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 several recent projects, Alke has focused on engaging with historical museum collections and heritage sites, highlighting their contemporary relevance. 2021 she had a major solo exhibition entitled Justice, Freedom & Bread at Rydals Museum, located in Sweden's most important historic textile mill. The exhibition built on her previous work exploring the politics of global textile supply chains past and present, and how the textile industry affects and connects people across continents. This included solo exhibitions at the William Morris Gallery (2014/15), the Cromford Mills World Heritage Site (2015), the People’s History Museum, Manchester (2017), as well as the Arts Council England-supported project Wonder and Dread, consisting of a residency and solo exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum (2018) and a new site-specific commission for Salts Mill, Saltaire (currently on display at Salts Mill's People and Process Gallery).
In 2020 Alke responded to the Covid pandemic with Pandemic Spring, her visual diary of the Covid-19 pandemic overlaying infection data with observational drawings of plants emerging during spring, exhibited in a solo show at PontArte Gallery, Maastricht.
In 2019, Alke curated SWARM, an exhibition at Vestry House Museum of new works by herself and 4 other artists that responded to the crisis faced by our pollinating insects. The exhibition, which extended into the museum's pollinator-friendly garden, was accompanied by an extensive events programme for all ages as part of Waltham Forest's 2019 Borough of Culture celebrations.
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, France, Germany, The Netherlands, 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"