MAKER OF THINGS: FLORA DEBORAH

Flora Deborah investigates human and non-human perception of roots and the meaning behind the idea of identity and its connection with non geographical specificities through her work. She lives and works between Tel Aviv and Milan having studied at the Bezalel Academy of the Arts in Jerusalem and the University of the Arts London. Her work includes sculpture, video and installation and has exhibited in Italy, the United Kingdom and Israel. She was shortlisted for the Cramum Prize in 2016, and presented her work in the exhibition Una stanza tutta per me (A room of my own), curated by Sabino Maria Frassà, sponsored by Cramum and Ventura Projects for Design Week 2019.


We had a chance to speak with Flora about her childhood, her creative process and what major differences did she find between Tel Aviv and Milan working as an artist.



© Flora Portrait, image courtesy of the artist

I was always the happiest while sitting on the floor or at a table making something with my hands.


Hello Flora, tell us something about yourself.


Hello, I’m an artist and I’m a maker of things




"Maker of things," I like that. When did you first become interested in art?


It’s tricky for me to pin point a precise moment in time, but I can say that as a child I was driven by all kind of creative activities, and through the years I was always the happiest while sitting on the floor or at a table making something with my hands.




What are some early memories you have about art?


I think that my first memory related to art making is about how I broke a felt pen while working on a pointillism drawing in kindergarten, drawing was always a lot fun!


© Flora Deborah, Kiss me I'm French, 2019, image courtesy of the artist


© Flora Deborah, My Heart Stops when You Sneeze, 2020, image courtesy of the artist


Let’s speak about your hometown. What do you like the most about the city?


Before the Covid19 pandemic hit, this kind of question would trigger lots of doubts related to my identity. Being born in France, growing up in Milan I’ve spent most of my twenties in London before moving to Tel Aviv. Choosing which hometown to talk about always felt tricky.

That said when the pandemic exploded in Milan this past February, I took the last available flight home which made me realize that the answer to this question was in fact quite simple.

Absurdly this is the city I know the less as I never lived there as an adult, yet I can say that my very favourite things in Milan are found in the simple things: a walk in the park close to where I grew up, a family lunch or a caffé at the local with a friend.




Milanese, but living and working in Tel Aviv. Can you tell us why you chose Tel Aviv? What are the differences you found in the two cities as a working artist?


Tel Aviv is fun, and by saying that I don’t mean that Milan isn’t, but I find that Tel Aviv effortlessly offers joy to its dwellers, the weather is warm and so are its people. I like its size, I cycle everywhere, and although some buildings in the south of the city are falling apart, they hold an undeniable lay-back charm.

Milan is larger, it has a lot to offer culturally, it’s cleaner and its architecture is beautiful, but I always found it harder to feel at ease there.

I regularly exhibit my work in both of these cities, but my studio is based in Tel Aviv and this is where I get most things done. I gained my MFA here and I found a welcoming and cohesive art community that I feel fortunate to be part of.



© Flora Deborah, Blush and Burn, 2020, image courtesy of the artist

© Flora Deborah, Blush and Burn, 2020, image courtesy of the artist

Tell us what inspires you creatively?


Science, the body, the animal world, behaviorism, how the personal becomes universal, but generally it stretches to various extremes depending on what I’m obsessed with on a specific day.


I see my studio as a playroom, it can be very cluttered at times, but I don’t mind that as long as I can still find what I need from my pile of tools.

One artist from history or present time, who you’d love to add to your collection.


Eva Hesse, she is my all-time favorite.





Describe your current studio space. For artists, their studio space is like their sanctuary, their sanctum. What is the most important about your space or one thing that you cannot live without in your work area?


I see my studio as a playroom, it can be very cluttered at times, but I don’t mind that as long as I can still find what I need from my pile of tools.

I collect lots of materials, and things I like, I allow myself to be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to my work space, much more than at home.

As for the thing I cannot live without I have a large nose sculpture right on top of my desk that I carved two years ago and that reminds me of who I’ve chosen to be.




© Flora Studio, image courtesy of the artist

© Flora Deborah, My Heart Stops when You Sneeze, 2020, image courtesy of the artist

You don’t need to be English to be a Londoner, and that meant everything to me at the time.


You have had degrees from reputed universities around the world. How did they help in shaping you as an artist? How were these experiences different from each other?


This question makes me smile; my grandma regularly asks me if I’m done studying yet. And if I could afford more art schooling maybe I would just keep going.

For me the experience at Bezalel was about togetherness, I was given a studio and I was very excited about owning my very own door, yet that door was often kept open as the sense of community in the academia was exceptional. I believe that this is where I learned how to be more playful, but also where I was encouraged to develop more awareness towards what my art practice is and what I’d like it to be.

Studying in London shaped me immensely as well, craft is considered very highly in the UK and being driven by materials was never put into question while I was there. I believe that this is where I got to know myself as an adult and embraced my multicultural background, you don’t need to be English to be a Londoner, and that meant everything to me at the time.





What are the skills that you’ve learnt during this period, that you apply till this day?


I think that the most important skill I learnt is the ability to be more lighthearted when it comes to work. Some days this is still a challenge to me; I believe that growing up in Italy and being taught during school years what art is and how it should look like developed my aesthetic sense, but it also hurt my ability to let go and enjoy the process.




© Flora Deborah, My Mother's Daughter, 2016, image courtesy of the artist




What is your creative process like? What are some of the principles you follow when working on a project?


It depends on the project, but mostly it comes from obsessing over something very specific and learning all I can about it. After that, if I’m very lucky, something happens; this part of the process is a mystery to myself as well.




What is your personal preference of material to work with and why?


I mostly like bodily materials, fluid, ductile and soft materials or harder ones that you can melt. Things that can potentially transform with time are my favorite.




What narratives to emotions do you want to generate through your work?


Any kind of emotions of narratives that is being generated through my work is good, I cannot pilot how a piece will be perceived, but I can share my way of looking at certain things with others through it.



© Flora Deborah, I'm too Old to Float, 2018, image courtesy of the artist

© Flora Deborah, Blush and Burn, 2020, image courtesy of the artist

© Flora Deborah, I'm too Old to Float, 2018, image courtesy of the artist



It’s hard to know precisely which doors I will push or will open for me, but I think that as long as this core element is present, I won’t have to worry too much about the rest.


Can you share with our readers your experience of exhibiting at Ventura Centrale your installation I’m too Old to Float?


We had 68.000 visitors while at Ventura, so it was wonderful to be able to share this work with so many. Shipping it from Tel Aviv to Milan was a bit of a nightmare as one of the glass pieces broke, but I managed to blow one of them again and it flew with me on the day right before the install. Working with Sabino Maria Frassà was, as always, a delight and so was being with the fellow artists Francesca Piovesan and Giulia Manfredi.




Recently we saw a series of work titles “Sinonimo di perché”. Tell a bit about it.


This work was born over a reflection upon the egg as a symbol pertaining to a multiplicity of allegories being the main one the complexity of the life cycle itself.

During the performance the eggs were carefully split into their composite parts in a ritualized process transformed by the hand and by the breath. The resultant yolks are shiny and stone-like in their aspect, preserved by a treatment of salt and sun.




© Flora Deborah, I'm too Old to Float, 2018, image courtesy of the artist


How has the lockdown affected your work as an artist?


I had to strip down to basics since I was away from the studio for months. For a while I was not able to produce any work because there was just too much to process.




What are you currently working on? How is that going and can you share something about the project?


I have a group show coming up in Milan this September called “Narcisi Fragili” so I’m currently planning that, while also completing a series of drawings and texts for a publication.




What do you see in your artistic future? Where do you want to be?


When it comes to my artistic future, I see a studio.

It’s hard to know precisely which doors I will push or will open for me, but I think that as long as this core element is present, I won’t have to worry too much about the rest.




To view more of Flora's work or to get in touch with her, visit her instagram.













Written by

Karvishi Agarwal

Photos

Flora Deborah


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