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THE ELEMENTS: A CHAMBER SYMPHONY

Published in Dream Magazine • Barcelona , Spain 2019

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Berta Blanca T. Ivanow’s (b. 1992 Barcelona) own embryonic structures, made in stoneware clay, are a grand statement of belief in the power of introducing the corporeal into sculpture. The artist’s sculptural work is performed in her studio at the Bisbal del Empordà, in the Catalan interior. Apart from a vastness that facilitates labour, the sight is chosen for its proximity to one of the oldest clay deposits in Spain, through which most of her sculptures are made. 

Interestingly, Ivanow developed her sculptural work after what I would call being a radical painter. Radical, because her use of the medium is violent and shows no fear towards the potential tangible boundaries of painting. On the contrary, her embryonic sculptures are candid and show a mature achievement of her practice. Underlined by a meticulous craftsmanship and careful combination of organic materials such as ash, oxides, sand, pigment or salts; the sculptures exist on their own ecosystems but adapted to their surroundings, as proven in this editorial. 


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Ivanow’s artistic approach is extremely sensitive, the initial moment in the creation process of the works is tactile. The artist’s relation to nature is not only obvious through her use of organic materials but mostly through her worship to them, unveiling that everything man-made decomposes, and ultimately becomes a part of the environment. Earth, fire, water and air are juxtaposed in her practice in multiple ways with no hierarchical fashion.

For Ivanow, everything she creates grows based on mistakes, abandonment, insistence and obsession: “My works are like androgynous creatures created from the crack, the porosity, the boiling mud, the polychrome of oxidation, the evanescence of smoke... these are the traces and signs that give them meaning and soul”. Seemingly, the fissures and cracks that occur in the clay during the firing process, are not only a material phenomenon but they may also be a psychic metaphor for the artist’s own evolution.

Despite that the artist’s preoccupation turns more towards the negotiation of her works to the human body – rather to their own objectification – there is a plausible visual logic in which her sculptural work can be closely related to totems than sculpture. Ivanow likes to think that their three-dimensional easily reconnects through the carnal rearrangements of clay.

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In my sculptures the forms arise as nature is created. In my work there is no hint of rationality, but life force, intuition and search. Sculptures do not obey predefined patterns, but they themselves are formed following their own path. 

It is also fascinating to relate Ivanow’s practice to the historical symbolism to the the worship of nature. According to the Bibliotheca - Pseudo-Apollodoeus, the essential Greek mythology library, Prometheus molded men out of water and earth, so as in the Genesis and the Qur’an, which state that God created man from clay. This clues not only exemplify the production of exchange between man and nature but also how essential the interchange between the maker and material is. It not only promotes a collaborative approach in the making but it also evokes a maternal approach to the object, which is Ivanow’s case. 

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The outcome is therefore spontaneous but intrinsic to Ivanow’s artistic ethos: creating brutal but subtle objects with a big devotion to raw physicality. Through these embryonic structures there is a plausible devotion to a strange sensuality that grows through different ideas: from the embryotic imagery that builds towards a sacred relation to the womb and a reconnection to motherhood; to altering forms of flesh and being able to produce carnal rearrangements through the malleability of the clay. The aftermath eluding the erotic and animal symbols that shape Ivanow’s universal culture. 

As a result, working at her earthy studio - a sacred laboratory where the holy to praise is to reconnect with the mother earth - the artist efforts in exploring a diverse range of firing techniques which hold as common denominator the four elements of western culture: fire, earth, air and water, proving that overall, Ivanow’s work is an allegory of nature.

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Words by: Marta Faria

Photo credit: Tea Sirbiladze