Mastering metal | Marie Louise Kold

Toggling between Sweden, Denmark and Malta, the artist Marie Louise Kold has been experimenting with copper, bronze and brass, and will be exhibiting some of her works at ‘Lines of Light’, an exhibition at St James Cavalier, Valletta.

Marie Louise Kold.
Marie Louise Kold.

What led you to choose the particular materials that you use?

In 1997 I was attending art school in Sweden, learning lots of different techniques. We had been working with copper printing, when I came across one of the copper plates I’d been printing with months earlier, and I saw that it had changed and was gorgeous! New colors, depth and glow – and I wanted to see these changes in the print. But a new print looked no different from the original ones, and I was so disappointed I stopped printing altogether, and started using the metal as my medium. Heavy, sometimes dirty and partly dangerous work, but I was so captivated by the metal that there was never any question that that was what I was going to work with. I never actually “chose” it... I just fell in love with it.

How did you develop your chosen technique?

I didn’t want to limit the changes in the copper to those that occurred naturally, so I started using different chemicals that react with the metal, resulting in a patina made of a multitude of colors. I retained some of the copper printing techniques – such as etching the metal with acids – although I sometimes etched so deep that I went right through the metal plate. I also started etching and creating patinas on brass and bronze. My art is mainly the kind that is hung on walls, but there is a strong three-dimensional side to it, thanks to the structures I create, often using very thin copper, which I shape. I also work with texts, using them as visuals, rather than as semantic elements. The texts are mainly by Danish writer Karen Blixen, though there are also some by fellow Dane Hans Christian Andersen, as well as some texts in English and, more recently, Maltese. Both authors are represented at the exhibition in the form of two large portraits, made of thousands of individually patinated squares of bronze. I sometimes also paint photo-realistically with oils. It only feels natural that the paintings are also on the metal.

Are there any particular themes or motifs that keep recurring in your work?

To me, my art is pure emotion. It’s never a case of deliberately thought-out themes... but, having said that, there is personal choice regarding what goes into each work, and once the works are done, I do see very clear themes. A recurrent theme is ‘flight’ – as in flying, or escaping. Another, but related, theme is the recurrence of wings: the dizzying possibilities they provide and, at the same time, their immense fragility... But I also see a lot of what can be deemed their opposite – roots. Roots, and organic, very “grounded” structures, patterns and shapes. I think those two extremes have been pulling at me, and consequently my art, all my life.

How would you compare the Scandinavian artistic scene to the Maltese one? 

What I have seen of the Maltese art scene in the three years that I have been partly living here has inspired me enormously. It feels so incredibly vibrant and dynamic, and there’s such immense talent and creativity. The Scandinavian art scene is wonderful too, of course, and extremely exciting. There are some truly amazing galleries and museums in the Copenhagen and Malmö region, such as the unique Louisiana Museum of Modern Art north of Copenhagen. There are also somewhat better chances to make a living as a full time artist in Scandinavia. I am, in actual fact, a professional artist and earn my living from art. However, even in Denmark and Sweden (where I have been living most of my life) it’s far from easy. But there’s something about Malta itself that is so deeply captivating, and there’s a passion and a buzzing creativity that is unlike anything I have come across anywhere else. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of Malta and its art scene.

What would you say is the central common thread to ‘Lines of Flight’? 

‘Lines of Flight’, which will fill all four of the Upper Galleries at St James Cavalier, includes a fairly wide range of my work. Several works have been inspired by my time in Malta – the colors, the history, the architecture, the very feeling of being here... But others also reflect the other parts of my life, not least what inspires me from my native Denmark and my adoptive country Sweden. This is not a retrospective, but it does touch on many of the different facets of the art I create. The exhibition is, quite simply, ‘me’. My emotions. But rather than describe it further, I invite you to experience it... to see the metal, normally hard and cold, come alive, not just because of the way I have treated it, but also because of light and what it gets from its environment. See how if is filled with warmth, dynamism and emotion, and get lost in the colors, structures, patterns and lines... of flight.

Lines of Light will be exhibited at St James Cavalier from April 5 to May 25.