Artist proves that imperfect creations can lead to sublime beauty.
Art Radar talks with Galia Linn to find out how impermanence and extreme measures inspire her work.
Los Angeles-based sculptor and site-specific installation artist Galia Linn uses extremely high firing temperatures, pushing each piece’s physical limits to emerge with aesthetically rich and complex three-dimensional vessels.
Galia Linn (born 1963, Tel Aviv, Israel) studied at the Neri Bloomfield College of Design and Architecture in Haifa, Israel and the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California. In addition to her interest in clay and stoneware, the artist has also participated in an apprenticeship in metal under Daniel Wheeler at Big Objects Studio.
You’re originally from Tel-Aviv. Does living outside of Israel provide you with a clearer lens in which to view yourself and your homeland? How?
My homeland is my body and its capacity to create. As a sculptor confronting three-dimensional shapes, I recognise how early childhood experiences in Israel influenced me. Growing up surrounded by ancient and contemporary relics of past and present civilizations was normal for me, and it left an imprint that is a fertile source that I can always revisit.
Living in Los Angeles gives me freedom through distance, and perspective through separation. Your question about the clarity of my lens makes me think about how I actually value the messiness of life that is sometimes muddy and sometimes clear. If a lens is a tool for seeing, my lens of perception is my entire body; the whole being that absorbs, senses, feels, thinks, probes, tastes, responds and shifts… this is what the act of seeing means to me.
Anyone who experiences life in two very different places, languages and cultures stretches their lens of perception to encompass multiple points of view. There is resistance there, because stretching means changing. I always seek these places of resistance because my journey is to break the stone wall of my own perception; what I appear to be and what I know I am. My art reverberates that wall; a constant battle between the effort to drill a passage and the acceptance of what awaits on the other side.
Your work mirrors some of the ancient traditions found in your homeland. Are you able to marry those age-old traditions with your life today in what might be considered by some as a hyper-contemporary lifestyle in Southern California? How?
A collector once said of my work that it is timeless and genderless, as it is ancient and contemporary, male and female.
Whether it’s one piece or a site installation, I make vessels. Ones that are open to receiving whatever comes. Surrendering, accepting, not trying to control that which is uncontrollable; this brings strength and comfort. For me it is less a question of marrying traditions, and more about embracing the part of us that is always there and will always be there. Hopefully these objects, these relics, can connect us with that knowing.
In an article found on The Creators Project website, it says that your work is best viewed beyond its aesthetics or through “phenomenology”. Do you think this is true? Why?
There is a first-person body experience that occurs while interacting with an object. It happens before thought, before feeling. It exists in the knowing part of your existence that requires no explanation. This kind of response comes from somewhere deeper, somewhere beyond conscious viewing, beyond aesthetics. It is visceral, first-person and involuntary.
As a sculptor and site-specific installation artist, I construct elemental tensions by creating relationships between objects and space… tension that is crafted to elicit responses coming from that unfathomable place. Phenomenology grapples with the nature of this uniquely human experience. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines phenomenology as “the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view”.
The process of making my artwork taps into this inexplicably full place […] a place that leaves its marks in the work. The vessels hold and carry these markings into the viewer where it is translated into something that resonates uniquely with their inner frameworks of meaning and consciousness.
In the same article you say that you “manipulate sculptures to the edge of their endurance”. Would you say that you share this type of experience as an artist with your creations? How?
Absolutely, this idea is central to the process of making my work. I use my entire body in the production of the work; often working on six, eight or sometimes even ten pieces at the same time. I will work to a point of exhaustion and stay at that state, so there is no room for a coherent thought. The body does what it does. There is evidence in the making.
Does your work elicit a first-person body experience? How?
A two-year old girl came to the studio a while back. As she was walking around an installation of sperm eggs that were slightly smaller then her, she was hugging them, touching the vessels’ lips gently and thoughtfully, and contemplating their insides for a long while. Her complete absorption in the work was a beautiful gift she gave me.
You have said that you “discovered the crack”. Please explain what this means and why this is important to you and your work.
Our cracks, wrinkles, the visible and not so visible scars are the story of our journey. They are what make us unique.
Humans are amazing vessels. We are imperfect; we age; we leak; we break; we die. Like these vessels, we are simultaneously fragile and strong. And the more fractured we are, the more full we become. The story of our journey is captured in each crevice, curve, wrinkle and tear. Embracing our imperfections and our mortality creates calmness and supplies strength.
Does the Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetic influence your work? How and when were you introduced to this aesthetic?
Wabi-Sabi: Seeing beauty in things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
I think that Wabi-Sabi is important not only as an “aesthetic” but an overall Japanese perception and expression of space and time and existence, which stems from Buddhist influenced ideas of impermanence, transience and imperfection of life.
Wabi-Sabi has its roots dating back to the Heian period (8th – 11th century). Wabi developed along with Zen Buddhism and Kenko’s Essays in Idleness written in the 13th-14th centuries, and then in the 16th-17th centuries, with Sen no Rikyu’s development of the tea ceremony.
Sabireru means to become desolate and develop a patina with age and wear, with time lending old things a sense of beauty. In my work I embrace the principles of Wabi-Sabi with asymmetry, irregularity, simplicity and natural weathering. The process in which they are created is not limited by convention, it is free and without pretense.
Please tell us about your use of guardians, the divine and femininity in your work.
According to sculptor Ann Truitt, “vulnerability is the guardian of integrity.” To me, vulnerability is strength. Guardians are symbols of protection in many different cultures where they take various shapes and forms according to [the location’s] geography and era. Their purpose is to protect us from our untranslatable fears and our own mute darkness.
My installation Guardians transforms the experience one step further into a sphere of self-observation; one is asked to look up to oneself. When we look up, the position of our body changes. The body shape becomes both stronger and vulnerable; our alignment reaches high while our heart is left open creating inner strength – autonomic protection. This effect on the body echoes the process of working with the clay, which becomes strong instead of fragile, vulnerable instead of guarded. The clay floats above, mirroring the foam on the waves while the wooden structures are planted in the dirt, resembling a tree with no visible roots. This action of planting instead of installing creates an extension to the actual outside settings, connecting and realigning the pieces to encompass the greater whole – nature.
The sculptures are organic shapes made out of organic materials: wood and clay. The forms are familiar but indescribable; they invite the viewer to oscillate between ground and sky.
You work in both public and private spaces. What is it about public art that particularly interests you?
Is there a separation between public and private spaces? I think not. When I create A Place installation for a private collector’s home, it is a reflective intimate space. This space is then used to bring people together, inviting them to have a shared experience. A private place opens into public. When these installations are created in the public sphere, the public is bringing their personal rituals into A Place, making the experience private. In both cases, I am interested in the effects of authentic human connection in a shared space that is real, not virtual.
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- “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise”: Guggenheim UBS MAP Middle East and North Africa – June 2016 – UBS MAP Global Art Initiative launches third exhibition with artists from the M.E.N.A. region at the Guggenheim
- Reshaping Tradition: 7 Contemporary Chinese ceramic artists from East Asia – January 2016 – the region’s most innovative and radical ceramic artists merge classic and contemporary to create bold new forms
- Philosophy reveals art: Israeli artist Achia Anzi at Gujral Foundation – December 2015 – third solo show of artist in Delhi explores struggle between humanity and the natural environment
- The artist as nomad: Tamar Ettun on movement, stillness and the ephemeral body – interview – June 2014 – multidisciplinary artist talks about her use of sculpture, dance, video and performance and why mobility is important
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