In a New Show, Hilda Hellström Blurs the Line Between What is Real and What is Fake

When we first interviewed Swedish designer Hilda Hellström back in 2012, just two weeks after her graduation from London’s Royal College of Art, the designer drew an interesting distinction between her work and that of her peers: While so many Hellström’s age were obsessed with the properties of different materials, she was more interested in the possibilities of narrative. But a funny thing happened in the five years that have elapsed since then: Hellström hasn’t been able shake her fascination with pigmented Jesmonite, the acrylic-based plaster she originally used in her breakout Sedimentation vases — a material that, while artificial, ably mimics the properties of marble and stone. Since 2012, Hellström has applied the material’s unique, striated aesthetic to everything from coasters, to sconces, to bathroom tiles and beyond.

In a new solo show at Berg Gallery in Stockholm, “I Do Spend Time In Nature,” Hellström pushes the possibilities of Jesmonite even further, shaping it, like a bonsai tree, into sculpted mountains, applying it flatly like a canvas, and using it to caulk the fractures in an anthracite totem. In her new work, “she tries to eliminate a traditional hierarchy of value and boundaries between materials. Traditionally slow, natural materials, that were created during a long process, are seen at the top whereas artificial and imitating materials are seen at the bottom. [Using] methodical craftsmanship, Hellström works with synthetic materials to make them look exclusive, and slow, natural materials to try to make them look artificial.” On view until February 4.