The 2020 (online only) summer degree show season has been taking place across the UK over the last couple of months, with art schools trying out different digital methods to present their students’ work. Launched last week was the University of the Arts London (UAL) Graduate Showcase, bringing together work by graduating students from its various colleges around London. Today on our Journal, we’re featuring two 2020 graduates from one of the largest colleges, Central Saint Martins. We start here by speaking to MA Fine Art Graduate, Erika Trotzig.

Originally from Sweden, Trotzig is a London-based artist working across sculpture, installations, drawing and writing. With a successful background as a fashion designer and creative director, Trotzig previously completed a BA (Hons) in Fashion at CSM and a Graduate Diploma at Chelsea College of Art, before undertaking her MA.

Introducing her work as part of the UAL Graduate Showcase, Trotzig wrote, “Underpinning my practice is a sense that everything can and will break: a sense of instability, vulnerability and collapse. I work with the unstable, the provisional and with questions around time and activation: How can experience be communicated through form?”

knitmonster bound mattress

‘Knitmonster’ and ‘Bound’ by Erika Trotzig.

The Net Gallery: What motivated you to undertake an MA in Fine Art and why specifically did you choose CSM?

Erika Trotzig: I decided on postgraduate studies in Fine Art as I wanted to see my practice from a different point of view. I was looking for new ways of understanding and to question what I was doing, and a different, critical perspective. I chose the MA at CSM because I felt the course would give me the time and space to push me to develop what I was doing. I liked the approach of the tutors, and how they spoke about their course, and the emphasis on questioning and criticality.

TNG: How closely does your current work and artistic practice relate to your previous work as a fashion designer?

ET: It is closely related from a theoretical point of view, and possibly aesthetically as well, although the outcomes are very different. My work as a fashion designer was always influenced by notions around memory and identity, and I worked in a very hands on, sculptural way. The pieces were ideas based rather than conventional clothing, often deconstructed, sometimes falling apart. In a sense, I feel that what I am doing now is a continuation, but re-contextualised, and also more critically defined in terms of my understanding of my practice.

side two towers

‘Follies’ by Erika Trotzig – a work in progress that would have been shown had the physical CSM degree show gone ahead.

TNG: Yellow foam features prominently in your work, what does it signify for you and when did you first start to work with this type of material?

ET: I work with combining mostly found materials and I have always been fascinated by the abandoned mattresses I see lying around the streets where I live: the paradox of old mattresses both remembering and forgetting all the people that once have used them…I often use materials for their metaphorical resonances. A lot of my work evolves around memory, and forgetting. Around instability, and things falling apart.

At the end of the first year, I made a few small pieces, combining found pieces of metal and old bits of mattresses. Using foam was an attempt to destabilise, of creating little monuments to an unstable situation, a way of investigating an unstable ground. And later on I started combining foam with wet sand; sand is another material that has become an increasingly important material for me; it alludes to time, but also to childhood, to play.

The Follies – large towers made from foam – were a continuation of this. They are quite playful and absurd, but could also perhaps be seen as something about layers of memory. Or, alluding to the story of ‘The Princess and the Pea’ (Hans Christian Andersen), never really manage to numb pain, no matter how many layers you try to cover it with.

TNG: Where and when did you install the work that’s shown as part of the online Graduate Showcase?

ET: The pieces were all installed in the Practice Space in the the Elthorne road building at CSM, where the MA is based, during my second year on the MA course. Some images were taken on the final day before the college closed. The pieces are still there, waiting to be picked up and hopefully at some point exhibited. I often work through setting up situations in a space: I gather research and gather/find materials for a while, and then I bring them into a space, and build. I usually am not sure about the outcome, it is more a meeting of materials and processes. I document as I go along. Some works become finite, like Humanoid, or Stones; other works are modular, and will change character and size depending on their environment.


‘Humanoid’ by Erika Trotzig.

TNG: What changes have you had to make to the way you approach your work because of lockdown, and how did it affect the final part of your MA?

ET: I think the lockdown forced me to really think about the contexts of my practice, and where I was situated, it forced a more analytical approach. I didn’t have any space to make, really, so I did a lot more reading, writing and drawing. I also had to divide my time between the MA and home schooling my children, which had its challenges.

As the graduate show – which would have taken place in May – was cancelled, I had to rethink how I presented my work. I guess not having a physical show gave me the opportunity to go down a more speculative route in terms of how my work could interact with a space. Working in Photoshop, I created imaginary setups for my pieces, expanding their sizes, and working with emphasising their precariousness. Although it was disappointing not to have the physical show at the time, I feel I managed to push my practice critically, and see things more clearly. I am sure that the times we live in will have a huge impact on my work as I have time to process what went on, in ways that are impossible to predict at the moment.

TNG: How and where do you now plan to develop your practice?

ET: I will stay in London. I have just taken a small studio at the Koppel Project, and I can’t wait to start making new work. I will continue working with ideas of instability, expanding on the materials I’m using, and bringing in new construction methods. I will continue working both with creating environments and making objects; ideas around the body and architecture.

Studying on the MA has given me a wonderful network of like-minded people and I will continue working with them; dialogues around our practices, making shows. We live in times of great flux and the most important thing I feel at this time is to keep making sure we are all supporting each other.

little monument

‘Little Monument’ by Erika Trotzig.

Interview by Richard Unwin

Erika’s online presentation as part of the UAL Graduate Showcase can be found here.

You can learn more about Erika’s work via here website, here.

All images courtesy of the artist, Erika Trotzig.

The image shown at the top of the page is an imagined set up by Erika Trotzig for The Crossing – a public space on the CSM King’s Cross campus.