The World Shifter

Monika Grzymala is a contemporary artist specializing in architectural intervention and spatial drawing. In 2023, she won first prize in the public competition for Katarinapark at Slussen, the new transportation hub in the heart of the city of Stockholm. The wind-sound sculpture "Himmelsharpa-Skyharp" has been developed for the viewpoint on the Stockholm skyline between the Baltic Sea harbour and Mälaren and we are supporting Monika Grzymala in its realization for the year 2026. We spoke to her about her path so far and her working method.

Image: Studio Knack

"Every work starts with the line."

Monika Grzymala

Artist and sculptor

As a sculptor who draws, Grzymala works with a variety of media and situates them as ephemeral or permanent interventions in space. She uses materials such as adhesive tape, sculptural molding processes, handmade paper, projection, photography, graphite, brush drawing and various other techniques for her mostly large-format formations; however, each project begins with a line.

Monika Grzymala "Spatial drawing (the smooth space)"

2024, Kunsthalle Mannheim, 2.4 km of silver adhesive tape

Monika Grzymala "Spatial drawing (kinesphere)"

2024, Kunsthalle Mannheim, constantly growing sculpture made of braided paper wire

Ms. Grzymala, your artistic path seems to have been shaped by extensive influences from the art world. Can you tell us something about your career from your early years to the present day?

I trained as a stone sculptor in Kaiserslautern after graduating from high school in Mannheim. There I gained a very extensive knowledge of art history, nude drawing, modeling and toolmaking. It was very important to me to complete an apprenticeship in the arts and crafts after graduating from high school, as I felt that studying straight afterwards would be too far away - and my numerus clausus was too bad for studying medicine (laughs). Studying at the university in Kassel revealed a much rougher and conceptually oriented atmosphere. While I continued to practice representational modeling, I was supervised by professors with a demanding and rigorous teaching approach. It felt like I was caught between psychotherapy sessions and self-discovery courses (laughs). Nevertheless, we were able to counteract this intensity: Together with fellow students, I founded the Stellwerk in the former waiting room of the Kulturbahnhof. This facility still serves as a gallery today and is an important point of contact during the Documenta. However, when I saw Bogomir Ecker's work for the first time, I was physically struck by it: bent sheet metal, works of art in the most impossible places - he had had an entire building site cast in aluminum and created great fields of tension through seemingly incidental elements. I asked him for a work interview and he spontaneously invited me to Hamburg. He said something to me at the time that was to be the initial spark for all my subsequent work: "Monika, you don't actually have to go to so much trouble to express what you want, namely the relationships and interdependencies between people and spaces - you need a simpler language for that". A few weeks later, I moved to Hamburg to become his student.



2023, constantly growing intervention with braided paper wire, guest studio Raketenstation Insel Hombroich, Neuss

"At a certain point, I feel I have to relinquish authorship because the works can stand on their own when they are at an advanced stage."

Your work spans various media and materials, from graphics to sculpture. How do you choose the medium for a particular project and what inspires you?

It's actually a "pas de deux" with the material. In addition to my sculptural work, I also create my own paper, which sometimes involves the molecular structures of cotton or mulberry fibers and requires in-depth specialist knowledge, and here I was able to learn an incredible amount through my collaboration with my colleague Gangolf Ulbricht. My latest project, the so-called "Skyharp", which is to be placed in Stockholm's Katarina Park, also has a very organic connection to nature, as it is about growing forms. I do a lot of research first, immersing myself in the theme of the location or situation in order to incorporate my associations and images at a later stage. When the creative process stagnates, I also like to go into the spaces where the artwork is to be placed later and let them have an effect on me so that I can be guided by my artistic intuition. The relationship between me and my works also changes during the process: at a certain point, I have the feeling of relinquishing authorship because the works can stand on their own when they are at an advanced stage. Then they belong to themselves, so to speak, and when they arrive at their place of destination - whether in a public space or a gallery - they belong to the people there.

To what extent do you follow the possibilities of digital media and artificial intelligence - do you see the advancing technological developments as a curse or a blessing?

I am a member of the "Shaping Space Open Lab" team at the UDK and TU Berlin, where we investigate digital design methods. Virtual reality, for example, gives me the opportunity to explore spaces in a way that was previously unthinkable: I can even walk along the ceilings, which is very convenient for me as I get older (laughs). The new technologies therefore bring with them many new possibilities that make my work easier. And with AI, it's largely down to the user: the machine spits out what the user inputs. Nevertheless, the essence of traditional craftsmanship is and remains extremely important to me - paper-making in particular is a meditative process for me, a real "Zen moment".

"Some works are deliberately temporary constructions: they blossom like a bouquet of flowers, they slowly fade during the exhibition period and make us aware that we all have a limited time and that the beauty of things often lies in the brevity of their lifespan."

Monika Grzymala visits Arnold Mai 2024.

Can you give us an insight into your day-to-day work? How do your ideas come about and how do you develop them from conception to realization?

All my work processes are genuine and I take a very hands-on approach, right from the very first touch. I think with my hands, so to speak, which I think you can clearly see. Whether the first draft is done with graphite on paper or using a clay model is irrelevant. What's more, not every day is the same emotionally: there is often resistance that I simply have to accept, and I may only be able to tackle the solution the next day with a fresh head. This also applies to working in museums: these are mostly one-shot actions that come out of me. I don't have any assistants to help me with the set-up or installation, as I do everything myself. And depending on the choice of material, I can decide how ephemeral the whole thing should be. Some works are deliberately temporary constructions: they blossom like a bunch of flowers, they slowly fade during the exhibition period and make us aware that we all have a limited time and that the beauty of things often lies in the brevity of their lifespan. A great anecdote is the creative correspondence between Katharina Hinsberg and myself: even before the upcoming exhibition at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, we sent sketchbooks back and forth to each other; completely carefree without any thoughts of rivalry or pressure to perform and it was a very enriching experience, as we were able to take up and continue each other's work. We were both able to use the synergy effect and inspire each other. Incidentally, the exhibition in Mannheim will be on show from 26.04.2024 - 25.08.2024.

In recent years, you have shown very impressive installations in various art galleries under the term "spatial drawing". What exactly is this term all about?

The term came about in an exchange with my last professor, Bogomir Ecker, with whom I completed my diploma thesis. Suddenly this term came up - long before it was used so inflationarily. Even back then, it was clear that the classic line wanted to break free from paper and enter three-dimensional space. It inevitably ended up on the wall when I ran out of paper and suddenly transformed itself tangibly within the space. My adhesive tape works in particular have a certain massiveness, even if you wouldn't expect it at the beginning of such an installation, that I can build huge architectures from a few boxes of adhesive tape!

What are your future plans and projects? Are there any particular themes or materials you would like to explore in the future and what goals have you set yourself as an artist?

I am very interested in 3D printing in general, as the materials and scalability are almost unlimited: whether with resins, cellulose or, most recently, metal. I am currently working closely with Arnold AG on my latest project "Skyharp", which will be on show in Stockholm at Katarinapark, and I am very happy about the possibilities of 3D metal printing technology. I'm really looking forward to seeing the next interim status live on site!

Ms. Grzymala, thank you very much for the informative interview.

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