Edith Karlson (1983) is a sculptor, and the main protagonists in her work are people and animals. Dogs, bears, lions, birds and other animals appear allegorically or symbolically. The figures refer to fears, which arise from working as an artist, but also from functioning in the society. Generally, she presents her work as an installation, involving the whole exhibition space.
The first exhibitions by Karlson, “Circus” (2009) and “Dog Show” (2011), observed animals in performances and their working conditions. Although, the focus of the exhibitions were animal figures, they were referencing to human-existential topics and the relationship between people and animals. The exhibition series “Drama is in your head I-III” (2012-2013) reflected on people’s (and the artist’s) personal doubts about their surroundings. This series can be seen as the artist’s method to deal with conflicts in everyday life and potential dramatic scenarios. For example, “Drama is in your head II” (2013) presented a plaster cast army of child-size ghosts, which simultaneously referred to fears from childhood but also to the anxiety of adulthood, encompassing a moment after Karlson’s 30th birthday.
The fear of death and the overcoming of it was addressed with the exhibition “Drama is in your head: don’t look down” (2014). It was composed of bird sculptures displayed on the gallery’s walls and floor (the moulds were taken from dead birds), video in which the artist tries to free a swallowed bird from the throat of a sparrowhawk, and massive styrofoam blocs. Related to the previous exhibitions, but technically exceptional work in Karlson’s ouvre is “Interspace” (2015), a hand-plastered room derived from the spatial conditions of the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia and commissioned for the Köler Prize exhibition.
Karlson, known for her animal figures, returns to animalistic representations, creating an installation of more than 100 animal figures and rabbit pellets “Vox Populi” (2016), in which the artist mixes different material, organic, solid and liquid. With this exhibition, Karlson moves from voluminous forms to fastidious miniatures and ceramics. “Vox Populi” references the infinite cycle of eating and being eaten by using rabbit droppings as conveying material.
Karlson has collaborated with ceramicist Kris Lemsalu and sculptor Jass Kaselaan in several projects. With the latter at “Hudnoi” (2017) she exhibited a porcelain chandelier made of moulds from her own body and a silicone tapestry of merging breasts and faces, reflecting on the recent experience of becoming a mother.
Edith Karlson has studied installation and sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts (BA, 2006; MA, 2008). She has been awarded with EAA Young Artist’s Prize (2006) and Köler Prize People’s Choice Award (2015). Edith Karlson is among the recipients of the national artists’ salary between 2018-2020 and 2022-2024. She was awarded with Estonian Cultural Endowment’s main award (2020). Edith Karlson is the next artist to represent Estonia at the next Venice biennial. The 60th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia will take place in 2024.