Galia Gluckman creates meticulous large abstract paper collage artworks of land and seascapes whose repetitive patterns are reminiscent of Gustav Klimt. Her work is included in corporate collections in New York, and private collections in the USA, London, Israel and South Africa (notably the Rupert family collection and The Hilton Hotel Group). Reality TV personality Kim Kardashian is also a fan of her work, as is the founder of The Body Shop.
Galia likens the engaging repetitive process of mosaic collage to a form of meditation, finding a kind of creative catharsis in the idea of ‘order, arising from disorder’. We spoke to Galia to find out more about her approach, thoughts on pattern, and living in Cape Town.
Please can you tell us a little about your journey as an artist so far…
My journey began about 9 years ago when I gave up on the word of Fashion to pursue my true passion: art. It was a leap of faith and I am glad I did it as it’s been very rewarding and exciting ride so far.
Your work is part of some major collections around the world– what key milestones precipitated your break into the international art scene?
I believe that taking part in the 2009 International Art Expo in New York and being awarded the prize for best Green art piece was important and helped with my confidence. However, probably being chosen by the Mayor of Great Neck, New York to create a public artwork for their 2011 beautification project helped me break through.
You’ve lived, worked and exhibited in many countries around the world – what is it about Cape Town that uniquely makes you call it ‘home’?
I grew up in Durban. Cape Town is home because I never want to live anywhere else. It is both a feeling and a reality – that Cape Town is HOME.
Please tell us a little about how you’ve honed and developed your style and practice over the years…
Initially, I was interested in angles, dimension, forms and the importance of using colour as a tool to bring things close or move them further away. Older works are semi abstract landscapes. Today, I am interested abstracting what I was creating in my earlier works. It is almost like I “zoom” into the landscape or sea scape. The works are looser and more emotive than ever before.
Besides colour, nature and landscape, what else inspires you and informs your work?
I am inspired by the daily grind of life. I am fascinated by the concept of time and how differently time is interpreted by children and how as I get older, I seem to have less of it. I try and show traces of time spent. My artworks of filled with repetitive cutting and pasting which consume a lot of….time.
As your landscapes tend towards abstraction, what are some of the themes that emerge?
My artwork themes are always natural. At the moment I am exploring the concept of a pregnant woman “nesting” and the intricate weave of the actual birds nest; creating order out of disorder. I think about the many details that make up a life – so complicated like a bird’s weave when up close – yet from a distance, I notice order emerging from disorder, in my daily life.
Pattern has a deep-rooted significance for different cultures all over the world. What do you think it is about repetitive mark-making that is so fundamentally appealing, if not essential, to human beings?
Visual repetition becomes impactful and powerful. Think about a field of sunflowers, the sight of rain, or repetitive strips of paper filling a board. There is a somewhat meditative quality about repetitive mark-making. It comforts the eye and relaxes both the creator and observer.
What about the mediums of painting and collage appeal to you?
Using paper, I can work fast, being guided by emotion and instinct. I don’t have to wait for paint to dry before I work on the next layer. I paint the paper and then use it once it has dried, cutting it up into strips. Recently, I have started using spray glue. I spray a patch of glue on my board and then cut directly on top of the glue and let my strips of paper fall where they want to. I manipulate the angles of the paper to encourage the paper to land in a certain direction – but the paper falls where it needs to. I enjoy the looseness and freedom.
Please can you take us through your creative process…
I use paper to create my artworks. I paint the paper using acrylic paints, use coloured cardboard and recycled paper shopping bags. The paper is cut and pasted onto plywood board. After many layers of paper, I finally seal the artwork with a sealant to allow durability. My choice of material is always paper. I enjoy the repetitive cutting and pasting technique.
Your work has been (additionally) praised for its sustainable methods. Is this an imperative that more artists should be mindful of and incorporate into their practice?
South African artists are resourceful by nature. There is an abundance of creativity and innovation when it comes to design, locally. Up-cycling is a reality which by nature tends to be sustainable.
What role do you see art and design playing in the implementing of successful urban renewal projects, particularly in South Africa?
I question whether public art has the power to reverse urban decay? In my opinion, art in South Africa can play an important role at the moment in terms of outreach and upliftment. Art programmes can and do empower young people and improve their community. Regular after school programmess and workshops inspire and equip young people to live healthy and productive lives.
When you’re not making art, what are likely to spend your time doing?
I spend quality time with my children (Ella 8 and Levi 5) and husband Gary. I am also enjoying Cape Town, friends and family….and thinking about art!
What are you most excited about, or excited to see come out of Cape Town being named World Design Capital for this year?
We are about to have the second Cape Town Art Fair here in Cape Town. It is so exciting to have this outlet for both the galleries and artists. The Cape Town art scene is on fire. It is seasonal…but very diverse. I feel so privileged to call Cape Town home and be part of the Cape Town art scene.
Galia’s new abstract works will be showcased at the upcoming Cape Town Art Fair.