This post was written by Michael Stewart

Little Boxes: IDI Interview with Sculptor Nathalie Alony

As a species, we have a tendency towards compartmentalisation. I suspect this is due to our desire to tidy up our increasingly complicated lives; by reducing each element to easily quantifiable and therefore more readily understood parts, we exercise a greater degree of control – in theory. This trait manifests itself in our love of boxes, the squares and rectangles through which we choose to view, store, catalogue and communicate with our own, ordered version of the world; hence the expressions, “squared away”, “boxed up” and conversely, “thinking out of the box”.

The paraphernalia of our lives reflects this desire to contain; the painting, book, television, computer and smart phone all share a similar rectangular format. This extends into the physical infrastructures that have dominated our lives since prehistoric times; from the cave to the condominium we have chosen to live in enclosed, defined spaces. Across time these have become increasingly rectangular, subdivided, each with a specific, designated purpose.

The manner in which we choose to access our entertainment extends this concept further still. Television programmes are not only viewed on a rectangular screen but their structure is compartmentalised into scenes each containing elements of an individual story which is linked to another and another ad infinitum – the modern equivalent of the theatre of the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare; scenes form acts which constitute the entirety of the play.

Painting was contained within a frame until 1912 when Picasso stuck a piece of rattan onto a canvas and created Synthetic Cubism; three dimensional art that extended beyond the confines of its artificial border.

But sculptor NaTalica uses what some might regard as a restriction as a means of presenting a condensed version, a distillation of the narrative in a single frame for her series, “The Sardinas”. These are snap shots of moments from multiple lives. Much in the way that the good photojournalist captures the essence of significant events, NaTalica frames an instant that encapsulates an entire existence. Everything we need to know about her subjects is presented to us without preamble; no frills, no additional information and no back story.

China town by NaTalicaThere is something reminiscent of the themes prevalent in Andy Warhol’s work in evidence here. Undoubtedly this is a metaphor for modern life; a consumer product (the can) provides the frame, the models are captured in mundane activities, posed like Warhol’s Polaroid’s to achieve an instantaneous but brief taste of fame.

Porcellinis home by Natalica

Unlike the used sardine cans, NaTalica’s scenarios aren’t disposable, but if you miss one, don’t worry – another version will be along very soon. The parallel with the prison cell is also unmistakeable; people confined in boxes, trapped by their circumstances despite the absence of visible bars.

Project by NaTalica

It could be argued that NaTalica’s work is tantamount to voyeurism. We focus on the plight of others, picking and choosing what catches our eye, experiencing their situation vicariously much in the way the nosy parker peruses the windows across a tenement block.; ever changing scenarios depicting ever changing lives, their tales played out before our eyes. But the same charge could be levelled at television, in particular so called reality TV, or magazines which feature exclusive news and candid views of celebrities, or tabloid revelations or the paparazzi press; all of which present us with a version of lives played out within a box.

NaTalicas project

Perhaps a more appropriate analogy is that of the scientific specimen; an example of a species captured while engaged in a typical behaviour, frozen in time and held fixed to be studied at leisure by future generations.

Does NaTalica see herself as a collector of visual samples that exemplify aspects of the human condition?

Certainly her previous work includes the “cell sweet cell” project which was exhibited in the “Le Murate”; a decommissioned prison in Florence and explores the trauma of life in a prison cell and a collaborative piece with artist Marco Galafassi which conceives the Italian Parliament within the circles of Dante’s “Inferno”.

We asked NaTalica about her work in a recent interview.

1. Can you tell us about your background; for example about your formal training and previous experience as an artist?

I was born in Tel Aviv in 1974, and consider myself to be a traveller and artist. I settled in Mantova (Italy) after studying Sculpture in the ‘Accademia di belle Arti’ of Carrara and finding Italy to be the perfect balance between the experience I had in India and the occidental life I knew before. I found my partner there too and together we did some stone sculpting symposiums around the world.

2. Do you regard yourself as an artist who sculpts or simply a sculptor?

Some artists want to make the ultimate artwork in their life
While other artists want to make their life their ultimate artwork…
.. but yes.. I sculpt..

3. Do you work in other media?

No

4. With “The Sardinas” series, you are working in a small scale. Do you prefer to do this and do you have any desire to work in a larger format?

I used to work in marble, clay, plaster, and resin before beginning work on The Sardinas and always on rather big scales.

5. With “The Sardinas” how did you prepare your subject matter? Did you start with a large list of scenarios and choose the most appealing or did you start to work on one and keep going?

The Sardinas just happened by themselves; there was no thought, preparation or preference. Once after the Ma’alot Symposium, being physically exhausted, I decided to realize an old idea I had of making simple indoor human situations with modelling clay in sardine cans. I started then miniaturizing every situation i had in mind, everything I saw, heard, imagined or fantasised.

It became an instinct, an impulse, an amusing inner conversation…

The Sardinas led the way and all I had to do was follow…

6. Do you frequently work in collaboration with other artists or was your project with Marco Galafassi a one off?

This collaboration was a one off. I’m not against the idea but I consider it very hard to collaborate with another artist, especially in sculpting, where the work is so manual

7. Do you regard yourself as someone who records, examines and explores the human condition?

In some ways yes… I have always been observing people, ever since I was a child…

8. Do you regard your work has having a strong sociological element to it?

Yes. For sure. But I hope it still raises a smile :)

9. Can you tell us something about what you are working on at the moment?

Now I’m playing with marble again… using different techniques than before. This is something new to me and maybe too delicate to talk about yet. Hopefully it will evolve the right way from The Sardinas though it is very different…

10. Is there any subject that you would really like to tackle in the future; a dream project perhaps?

I haven’t a clue. Things happen in their mysterious ways and they unfold to me step by step as my story goes on. I hope to be able to do art all my life, it is not something I take for granted, and I hope that through art I can understand more about this place, this race and my passing through it.

You can view more examples of NaTalica’s work by visiting her website.

NaTalica also shared that this musical interlude has special significance for her and The Sardinas.

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