How do you become an artist? For Liat Livni, the 2015 winner of WARSTEINER’s BLOOOM Award for emerging artists, “you cannot really become one. It’s something deep inside you that you cannot escape.” It’s a sentiment that has took her around the world, with residencies from the US, to Germany and Asia, where she developed her unique, almost architectural form of art.
Her award-winning piece, Jerusalem Boulevard, Jaffa, was painstakingly constructed from some 30 veneered boards, applied together to create an image of the boulevard, located in the ancient city of Jaffa which neighbors Tel Aviv. An incredibly physical, layered piece, it sits like a sculpture, inviting investigation and closer study through its layers that represent three temporal periods of past, present and future connecting and merging into a unified streetscape.
Livni beat over 1,500 artists competing from 75 countries to win the prize, which included a chance to exhibit her work alongside other finalists at the Cologne Art Fair where the winner was announced. It also includes a forthcoming trip to Art Basel Miami Beach, 1,500€ prize money and enrolment in BLOOOM Award jury member Walter Gehlen’s 12 month mentoring program.
Now, with WARSTEINER’s BLOOOM Award under her belt, we talked to the Israeli artist about her award-winning piece, about her inspiration and working style, as well as what the award means for her and her career.
What does it mean to win WARSTEINER’s BLOOOM Award, Livni?
For me it means recognition. The art world’s recognition of my work and the opportunity to showcase my art to a new, global audience. It also gives me a feeling of contentment and validation that the path I have chosen is appreciated.
In today’s world, the decision to be an artist is not an obvious choice. It’s a choice in a vocation that entails financial instability, and in which the time that goes into the artwork is not always or immediately manifested in its value.
How did you end up where you are today then? How do you become an artist?
Well I have always studied art and, although I tried to study something more practical, like fashion design, I quit after a year and did my Bachelors and Masters instead in Fine Arts. I believe that you either are or you aren’t an artist; you cannot fake it and you cannot really become one. It’s something deep inside you that you cannot escape.
But I ended up where I am today with a lot of dedication and hard work, with the support of my surroundings and with the fortune of taking part in many artist residencies, exhibitions and art fairs.
Talk us through your work for the competition, Jerusalem Boulevard, Jaffa. What were you trying to say with this piece?
The work was created especially for the exhibition “The First Boulevard”, which was initiated by Tel Aviv University’s Structure Preservation Studio in the David Azrieli School of Architecture.
But as the daughter of an architect and a civil engineer, I was always interested in urban architecture, and the idea of taking part in this exhibition was very appealing to me.
However, beyond that, creating a big veneer work was a challenge I set myself. The work shows the influence of time on this ancient street through the years. The structures adorning the street, built in different periods, are floating in the air like objects devoid of solid base or roots.
What about your creative process? What inspires you and how do you like to work?
Usually my art is a product of my surroundings: I start my exploration a bit like a tourist – walking around, taking photographs, finding and collecting objects and materials. I use the visual data I collect to create new imaginary landscapes by constructing and deconstructing the photographs, transforming them into works of art using different techniques and materials like veneer, sand, layers of paper as well as playing with light sources.
When in Israel, I mostly address the landscape and architecture around me. But in the past I’ve also stayed at artist residencies in Germany, Asia and the US. The works I created there, such as in Hanover for instance, exemplified the influence of the culture, history, and current events of my surroundings.
In Hanover, I made sculptures and images inspired by the peculiar local news report about the theft of the golden Leibniz Cookie logo from the Bahlsen factory. It was stolen by the Hanover ‘Cookie Monster’, who demanded a donation of 50,000 cookies for the children’s hospital in return.
Of course, it was difficult to separate the works I created there from the German-Jewish history, and so my first work there was made of cookie crumbs, forming the Hebrew phrase “to remember and not forget” (The Holocaust). Other works, more humorous in nature, were inspired by the way I felt there, like a princess in a fairytale, which was ironic considering the house I stayed in, called “Totenhaus” (which translates as ‘house of the dead’) and was used as the place where the dead were brought from the nearby Jewish hospital.
How has this award process been different from those other experiences and what will it enable you to do?
I think it’s better to perhaps answer this in a couple of years from now, from the distance of time and with the benefit of hindsight…
However, right now, I can say that being one of the ten finalists that presented their works at the Cologne Art Fair, exposed my art to more art lovers. And, thanks to the fair, my piece was sold to a private collector who was very taken with it.
For more on her work, visit Liat’s Livni site.