Viveka Assembergs (Stockholm, 1959). A dreamy and introspective approach to sculpture. A dive into the matter in search of a dense and universal language. A journey into the human that the artist carries out steadfastly and passionately in search of herself and others. With her, we will once again enter the “magical territory” of sculpture.
I would like to start with the most challenging question: What is art for you?
The pursuit of immortality, in a certain sense. It is the means and the medium through which an artist has the opportunity to leave a mark, a trace of his short journey. Through the feelings of others, a sculpture outlives the sculptor. I want the observers to interact with my work, by adding something of their own. A sculpture is not just an object to look at. It vibrates under the fingers and it plays and interacts with the space in which it is placed. It changes mood both with light and with shadow and, if you are able to read it, it elicits emotions. It is also a language that allows me to lay bare my soul: it is filled with intimate feelings. I live sculpture as a virtue and as a gift and sometimes I'm afraid of losing it.
Do not trust the appearance, do not trust.
It looks like I'm defending myself but in reality, I'm just hunting.
I stretch threads and feed myself, cynically.
I'll take you to me in the only way I know.
How did you approach sculpture?
I was looking for a language. The meeting between sculpture and I took place in an extremely spontaneous way, perhaps as the natural result of a long journey. After attending the Art School of Bergamo, I had a long experience in graphics, painting, decoration, and restoration, which are all fields in which I could express my reflective and controlled personality. Quite suddenly, sculpture revealed itself to me as a new means of communication. The sign became tactile and the thought became a feeling in space. My previous career took on a new light. Since then, I have begun my investigation of architectural volumes and building materials.
You have been living in Italy for many years, but you are Swedish: how does this “double belonging” affect your work? Do you draw from both the Nordic and the Mediterranean imaginaries?
In the initial phase of my work, my origin prevailed. My sculptures are always stories and the atmospheres in which they were set were Nordic. The lights, colors, smells and sounds were those of childhood. Then, the Mediterranean influence became stronger. The sculptures started to come out of the shadows and absorb the Mediterranean light.
What do you find attractive about reality? What are your favorite subjects?
As a sculptor, I “breathe” the imagination and use it to transform feelings and moods, fears, and joys. In real life, I love nature. I recognize the human talent to create beauty and meaning. All my sculptures have a soul: their soul is my soul. Be careful if you want to understand me!
How did you come to this essential but powerful way of plastic translation of the human figure? Why give up faces?
In order to communicate, I work on posture, on movement, and not simply on the representation of physicality. My figures often move away, detach themselves and tell us that they are already elsewhere. The lack of faces is certainly not a renunciation or denial of identity: it indicates a desire for introspection. Often blindfolded, my sculptures aim at our depth, at what remains in the shadow in our soul. I feel the desire to explore that unknown area and to reveal what is unexpressed within the limits of our skin.
What relationship is there between the figure and the space that surrounds it?
That of sculpture in space, always. In my work, the figures take shape in a sort of emptiness, surrounded by chromatic neutrality. Their world is inside them; it flows on the thin membrane that separates them and, at the same time, shelters them from what is around them. Over the centuries, sculpture has shown us that its origin is always linked to a specific place. A place that someone wants to animate, embellish or use to celebrate an event or a person. My sculptures, like those of most contemporaries, must find a place to become complete and meaningful. They seek peace and harmony; they require acceptance. They are not intrusive, but they ask to be discovered.
What materials do you work with? Is there a relationship between the properties of the materials and the meaning of the works?
Their relationship is extremely strong: the investigation of materials is fundamental to find a balance between aesthetic result and message. Each material has characteristics and properties that can convey a story or an idea. The material communicates with its warmth, its color, its elasticity or stiffness. Iron, a material that cannot be molded, has a strong influence on me and it is often part of my works. I love to cut it, bend it, and make compositions with it. As for bronze, I always feel the need to thin it. I use clay for volumes and details. Fiberglass, which pricks your nose, bites your stomach, burns the skin of your hands, is very precious to me, it is the only material suitable for representing one of my stories.
Could you describe a work and/or a project you are particularly fond of?
I have a strong bond with my works and they all mark a particular moment in my life. However, the work that gave me the strongest emotions was the Via Crucis, which I created for the village of Sotto il Monte (Bergamo), the birthplace of Pope John XXIII. It was an articulated and demanding project because of the emotional involvement it entailed and the executive difficulties it posed. Via Crucis is a path which invites you to ask yourself about existence and about your relationship with God. You have to “activate” your sensitiveness and your imagination to immerse yourself in a temporal space, with its sounds, smells, lights, that is impossible to reach otherwise. Only in this way you can begin the journey. My Christ is often represented alone, just as we are called to life alone.
In the first station, Pontius Pilate points to the crowd in a gesture that contains the words "You condemned him, not me", while Jesus, with his hands tied, is already on his way. The Mother holds out her arms to her son, without reaching him; her energy is in her veil (Station 4). The Pious Women await the passing of Christ (Station 8). Generally, the conclusion of a work empties the artist. He loses a “presence”, he leaves the hand of someone who, in a certain way, he will no longer be able to touch.