in 2018 is Gudrun Sjdn – A Colourful Universe, an exhibition on view July 27 - October 28, 2018 (First Look opening July 26). Gudrun Sjdn, considered the godmother of Swedish fashion, is a renowned textile designer. This visually striking exhibition shares her original watercolors and archival constructed catalogs.

Simonsson is captivated by the three-dimensional possibilities of clay. He has a Master of Arts from the Department of Ceramic and Glass at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki and was awarded Finland’s 2004 Young Artist of the Year prize, the 2012 William Thuring Prize and the 2013 Svensk kulturfonden prize. He was invited to work as guest artist for the Art Department Society of Arabia, the famous Finnish ceramics maker. His work has been exhibited in private and group exhibitions and arts fairs in locations including Helskinki, the Jason Jacques and the Nancy Margolis Galleries in
York, the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C., Art Paris, the Finnish Cultural Institute in Stockholm and the Gothenburg Museum of Art in Sweden, the Museum of Ceramic Art in Japan, and galleries and organizations in Berlin, Belgium, Korea, and throughout the world.

Fiskars, where Simonsson has his studio, is a village of artists, artisans and designers where art, forestry and nature play important roles. It is a part of the international Fiskars Corporation whose core brands are the consumer-centered Fiskars, Iittala and Gerber specializing in products for the home, garden and outdoors that are renowned for their functionality and cutting-edge design. It is located situated in the city of Raseborg, in Pohja, nearly one hundred kilometres west of Helsinki, Finland.

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