Having completed her BA in Fine Art at UCT in 2009, Daniella Mooney is an artist based in Cape Town where she currently works from a shared studio in Paarden Eiland.
In Golden Age Rising, her second solo exhibition at Whatiftheworld Gallery, Mooney is concerned with exploring the notion of the numinous: “an experience in which one feels to be in communion with a wholly other.”
The resulting collection of sculptures is motivated by Mooney’s conviction that this experience is other than the sum of the parts – that is, not the product of individual objects, but rather the consequence of experiencing multiple elements simultaneously. Seeking then to create an entire space rather than a separate or disjointed collection of works, the seven sculptures on display are meant to be experienced in relation to one another.
Here, we learn more from the artist herself:
It has been nearly a year since we last caught up with you for our Young South Africa series. What significant changes or occurrences have taken place since then?
Apart from working full-time on my current exhibition, the most significant change has been moving to a new studio in Paarden Eiland. We have a separate workshop (with a vacuum cleaner) and I now draw, carve, cut wood and eat meals all at different tables. It’s been pretty life-changing. And I have great studio mates.
Golden Age Rising is your second solo exhibition at Whatiftheworld Gallery. Could you tell us more about it?
This exhibition consists of seven sculptures which I’ve produced over a year and a half and is in keeping with my usual way of working which involves installation, carving, and collaboration. For me, a lot of the time, process is more important than the result and so these works could not have been made possible without the expertise of certain people. Golden Age Rising deals with aspects of ritual, performance, celebration and an attempt to commune with and find the sacred within everyday life.
Your first solo show at the gallery was Maybe Your Magic is Working. How has this new body of work progressed from that?
It’s important for me to improve my skill and gain as much experience as I can from those with whom I work. This show saw me incorporating a lot of personal relationships into the work as part of its meaning and function, which was far more challenging because it activated an emotional element. Maybe Your Magic is Working was the result of looking at aspects of light and belief in quite an isolated way. With Golden Age Rising I consciously tried to integrate relationships with people and materials, to the extent where I would see myself as a kind of material.
Did the body of work you created for this exhibition unfold organically, or did you have a specific direction in mind from the start?
I did have a specific direction in mind from the start and so the conceptual foundation was always there to a degree. However because the nature of my process in general is never exact I did have to adjust a few of the works because of issues of scale, money, time, and basically being too over ambitious. In retrospect though I see that those adjustments were relatively slight, because when ordering large amounts of materials or say boulders, refunds become a lot more difficult. Any organic changes that did occur were dictated by the materials themselves and their final forms were far more pleasing than I could have planned for, especially with the porcelain.
As opposed to creating a separate collection of works, you have sought to create an entire space in which the viewer’s experience is a reaction to the simultaneous presence of the works. Why was this important to you, and how have you gone about achieving this?
The purpose of creating an entire space was significant because I feel that nothing is really experienced in isolation. The works were not made separately and I was particular about each piece being a contribution to one work, or installation. I see this body of work as being experimental in that I set out to try and understand more about the nature of my own beliefs. It’s quite an all-encompassing task and so I wanted to ask the audience to try feel the space and their bodies in the space as opposed to over rationalizing their experience of each work. That’s why I wanted benches in the gallery.
Related to the above…how did you harness light in the space, specifically thinking about the power it has over our psychological state?
The work titled Mount Analogue (in C) is probably the most effective at harnessing light in this regard. It’s the first one you encounter as you enter the exhibition and is also the one which has the most presence, as its sound permeates the whole space. It uses sunlight as a means to influence the sound coming through an electric organ via the interaction with the facets of a quartz crystal. The crystal on the organ is in an optimal position to receive sunlight and for the photoresistors positioned on the facets to pick up the shifting light conditions. I simply wanted to bring attention to the movement of the sun over a period time and thought it novel to create a work which would allow us to perceive those changes aurally. I think this change in perception influences ones psychological state as it locates one in time and space in relation to their environment.
You’ve spoken before about the importance of asking relevant questions. What are some of the questions you held in your mind when creating these works?
What do I hold to be sacred or divine in my life? How do I celebrate the cycles of nature in a meaningful way? Why is celebration important? How do I commune with a group of people even when I’m afraid to? How does my body feel when I shape certain materials?
Through this new collection of sculptures, have you made use of any new methods or materials?
The new studio I’ve moved into has allowed me to work in a far more professional and competent way. My old studio was like trying to make big sculptures in a shoe-box and it would have been really challenging or even impossible to produce all these works in that space. So that’s been a new method. Also my collaboration with Yogi De Beer taught me a lot about working with Porcelain. Although with the organ piece I can’t claim to know much more about electronics but I think I have a slightly better understanding.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m taking a bit of a break but I do have a few smaller projects lined up that will keep me busy for the rest of the year.
Visit Daniella’s website for more: daniellamooney.tumblr.com
Golden Age Rising is now showing at Whatiftheworld Gallery until 17 May, 2014.
All photographs courtesy of Hayden Phipps.