LIOR GAL: Parallel Worlds
LIOR GAL is an Israeli born artist currently working in Paris. His work explores space, nature, and solitude. Here he shares his thoughts on the creative process, utopia, the meditative state, and more.
Interview by Will Kitson
Have you always felt creative, or was there a particular point in your life – perhaps in childhood – where it became apparent?
As a child, most of my creativity stayed inside my head. I was pretty much a dreamer. I held on to my thoughts for a brief moment, as they were in transit. Once they vanished, I moved on as well. Until the day I found my mother’s camera in her closet and started to play with it. Suddenly my thoughts stayed a bit longer. Thanks to the camera, they managed to break through and come into being.
You moved from Israel to France to study photography. How did this cultural shift affect the direction of your work?
Israel is a very small country. Growing up there made everything look small as well. I felt like living on an island where the rest of the world was hidden far behind the horizon… After moving to France I felt as though there were no more boundaries, everything was reachable, the entire continent was lying there, waiting for me to discover. That drastic change made an immediate impact on me, and my work. I no longer considered photography as a simple reproduction of reality, but more of a dream machine. I was looking for ways to estrange the image from reality so I could bring it closer to the imaginary world from where my inspiration is drawn; I achieved this through the technique of collage. By combining two elements from nature I created a sort of an unnatural parallel world.
Vast space and inner solitude 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?
Vast spaces are an important part of my work. Just as I get lost in nature during my work process, I like to get lost in the vast space portrayed in my images. The large scale forces you to observe the photo from a distance where details become insignificant. I’m not interested in details, as they might send me back to places I already know…
As for inner solitude – Rainer Maria Rilke, in one of his letters describes the important of solitude in the most beautiful and accurate way: “You should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance… it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.”
Your works have an incredible meditative quality. Do you tap into your subconscious in your creative process?
A few years ago, I visited Morocco and walked for fifteen days through the Sahara desert. I was not alone of course, but it felt like I was. Marching from one dune to another, searching for a daily source of water and some shelter where we could put up a fire, as it gets extremely cold during the night. I remember walking for hours every day, gazing at nature in all its splendor. None of us (we were four) had the urge to talk so we spent most of our days in silence. After few days in the desert, you enter a meditative state; your thoughts have no meaning anymore. Within this state of mind I found my motivation, walking and taking pictures, the whole process was effortless as if controlled by my subconscious. This is the process I try to reproduce when I work.
You say that photography brings you closer to utopia. How do you imagine utopia?
Utopia is like reaching the unreachable star, it’s pure fantasy. However, knowing that should not prevent one from trying to reach it. Photography simply fulfills my cosmic path. There is a beautiful poem by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagor called “Lost Star”. It describes the early days of creation where the stars shone in their first splendor. Until one of the gods cried out that one of the stars has been lost. That star, contained the glory of all heavens. From that moment, began the unceasing search for it. The poem ends with the stars whispering among themselves: “Vain is this seeking, unbroken perfection is over all…” In short, the quest for utopia is more important then utopia itself.
If the universe inside you were to be contained in just one symbol, what would that symbol be?
The archetypal symbol of the sphere goes beyond time and space. For us, who live in the real world, the sphere is a transparent perfectly round shape, filled with air and gas. Its lightness allows it to be carried by invisible waves until it is destroyed by its own fragility. In the mystical world, however, the sphere consists of an imaginary, invisible reality and contemplates the infinite and the eternal. It contains in itself the source of all things. It is a symbol of completeness, totality and achievement of spiritual perfection.
Published: October 21st, 2014