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Sculptor brings ceramics to life by adding creepy mouths and fingers

Israeli artist Ronit Baranga describes her ceramic sculptures as existing on the “border between the living and still life.” But if you ask us, we’d describe it as existing on the “border between the living and the dead.”

Baranga reimagines traditional dishware by seamlessly merging human body parts with plates, bowls, and cups. Using different kinds of clay, she molds disembodied mouths and fingers then attaches the pieces onto their ‘hosts’.

The result is something that looks like a concept for a horror film: mundane, everyday objects coming to life. At times, the sculptures even interact with each other, creating truly macabre scenes at the dinner table.

The sculptor explained that her works are not for real use (not that anyone would even try). But she did use it once during the holidays. She arranged a set of bowls with ghastly fingers in the middle of the table, making it a symbol of the tension present during family reunions.

And we thought our relatives were weird.

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Baranga. In this interview, she goes into greater detail about herself and her art. Take a look below:

Could you tell us more about yourself? What path led you to become an artist, and to do what you’re doing today?

“I am an artist. I have always made art, since I remember myself. It was more a need than a choice.

“I have always painted, but only after completing my university studies in Psychology and Literature, getting married, and having my first child, I decided to make a change in my life and start studying art professionally.

“In my second year of studying, I took a course in the ceramics department. Shortly after, I started working only with clay.

“For me, creating is a necessity. The creation is an ambivalent state of an endless, unsatisfying search. Sometimes, I succeed in creating correct things which excite me and balance, even if only for a brief moment. These moments are the essence of my existence as an artist.”

How would you describe your work? And what was the inspiration behind it?

“I usually start working as a result of an irresistible impulse to create, with inspiration or without it. I guess I find inspiration in everything. I read a lot and try to be exposed to many different fields of knowledge that interest me.

“My university level studies include Psychology, Literature, and Art History. I constantly consume art and hope this enriches my conceptual thinking and helps me create interesting, accurate art.”

Take us through the process of making one of these sculptures. What’s your creative workflow like?

“When I start a new work, first I imagine it and then I sculpt it. I don’t do sketches or models. Mostly, at the end, it looks like I imagine it at the beginning.

“I love to work with clay. What I find most fascinating about sculpture is the physical creation, feeling the material with my hands. This is why hands, as a sculpting object, are a major part of my sculptures. I love the unlimited options and variety of techniques available with clay. For example, I combine hand sculpting with clay molds, wheel throwing and slabs in one work.

“Clay is an amazing material which enables me, as an artist, to create whatever comes to mind, with minimal limitations and in the convenience of my personal studio, working on my own.”

How long does it take to finish a piece? What’s the most challenging part?

“I can’t estimate time in my art. When I feel the sculpture is completed, I stop working on it. This varies from piece to piece. Some pieces take several weeks, and some a year and a half. I usually work on several sculptures at once due to the different drying periods required for the clay to reach its optimal working state.”

Is there something that these grotesque figures are trying to tell the audience?

“I sculpted human mouths and fingers emerging from tableware. The blurred border between the living and the still in these works is intriguing. It makes you think.

“In this combination of the still and the alive joined as one, I try to change the way in which we observe useful tableware. The useful, passive, tableware can now be perceived as an active object, aware of itself and its surroundings – responding to it. It does not allow to be taken for granted, to be used. It decides on its own how to behave in the situation.

“This is how I prefer to think about my plates and cups. Metaphorically, of course.”

What are you working on next?

“In the Embrace series, the relationship between the ‘doubtfully alive’ vessels becomes physical. They lean on each other, pinching, hugging, embracing and their porcelain bodies react.”

To know more about Ronit Baranga and her work, head on over here.

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