Artist Gina Wald­man’s work is lay­ered with both tex­ture and sub­text

Sunday Times - - Food & Drink - gi­nawald­man.co.za

Look­ing at the depth of fine artist Gina Wald­man’s in­cred­i­bly laboured-upon art, it isn’t hard to be­lieve that each work takes weeks or even months to com­plete. Work­ing across many medi­ums, Gina in­cor­po­rates ev­ery­thing from found ob­jects such as sil­ver­ware, fur­ni­ture and teapots to thread, rib­bon, fab­ric, ta­pes­try, cop­per leaf, wall­pa­per, paint, plas­ter and wire into her quintessen­tially fem­i­nine and of­ten po­lit­i­cal works. We caught up with the pro­lific artist, who took time out of her busy sched­ule to chat to us about her work, life and in­spi­ra­tion.

When did you start mak­ing art?

To be hon­est, I don’t re­mem­ber a time that I wasn’t mak­ing art. I come from a fam­ily of three sis­ters who all stud­ied Fine Arts, and I grad­u­ated with a Masters de­gree in Fine Arts from Wits when I was 22. I have worked on var­i­ous cre­ative busi­nesses since then, from fash­ion to styling and art.

What is the main in­spi­ra­tion for your work?

My new body of work fo­cuses on the value placed on women’s work as un­wanted items of the past. In the tra­di­tional art canon, paint­ings cre­ated by mas­cu­line “masters” were es­teemed and valu­able, while ta­pes­tries and em­broi­deries, made by women, were of­ten per­ceived as do­mes­tic items which held lit­tle value. For ex­am­ple, in Vic­to­rian times, a woman would spend hours em­broi­der­ing sets of servi­ettes for her din­ner ta­ble, only for her guests to wipe their dirt on her work.

Where do you source the items that go into your lay­ered, textured work?

I find most of my ma­te­ri­als in junk shops and char­ity stores. I’m al­ways on the lookout for sil­ver­ware, ta­pes­tries, servi­ettes, old thread. Ev­ery time I travel over­seas I come back with the most amaz­ing trea­sures. I feel that find­ing the ob­jects in junk shops adds to the no­tion that women’s work is un­val­ued and un­wanted — seen as kitsch dec­o­ra­tion.

What ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques do you like to work with? Which do you think pro­duce the best qual­ity of work?

I think my thread works are the strong­est. For ex­am­ple, I might find an au­to­graph book from 1912, pho­to­graph it, print it and then em­broi­der into the work. From a glance it looks like a sweet artwork, but if you look closer there are po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and sex­ual in­nu­en­dos present in the images. I love work­ing over old ob­jects.

De­scribe your work space for us

I have a space that is of­fi­cially my stu­dio, but it houses tons of fin­ished and un­fin­ished artwork, ob­jects wait­ing to be dis­played and wall-to-wall stor­age. It’s packed with trin­kets, gold threads, vin­tage fab­ric piles, old arte­facts, reams and reams of pearls, smashed crock­ery and end­less boxes of rib­bon. But if I am hon­est, my work spills out across my home. My dining room ta­ble al­ways has some project on it.

You are a wife and mother, as well as an artist. How do you fit it all in?

I have to sched­ule time and be dis­ci­plined and or­gan­ised. Most peo­ple think that an artist’s work is just in­spi­ra­tion, but it is re­ally like run­ning a small busi­ness.

The best thing about be­ing an artist?

My work is quite ob­ses­sive, so hav­ing an out­let where I can think, com­mu­ni­cate and make work is great

And the most chal­leng­ing? The art world politics.

South African artists whose work you’d like to own? I am lust­ing over Igshaan Adams’s wo­ven work, Pierre Le Riche’s thread work and Lyndi Sales’s mu­rals. They have the same ob­ses­sive sen­si­bil­ity that I con­nect with.

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