Alke Schmidt's work combines beautiful form with thought-provoking subject matter. Painting is often intertwined with the decorative patterns of found fabrics, stitch or print, selected for their historical, cultural or symbolic associations. Fusing the roles of the artist as maker and critical citizen, Alke uses the visually seductive qualities of her works to challenge contemporary social and environmental injustices. Her work also puts those issues in historical context, reflecting Alke's belief that we must engage with the past to understand - and improve - the world today.
In her recent projects, Alke has focused on engaging with historical museum collections and heritage sites, highlighting their contemporary relevance. This included taking part in two shows at the Freud Museum, as well as Arts Council England-supported solo exhibitions exploring the politics of global textile supply chains past and present at the William Morris Gallery (2014/15), the Cromford Mills World Heritage Site (2015), and the People’s History Museum, Manchester (2017). In Wonder and Dread, a residency and solo exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum (Dec 17 - Nov 18) supported by Arts Council England, Alke further investigated how the textile industry affects and connects people across continents, situating stories from the Bradford wool trade in an international context. The project also included a new site-specific commission for Salts Mill, Saltaire, which is currently on display at Salts Mill's People and Process Gallery.
Alke's latest project is SWARM, an exhibition of new works by herself and 4 other artists that respond to the crisis faced by our pollinating insects. SWARM runs at Vestry House Museum from 14 June 2019 as part of Waltham Forest's 2019 Borough of Culture events programme.
Since completing her MA Fine Art at John Cass School of Art in London, Alke has exhibited widely in solo and group shows in the UK and internationally, working with museums, curators, galleries and nonprofit organisations. She is also a strong supporter of local arts initiatives and events.
Alke's work is in private collections in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, the U.S. and Australia, as well as in the collections of the Arkwright Society, the City Lit and Walthamstow's Vestry House Museum. Alke lives and works in London.
"The critical function of art, its contribution to the struggle for liberation, resides in its aesthetic form"