Artists Ulla Kraitz and Gustav Kraitz – a love story that burns life in art

By on July 8, 2018
73/5000 Ulla and Gustav Kraitz are sitting on their "Cubes" in Napa, California in 2004

In the exhibition “Huvudsaken”, which is shown at the Sven-Harry Art Museum this fall with opening August 29, the pillow has a central role. The sculptural pillow is a reflection of the soft and the hard – a symbol of the couple Kraitz’s experiences of joy and sorrow throughout life.

Through the difficult years of forced labor in Soviet coal mines, Gustav Kraitz has learned to seek unusual places to rest his head. Ulla Kraitz is constantly returning to the beginning of her artistry in the form of embryos and pregnant women. Here the mother’s soft arms can symbolize the first pillow of life – the safety.

Almost 70 years ago, Gustav Kraitz was released from the prison camp in the former Soviet Union. There he shoveled coal for five years on his knees with a curved back. Today he is 92 years old and still shovels fuel, but now it’s for his “own great pleasure”. This summer, Gustav may burn the last ceramic works in the furnace outside the studio and the residence in Skåne. The works created with the artist and life partner Ulla Kraitz are shown at the Sven-Harry Art Museum this fall. The exhibition also shows Ulla Kraitz for the first time in 20 years a composition of her painting on the theme of life.

Ulla Kraitz is a painter and sculptor. She studied at Konstfack 1954-58 and then continued her studies in Spain. Gustav Kraitz graduated from the Art Academy in Budapest, but fled in 1956 during the Hungarian insurgency to Sweden. In 1960 Gustav and Ulla had an exhibition at the same time at a gallery in Stockholm, without knowing each other, the same year they married. For almost 60 years, the couple lived and worked side by side in Förslöv in Skåne – two artists with their own identities united in art and an uninterrupted interest in the ceramic material and technology. Together they have exhibited all over the world in museums, sculpture parks and public spaces.

To strive for the same kind of glaze used by Chinese masters during the golden age of ceramics (Sung 960-1279 AD) has been a common source of passion and a lifelong experimentation. At the same time, it has never been the issue of copying work – the constant exploration has meant that they conquered the technology and took it forward, making it their own. To get the right glaze, Gustav built a unique Chinese-style oven. The ignition technique is demanding and requires constant refueling of fuel.

“You have to be dedicated to want to work like this. It’s so hard that you have to fight, and many are not prepared to do that, “says Ulla.

“We have chosen the perhaps most difficult method,” says Gustav, “But it is the one who gets the best results.”

Ulla Kraitz and Gustav Kraitz exhibit at Sven-Harry’s Art Museum from 29 August to 14 October 2018!

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