Liat Grayver's interview with Singulart

Please introduce yourself to us!

I was born in the Galilee region of Israel to a Jewish Iraqi immigrant family. In 2009, after completing my art studies in Jerusalem, I spent six months in New York City before moving to Berlin. My interest in undertaking these new experiences was driven by a growing curiosity to discover active, challenging and experimental artistic communities outside the familiar structures of my home country. I initially spent only six months in Berlin before moving to Leipzig to study at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (HGB) where I graduated in 2015 with a Diplom (MFA) in painting and printmaking. I continued to study painting as a Meisterschülerin (Post graduate) at the HGB through 2017, and expanded my studies to the department of media art under Prof. Joachim Blank. Since January 2016 I have been collaborating with the University of Konstanz on the e-David Project, exploring various approaches to integrate robotic and computer languages in the processes of painting and creative image-making.

Living in different places had strongly influence my work in the process of how I see, understand and experiencing. Taking the “Coral Series” for example: I purchased this coral from a fisherman along the lungomare in Napoli, brought it to my studio in Napoli and studied its form for a period of six months. At the time (2013-14) I was living in Napoli and visited regularly the Museo Archeologico. I carefully observed the use of round forms by ancient Roman and Greek culture to construct natural bodies. This influenced my esthetical desiccations working on this series. The coral is structured with multiple round hollow forms that are attached to and growing on each other. The structure had for me the quality and resemblance of multiple bodies attached to each other by joints.

In recent years I was invited to show my work and participate in various projects in Germany, Europe, Israel, South Korea and the United States, all of which enriched my understanding of the local culture with relation to the global society we live in today.



What is your artistic singularity?

During the past two years my work has been focused on investigating methods to redefine one of the primitive forms of art — painting — into our current technology-based era. In collaboration with computer engineers, neuroscientists and machine engineers, I am exploring new methods for the application of paint on canvas as well as for computer-assisted generation of physical images, and have been using computers and machines in the service of exploring new æsthetic avenues in painting. My work in this area aspires to constitute a novel venue for the establishment of new and innovative ground in contemporary artistic practices.

Our present era can be distinguished from other historical periods by the sheer amount of data to which we have access — the availability of and rapidity with which information can travel and be translated across disciplines and between places. Digital media in general and the Internet in particular are the most immediate and common ways to consume visual information. This has an enormous impact on the way we as individuals are able to perceive and appreciate, for example imagery or artefacts. Within more traditional settings this can very often result in a decontextualized experience for the individual in the post-digital and post-Internet epoch.

This fragmentary, decontextualized experience is the space I investigate in my artistic process, through the use of data, whether it be a symbol, a reduced geometrical form or a code, derived from diverse and familiar or foreign sources.


You use very different artistic mediums like drawings, paintings, photographs and robotic technologies – which medium do you prefer and in which way do you want to further develop?

Making art for me is the attempt to manifest one’s own intimate biography through materials into the public and social discourse. This is not only about the form or the finished object, but also about the process, the perspective and perception of a structure — all of which is defined by our dynamic surroundings and contemplated through the tools, mediums and technology of the present time and local place.

My art is process-based where the materials and techniques I am using are of an “equal passive and active partners” in the decision making process. It can be described as an instance of self-regulation; for example, order in painting is traditionally achieved through the self-regulation of the painter and by external intervention.

Print-making drawing, painting, photography, generated data and robotic technologies are tools used in my artistic practice to explore, retain and express visual information in relation to the digital and machine-based world we live in today. My work explores the different ways the body and mind perceive not only the visual objects themselves (such as painting), but also the process through which they are created — what is seen as a whole (form) and what is felt as energy (vector).

As an artist, I think through the materials. It is impossible for me to distinguish one medium as my favourite. Each medium is a tool providing a different path of thinking on an idea I am exploring at the moment. While going through Art University I was being asked to pick a medium or a domain and then to be defined by it. For me, this was one of my biggest struggles to break free from these traditional setting of definition — being either a painter, a media or a graphic artist. Today I would consider myself as a multidisciplinary artist, exploring the different manifestation of making an image and processing visual information.

For the next year I am working on a project that will investigate how we can use tracing technology to translate movement from real life or video materials into a 2D painting surface.

How exactly do you work with robotic technologies?

Following the completion of my graduate programme in summer 2015 I began to contemplate the general contemporary situation of painting and, more specifically, my own practice. And so for the first year of my postgraduate studies I dedicated myself to the exploration of the technological aspects of painting. I returned to the elementary questions of painting, seeking to reflect on the relationship between image and objectness of the medium within the context of our technological era.

The practice of digital image-making represents a new manner by which images can be created whose sources are not derived from painting or photography, but rather arise through the writing of computer code, and are therefore not based on existing images of things. Such an approach makes it possible to deal with the cultural and psychological implications of our environment through symbols. This particular manner of creating images can of course encapsulate a huge amount of information, emanating from the most diverse sources — for example, fractal models from nature, physical phenomena and mathematical laws — that can then be translated into the visual domain. However, despite the widespread prevalence of digital image-making today, hardly any research has been conducted into the practice of translating images created via a computer simulation into the physical world.

My engagement with the technical conditions of creating images — digital as much as traditional print- and paint-based— has greatly influenced my conceptual understanding of the painterly process in historical and contemporary practices, and has “left marks” on the evolution of my own artistic activities. Stimulated by the experience and by the exchange between informatics and the robotic world, I found myself to some degree compelled to challenge and reconceptualise the foundations of my painterly practice, starting with the bodily movement of the single brushstroke all the way to questions concerning control and loss of control in the creative process.

Since February 2016, Prof. Oliver Deussen and PhD candidate Thomas Lindemeier (founders of the e-David at the Visual Computing Group of the University of Konstanz) have been collaborating with me on the use of robotics as a painterly tool. The new methods for painting and computer generation of images that the e-David team and I have been developing form a human-computer base that assists me in the exploration and development of new creative and æsthetic approaches to and understanding of painting.

When I first witnessed the e-David at work during a preliminary visit in January-February 2016, I was fascinated by the paths the robot chose to distribute strokes on the sheet, once it began to structure a painting. They seemed to me, as a trained painter, to be illogical and strange, even arbitrary. At the same time, they stimulated a curiosity to understand the logic behind it, and made me conscious of the fact that the particularity of robotic painting is that it permits us to completely rethink in new terms the practice of painting — to paint in a way that no painter would ever consider doing, to engage with decisions about forming and deconstructing an image, and to instigate and explore new approaches to the structuring of the task order in the working process.

The focus of the collaboration has grown from more deterministic approaches of machine-based painting to dealing with contemporary questions regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine deep learning, and their use in the artistic domain.

Over the course of this collaboration, I started to investigate various methods for the transformation of information using the trajectories of organisms as a base to generate not only brushstrokes, but even the entire architectonic structure of a painting. Saving, translating and repeating information in the painting process are features that computer- and robotic-based painting offers. These are used in my work to redefine, challenge and examine the structures and systems used in the process of making a painting by translating and assimilating logic from different disciplines into artistic expression.


e-David Self-Portrait Robotic and Manual Painting on canvas, 60 x 80 cm

What artists do you admire?

I take interest in a large variety of artists with different aspects that I find to be of great values to my growing artistic interest. Over the past years, my work is based on artistic and theoretical research, and has been influenced by, among others, the writings of Rudolf Arnheim, Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky, Paul Klee and Edgar Wind. From a painterly perspective, I am very interested in the works of minimalist artists such as Lee Ufan, as well as Constructivism and Op Art from the 20 century and the American action painting of the 1950s and 1960s. I am also highly interested in the contemporary practices of the Berlin-based artists like Angela Bulloch and Jorinde Voigt.The work of the artists Tomás Saraceno and the computer scientist Karl Sims (“Evolved Virtual Creatures, Evolution Simulation”), for example, are both of highly relevant to me, as they manage to take structures from the natural sciences and (re-)assign them for artistic use. In Saraceno’s interactive installations one can experience how structures from nature are used for social commentary on our society, on the one hand, and, on the other, to be a structural and æsthetic base for large artworks.

Living in Berlin gave me the privilege to have a constant exposure to my contemporaries. In the summer of 2016 William Kentridge gave a series of performances and lectures additionally to his wonderful exhibition at the Martin Gropius museum. This was my first time experiencing Kentridge live, and had inspired my artistic process over the following years.

Can you tell us something about your series “Sabra”?


The “Sabra series” is one of my ongoing projects. A sabra grows at the side of my family house in Kfar Yehezkel, a village in northern Israel. This large prickly pear cactus was always part of the landscape I grew up in, a silent part of my everyday existence. Without ever having consciously reflected on its presence, its form has always been intimately familiar to me. A few years ago, while visiting Israel, I suddenly became aware of its complexity and began to draw it regularly, in order to explore and understand its form. Periods of absence offered a distance that allowed me to rediscover the cactus each time anew. With each visit, the working process became more intense, more intimate, and it became clearer and clearer that I was not just creating images of a cactus, but rather that I was creating images of this cactus. It seemed to me that the sabra in its form and corporeality resembles human forms. Like a person, the cactus strives to grow tall and to brace itself against gravity. As with a human form, the cactus is made up of various limbs branching off from the main trunk, and the way the limbs connect to the trunk strongly resembles human joints. The various angles of the limbs and trunk create the illusion of human gesture, of frozen movement. The human struggle to oppose gravity is embodied in excessive form in a cactus. Just as we build strength to oppose the downward pull of gravity, the lower branches and trunk of the sabra gradually build strength to support the younger branches, themselves struggling to climb ever higher. Nevertheless, the weight eventually proves to be too much for the mother plant to bear and branches split and fall to the ground. Each branch forms new roots where it landed and eventually develops into a new cactus.


Sabra (N. 4), 2016, 54x45cm

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