feeder insider w/ Ioana Sisea [en]
Masks which are either painted, distorted or immaculate, fragile breastplates bleeding gold, shattered and diformed hearts – these were the key elements which Ioana Sisea turned to on her exploration of the self hidden behind social facades and which captured the attention of the art world in the past two years. Appreciation towards her vision wasn’t contained within Romanian borders, her works finding their way into private collections in Switzerland, London and Paris. With the same tenderness and power which characterize her installations, Ioana Sisea discusses vulnerability, her thirst for experiences and what it is that truly influences her.
keywords: fragile, self-portrait, experiment, touch
Wounds are… useful.
It cheers me up to… make fun of myself, I try not to take everything so seriously (I try).
I feel vulnerable when… I can’t control my emotions.
I like the texture of… flour.
I would fall asleep listening to… the silence inside my head – I hope it exists.
As a child I was… very curious and obedient.
The last lie I told… myself or others?
My favourite season is… autumn.
The fondest memory from London… a certain sunny Saturday morning when the streets were closed for a parade and I was leisurely strolling on the 6-lane-wide boulevard covered in fallen leaves.
3 Romanian galleries I always enjoy visiting… I’m glad to visit a lot of galleries but I generally follow artists more than a certain venue. There’s no shortage of interesting gallery programmes and there are many great artists, what’s lacking is the public.
Violeta Năzare: Hello, Ioana! I’m glad we have to chance to talk, now that (EROS)ION, your latest series of ceramic works, has just been on display at the Galateca gallery. The installations are centered around porcelain hearts which have been integrated in organic materials. What drove you to choose porcelain and to combine it with living matter?
Ioana Sisea: Hello Violeta, I’m happy too for this conversation! I like this series of interviews.
My choice of porcelain wasn’t something new, it’s the third project where I work with this material and I purposedly selected it for its dual nature. It can be abrasive and rough or brittle and frail at the same time. It’s the perfect material for making hearts which maintain their shape and aspect while being delicate and easy to destroy.
At the gallery they are on display in two different contexts. The „single” ones and those wich are part of living systems. I wanted to showcase these two instances: the fossilization of this organ which becomes a black box of experiences, but also the heart which still interacts with its environment. The installations represent a trajectory – from the piece of land where plants grow, to the honey – an essential representation of matter, to mold and finally ash.
Photos by Alex Gâlmeanu
V.N.: (EROS)ION tackles vulnerability, continuing the exploration of this concept which began with two other exhibitions, Dissimulation (August 2014) and Bleeding Gold (February 2015). You went from expressive masks to bleeding breastplates and finally to broken and distorted hearts. What inspired you to approach this theme? Why did you bring vulnerability into focus instead of strength? Do you plan on continuing the series?
I don’t believe vulnerability is at the opposite of strength. I think that when we take stock of certain less than desirable aspects they morph into strength. To me, the line between qualities and flaws isn’t as clear, I believe that our personal traits are much more nuanced and transform according to the situation. Weaknesses become strengths and viceversa.
In everything I do I touch upon the subject of vulnerability one way or another, art itself is a way of working with your own sensitivity, a sensitivity towards life. But yes, there was a definite connection between these three projects and I will go in a different direction in the future.
Photos by Alex Gâlmeanu
V.N.: Your initial works were collages and drawings, using crayons and acrylic colours. How did you make the switch between drawing and ceramics? What motivated you to shift your focus towards 3D objects, as opposed to two-dimensional representations?
I.S.: I initially prepared for enrolling in the sculpture department at UNARTE and at the last moment decided on graphics. The force of 3D if clearly something I’m fascinated with and which I want to work with again, but I wouldn’t title myself as a ceramic artist or graphician or anything else. The only thing I did on the side was drawing. Even when I want to film something I start by making a few drawings – it’s something which challenges me in a special way. Drawing allows me to express myself in a rougher and more impulsive manner than any other medium.
V.N.: Your previous explorations treated the human body in its entirety, by employing self-portraiting methods.What are the advantages or, on the contrary, the limitations you perceive as opposed to external observation?
I.S.: The self-portret is a recurring theme in my work, I don’t feel nowhere near like I’ve fully exploited it. It seems to me that when you use yourself in order to treat certain subjects you don’t place yourself above them. You speak from the center of the action, you’re personally involved, so it’s about equality, not superiority.
V.N.: What are the challenges when working with ceramic materials? What are the main stages in creating a porcelain object and how long does the whole process take?
I.S.: The biggest challenge to my mind is dealing with your lack of attunement to working with the material. Before burning the porcelain is very fragile, I had to teach myself all over again to grab hold of an object. I had to move and maneuver things carefully, fully present. You can’t go on autopilot when making ceramics because you’ll break or ruin things. Your mind must be where your hands are at all times.
And patience, a lot of patience. The actual work amounts to about 20% of the time required, 80% is just waiting for one thing or another to dry up. It’s either the cast, or the first pouring, or again the cast, the second pouring and so on.
The duration of the process depends on the complexity of the piece, and from a visual perspective I’d liken it to a chemistry lab filled with all sorts of test tubes and glass bowls where various kinds of substances are being mixed. From a few paint brushes and sheets of paper (which I had a few years ago) I went to currently owning 5 barrels, 15 buckets, all kinds of mugs of different sizes and with different discharges. Tens of casts, shapes, collections of found shards of broken glass. And a lot of white dust on every surface. This is what ceramics looks like, a clean white mess, smelling of wet clay (which is also my favourite scent).
V.N.: You graduated from the graphics department of the University of Arts in Bucharest and lived in London for a couple of years, thanks to a private scholarship, after which you went on to a masters course in ceramics. What made you pursue visual arts and which artists or acquaintances had the biggest influence in shaping your style?
I.S.: I don’t know how I wandered on this path. I started attending Tonitza in the 5th grade and didn’t give much thought to the fact that I was studying VISUAL ARTS. At about 23 years old I realized I actually want to be a full-fledged artist and it struck me as a happy coincidence that I had been studying drawing for so many years. I realize now that my parents are dreamers. They didn’t have any preconceptions about turning me into a doctor or an accountant. They both dabbled in the arts when they were young, my mother with writing and my father with sculpture, I found poems and drawings made by my father, artsy photos, they also had a magnetic tape recorder where they’d listen to rock music. It mattered that I had books and albums in the house, it mattered that I was always listening to Pink Floyd or Cat Stevens on the road to grandma’s house.
As for inspiration, the thing that fascinates me the most about artists is not a particular work or style, but their vision, the way in which they transposed something on paper, or in video, or using some other technique. What I like about an artist is that he or she can challenge me to feel and think about new things or things I’ve been avoiding.
V.N.: The “Present continuous” video series won you an invitation to Roundhouse from the London Contemporary Orchestra on October the 25th – is film a field you plan on further exploring? Are there any other mediums you’d like to experiment with?
I.S.: I am fascinated with film and I’ll definitely be working on it some more. The collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra has been an incredible experience, and the concert when these films will be screened is scheduled for fall in 2016.
At the moment I’m in the middle of experimenting with another technique I hadn’t tried yet. I’m drawn to things I haven’t done before.
I realize I enjoy consuming experiences, as many and as quickly as possible. But I also have a milder side which allows me to delve into them too.
V.N.: Another recent international achievement is your participation at the Berliner Liste art fair, part of Berlin Art Week. The former electric power plant Kraftwerk Berlin hosted a wide array of works of art, bringing together painting, sculpture, graphics, drawing as well as installation, video art and performance. How would you describe the experience? Did anything strike you as particularly impressive during your time there?
I.S.: The Liste venue was indeed very beautiful, it was one of the reasons why I chose to attend this fair. As an experience, a fair is very chaotic. You talk to a great deal of people and at the end of the day you’re in a haze. To me interacting with the public is very important. I like seeing the reactions people have when viewing my work.
The most important thing I took back from this fair was the fact that I managed to speak to a few artists about their experience with art. People who have been doing this for decades, who have a lot of experience. I got a few important questions answered and clarified certain ideas.
Photo by Cristian Ardeleanu
V.N.: The conversation which Feeder sustains through the insider series has broadened towards visual arts; Dan Perjovschi, Roman Tolici, Olga Ziemska are only a few of the artists who we’ve been talking to over the past few weeks. Have you read any of the interviews on Feeder? What do you think it takes to encourage the public to get closer to art and how would you describe the typical audience your exhibitions draw?
I.S.: It is with great pleasure that I read these interviews.
As for enabling the public’s approach to art, I believe it’s a complex issues with no singular answer.
I think the public who doesn’t attend concerts or go to galleries and museums is a desensitized audience, be it through education or due to social circumstances. Getting closer to any kind of art means getting more in touch with yourself, it means finding within the emotions which resonate with a certain work of art.
This goes for educated people living in larger cities. But an hour away from Bucharest, where my grandmother lives, it’s back to the Middle Ages, there’s no talking about art there.
V.N.: Thank you for your insightful answers! Before we say goodbye, we have another question: if you were to pick one dream to see fulfilled in the next 5 years, what would it be?
I.S.: I wish to grow and keep going down this road I’m on for the next 5, 10, 20 years.