AMIT GREENBERG: Arcadian Rythm
AMIT GREENBERG is a multidisciplinary artist. Using a variety of mediums he explores the sublime plethora of possibilities that the organic world has to offer. Amit is usually based in Brooklyn but when not in New York you can catch him anywhere from Israel to Paris to Berlin, and when the sand is blowing in the Black Rock Desert you’ll find him there where he chases clouds, explores rituals and performs ceremonies.
Interview by Emeline Loric
Let’s start at the beginning, were you a creative child? Please share a childhood memory that had an impact on the artist you are today:
I believe I was a creative child just like every other child. I built my castle out of sofa pillows in the living room, I had deep conversations with my cat, I made candy salads with the goodie bags I got on birthdays, I climbed trees, I dressed up and I played with matches – I had the constant need to alter reality into a fantastic place, I think I still do.
I have recently found some old homemade videos from my childhood; it is interesting to observe yourself as a child from an adult perspective. There is one moment in those videos that struck me the most: I am standing on top of a slide over looking the playground, I turn my body toward a tree and I place my little hands around my eyes like binoculars, I stare without moving for a while, then, I just run off. I remember that as a kid I had the strongest belief that we can receive energy from nature around us, it was more in a superhero kind of way – after “charging” myself I would be able to run faster or jump higher. Today I can extend this belief beyond the natural world and into an every day world that surrounds us. I have experienced through my own art and the art of others, moments of pure ecstasy either mental or physical and felt charged just like I was from that tree in the playground.
Nature and the natural world seem to be important sources of inspiration for you and related themes run through much of your work. What draws you to them and did they play a role in leading you to express yourself through art?
In conversations with my mother she elegantly referred and refers me to observe nature as a metaphoric answer for questions I deal with. Growing with that concept it became part of my natural thought process. The first work I have ever exhibited publicly was Cocoon Tree: a sculpture made of a tree branch sprouting the sentence, “I Want To Grow To Be a Tree”, with a cocoon-like leaf hanging on one of its twigs. It was a pure expression of how I felt, a moment in time were you are aware you are in the process of becoming, translated into a physical form.
Nature is a magical thing it has endless behaviors, movements, forms and textures. You can look at it up close and be as overwhelmed as looking at it from afar; it is synchronized and perfectly placed. I try to bring that notion to my work – hoping to create the same curiosity in the viewer, a double look, a different point of view or a new discovery.
Ritual, ceremony and performance are cornerstones of your creative practice; at Seymour we believe that the artist can be a conduit for the ineffable, do you consider yourself a sort of modern-day Shaman?
I agree with Seymour’s core belief. I have experienced moments that were beyond my understanding in relation to my art – it might be too “out there” to say that creative work feels like a form of trance or meditation, but I have definitely experienced moments of oneness through it. I see rituals, ceremonies and performance as a form of heightened awareness to the intention and the messages I want to express or experience. There is a journey to take through a creative process that is set beyond the working space; it echoes across every layer of life and fully unfolds with the revealing of the finished work.
Really, I think we each create rituals and perform ceremonies whether we’re aware of it or not. Any action that is filled with intention can easily be perceived as ritual, ceremony or performance – from brushing our teeth through getting dressed to making dinner. We fulfill a need either emotional or physical with an action. So, I guess we are all modern-day Shamans in away. As artists our intentions are to create things out of the ordinary that can form a sense of wonder in their creators and observers, that sense of wonder can sometimes bring attention to the process itself, allowing it to be portrayed as magical and unique.
You work with many different media but call your ink on paper work like A Fine Black Line, your “comfort food” tell us why you consider it that way. And would you consider your process here close to surrealist automatic writing?
The work a Fine Black Line is based on my personal sketchbooks. When I was staying in Paris for the summer two years ago I showed my sketchbooks to my dear friend Patrizio Micheli, the owner and creative director of the advertising agency Al Dente Paris. He came up with the idea of taking those drawing out of the sketchbooks and onto paper. This is how Fine Black Line was born. We are now collaborating on a project to have some of the work printed as a limited edition dinner sets. I guess this work is illustrated-surrealist-automatic-writing; it is therapeutic to create something without over-thinking it but organically allowing it to form. My Fine Black Line works are a mix of a philosophy, humor, facts and thoughts that flow from my mind, to my hand, to the paper: a game between freedom and restriction. If looking closely at the work, the shapes tend to complement each other like a puzzle. It is often that one shape will ignite the imagination for drawing a figure, an object or a text right next to it. I call it my “comfort food” because it doesn’t matter what I draw, as long as it fits – I’m doing it right. It’s like the feeling of constantly solving a Sudoku puzzle, but better.
You explore ritual in your work, do you personally have any rituals that help your creativity and imagination to flourish?
I have my own daily rituals to support the larger scale of things and bring myself into a state of wellbeing, may it be physical or mental. My little rituals keep me grounded in my own world and allow me to keep on creating. I believe that elements of my creative process serve as ritual as well. A ritual is defined not only by the act itself, but also by its preparation beforehand and the acceptances of its effect after. It is through those stages in the artistic process that I find old and new imagination and creative thoughts.
What is your current obsession?
Besides working on A Fine Black Line dinner set illustrations, my new project You Sounds So Good On Repeat is a combination of costume, music and art -the main material I work with is the films of tape cassettes.
If the universe inside Amit Greenberg were to be contained in just one symbol, what would that symbol be?
Published: June 18th, 2013