I love Sivan Lavie’s playful, almost childlike interpretations of experiences and observations around her, in the sense that they are bright, unfiltered, even optimistic, and a way of expressing connectedness and love through pure color, form, and line.
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Hi! I’m Sivan Lavie, I am a painter based in Tel Aviv. I recently completed my MFA in Bezalel Academy of Art, I work with shape, color, abstraction, physicality and being in front of liminal, experiential things. My art is vibrant, mostly abstract, painterly but expands into three dimensions, writing, there is a lot of experimentation and play with form and material. I moved around as a child with my family, I lived in Zurich and London and recently moved to Tel Aviv, after years of living abroad.
I think landing back here, in the place where I was born, created a sort of coming together, a hook, after a long disconnection. It’s nice. My art comes out of love. It’s the guiding principle, accepting that we are one with everything. It’s a slippery and intangible, elusive experience- art is on a very thin line between everything and nothing. I sit on this line like a tight rope and record my experiences, which are at once very personal and completely universal. Sitting in a place of uncertainty, I look at the world through wide open eyes. Art is a leap of faith. I pull things out of a hat, my internal world, into existence in the real world. There is a fluid movement between different ways of working. Objects interest me, material and color. Systems. Shapes. Whether it’s a painting or a sculpture matters less. My goal is to be able to create worlds that evoke myriad sensations and involve mediums as a sort of expanded painting, a movement from the canvas to sculpture, installation. I am an image maker, recreating my experiences of the world as abstracted moments, allowing the viewer to react physically.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
As a child I used to draw and draw. I think this was when I discovered it, I remember being amazed that I could draw a house and something floating above it and that others understood this to be perspective, the floating thing was read as ‘behind the house’, not above it. Then there was a long time that I didn’t make any art. I went to life drawing classes and doodled but I didn’t think I could do it myself. There was something about London and its fullness and hermeticism that left me hollow, disconnected from making.
There was Basquiat, who I guess is a very typical “first crush” in art, until you let him go and step away to a different level. There was Egon Schiele, I was amazed that he created this sort of cult around himself, asking women to come and pose for him and all these erotic portraits and he didn’t give a shit. There was and still is Rauschenberg in my heart, very beatnik, just painting and making and participating nonstop because it sounded fun. The artists who touch me most are those who spread their arms wide open and hold a whole rainbow of practices within this stretch, allowing themselves to move between mediums and ideas.
While I was discovering these guys, I was also working with people with disabilities- outsider artists- and I was excited by their freedom, their dedication to their thing, their calling. It was an unconscious sort of confidence. It took me longer to get going because art has this whole world around it that you can somehow miss if you glance in the wrong direction, it all hides under a cloud (maybe this is depression) but you need to tilt your head in the right direction with a lot of faith to see it, to delve into it and then there are millions of things to see, read, experience, enjoy. I think the combination of Rauschenberg and these outsiders that made it click for me, art is an explosion of fun in which anything can happen.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
With my eyes, I’m looking at the world, and how it’s made up of all these systems. There are moments that are completely intricate and nonverbal and they are also very primal and based on basic phenomena like looking at a spot of light on the floor and this creates an excitement, and I feel this all the time and this is what drives me, and what I create. Experiences that envelop us but perhaps they don’t have to be explained or spoken, just felt. A meditative moment in front of the thing. I have a lot of dots in my work and people ask me about that. I think everything narrows down to a dot. First I said there’s dot line and spiral but even line and spiral are actually just a dot because a line is made up of dots and a spiral is a circle. Things like triangles are a masculine energy, in nature there are no straight lines. So we are all atoms, made up of them, recreating them, living in these circular ways. I am looking at things that unite us and I think that colors and our reactions to them are one of these things. I am also playing with materials of different origins, playing and experimenting openly in a non-didactic way, delving between deep ideas of high art and the basic joy of children’s drawing- the in between space between art and non-art, everything and nothing. It’s a naked and sometimes difficult place to be, but it also means that I can make a postcard sized work or engulf a whole building and this is an exciting prospect for my development.
What is your process like?
There are several concurrent directions my process takes, for the work to take form. Imagine an octopus, each arm a different color, spreading its arms out wide in all directions. One arm is research about other contemporary artists, another arm is going to museums, another is writing (i do a lot of writing),another is painting (several at once), another is sculpture, another is sketching down ideas, another is applying myself to the outside world (communicating with others). These are points of a star- they all need to take part for the work to happen. When I’m not in my studio i’m always looking- inspiration is everywhere. I mean that in a love kind of way: love and interest are everywhere. It’s fulfilling and relaxing, when the mind is clear and calm we can see wondrous things. In my studio I’ll work on several paintings at once, some are less, others more planned. There is always a starting idea, an igniting thought, but a lot of it is about the physicality in front of the work, which reveals itself, and new, unplanned things emerge. It’s exciting.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Oh for sure, I’ve had several very influential mentors. The best piece of advice I was given is to have a strong artistic core. When you are constantly working in this ‘octopal’ way and build a strong base for yourself, things come easy. What I mean by that is not that good luck will come your way more than for others but that you will be able to filter a lot more: what’s important for you, what’s not- to recognize in yourself what is best for you (there is no right or wrong) and if someone doesn’t like your work or criticizes it you wont feel like you need to become a completely different artist the next day- I’ve been learning to float above it. And this way also it’s easier to pay attention when a good opportunity comes your way. It’s not always easy to stand like a tree but it’s something I’m always working on, it’s like meditation: having perspective. Another mentor figure has a painting called ‘Never did anything hard’ which deals exactly with this subject, not hesitating or falling over. There is room for all types of art, but only you can see that.
What is your studio like?
My studio is funny, someone described it as being inside a big soup. There are lots of things in process, happening. It looks partially like a playground, partly like a kids’ workshop, overall like a very active studio. A lot of vibrant colors, neon pigments, spray paints, buckets, sand, pompoms, things without a name ive picked up from the street, boxes, plastic bags. There’s a very saturated color palette taking over the entire space. There’s a desk to sit and write, and a couch. It’s a fun place to be.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
There are several things I find really challenging. One is space: there never seems to be enough space. I think for the rest of my life if I have a matchbox sized studio or a hangar, it will always be slightly too small and I will spill out to surrounding areas. That’s what happens with me, I think it’s related to the art and how it always wants to grow and be bigger and expand. Another challenge, also size-related, is money. I want to do big and crazy things, exciting and boundary-pushing projects, but as a young artist it’s hard, I am only starting to learn about funding. Lastly, meeting the world is complex. I love artists and meeting many fo them and finding ones I can really relate to, them to me, it’s really exciting. But having a show can also mean people (visitors) coming in and asking for explanations. I love talking about my art on an abstract level, I am still learning what my relation to my art is, and how I can verbalize it to anyone, on a satisfactory level (to me, to them), so it doesn’t feel completely alien.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Color, shape, play. Also- love.
What are you working on right now?
After a big show I think it’s time to rest a little bit, and generally it’s good to see trees once in a while, so im planning that as well as moving to a new studio, a show where I’m thinking about bubble gum and trees, identity and family. It’s a really interesting angle to take, something great to explore and much more verbal than usual, it’s nice digging in the family archives.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are all somewhere between trees and plastic, at once floating and grounded. I am thinking more about this abstract place. About staying in this state and exploring.
Find more on Instagram @sivanlife!