Photograph by Barry Sack 2015
Interview with Daniel Blom
Daniel Blom has produced a number of thought provoking new pieces for his latest solo exhibition at Commune.1 in Cape Town. They are intimate in their meaning and in the embryo of their manifestation of loss, transition and transcendence. Blom has the confidence to produce lifesized work and to give it the space to exist, to breath within the gallery with only 4 sculptural works and two additional wall based pieces taking up the entire space. In this exhibition Daniel displays a knowledge of the potentially darker side of human nature and turns it into something intellectual, thoughtful and considered, while remaining wholly personal. An ability to be applauded in any art form; the combination of displaying ones own potential intangible vulnerability and remaining technically focused on the tangible nature of the sculpted form.
Daniel has also taken the work to a new technical level by collaborating with his brother Stefan Blom on ‘The Grey Grey Horse’, an artist in his own right Stefan has helped Daniel realise the work in new ways that may have ignited some future joint projects between the two.The level and detail appointed to the horse is impressive with conceived, designed and hand built mechanisms, joints and manual control devices taking months to construct.
Interview by Daniel Lingham
Do you want to start by telling us about your current exhibition?
This current exhibition at Commune 1, ‘the body’s split’, has fewer works than the previous one at the same gallery in Cape Town. I had more time to complete the work. Also, my brother Stefan Blom – also a sculpto you’ve previously interviewed – assisted in producing all of the works, resulting in full partnership with an explicit collaboration in the piece titled ‘the grey, grey horse’, a mechanised sculpture. The exhibition was partially to do with the subsequent feeling of sadness after leaving my apartment in Amsterdam having lived there for several years. That memory of the departure lead to the three-dimensional sculptural form titled ‘sadness’. It comprises of three parts; a pencil drawing on paper mounted on white oak, a mild steel engraved plate mounted on white oak, and a route tablet representing the street map of the area I lived in. By emptying the exhibition space and having fewer pieces, I was in effect creating the idea of a monk’s cell. Those feelings of nostalgia, sadness and longing for a very specific time that had passed, were recreated, reminiscent of a period during which growth and intellectual stimulation can be foremost. In this private space the four sculptural works, ‘aus köplar’, ‘the perfect underling’, ‘the grey, grey horse’ and the Judaswiege’, and the two drawings ‘sadness’ and ‘Forma particular’ are like stilled machines that once, and also now, motivate, inspire and activate – as does the ‘the grey, grey horse’, as a vehicle designed to provide safe transport during any departure for another life.
So the ‘sadness’ is about being bereft?
It is, although sadness might be a strong expression.
‘Judaswiege’ in the exhibition stands out as being very different. Is that so?
Judaswiege is the German translation for the Judas Cradle, a medieval instrument of torture. I have conceptualised the notion of the Judaswiege, changing its original purpose to one of choice rather than forced submission, applicable to a different circumstance to concern pleasure and not pain. By using its division of the body by four triangular planes, it is a way to intellectualise the idea of the body under a different kind of stress. The strong pyramidical form of the device has always fascinated me, firstly the dark origin of object, and secondly as a pure, mathematically defined form. The ‘Judaswiege’ presents the ability to distinguish between left and right as the first steps towards reason and thought…a condition above simple instinctive behaviour. The forward panel of the ‘Judaswiege’ indicates the stimulus of the genital area, while the hind panel designates the spine reaching up towards the brain and ultimately the mind. The concept of the ’Judaswiege’ is engraved in one of its mild steel panels, which is also more fully explained in text on the wall behind.
The idea behind the origin of the ‘Judaswiege’ is rather brutal?
Absolutely, it is about subjugation and torture leading ultimately to death. Although still implying the body under stress. I wanted it to represent a different idea of strain through conscious choice: something that you might put yourself through to get physically and mentally to a heightened state of consciousness. The work is not supposed to be dark. I like to think it covers many facets of human nature.
Since our last interview have you solely been working towards this second Commune.1 exhibition?
No, not only that. I also work with a German gallery called Artco based in Aachen, which represents me in the US, UK and Europe. The gallery has shown my work in a number of art fairs recently, namely Art Vilnius 2015 in Lithuania, Saatchi Start Art Fair in the Saatchi Gallery, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Somerset House, London. While completing ‘the body’s split’, I have also been working on a new sculptural installation to be represented by Artco for the Cape Town Art Fair, opening middle February 2016.
Are you looking for commercial success or increased exposure?
I am looking for both but increased exposure at this point in my career is more important.
How long has it taken for you to produce the work for your latest exhibition?
All my work is somewhat intermittent by the fact that I live between Turkey, London and Cape Town. I’ve spent about 7 months working on the sculptures, while the conceptual texts were finished earlier. ‘The grey, grey horse’ took four months. It consists of a found, and substantially repaired and rebuilt horse skull, and a forged mild steel spine, including also the three hand grips, cable grips, etc.
With your figurative work you are using high-density polyethylene. What’s the duration for that sort of work?
I usually know exactly what I want to do, but during any creative process, there is always a possibility of change, and a different direction can sometimes be taken, which is very stimulating but can be time consuming. On average I would say about 2 months for each sculptural installation. The process involves both building and the removal of excess material. It’s a very hands on process. I have to take care not to re-melt and destroy already formed sections.
Do you build a framework first?
There’s no framework. I very often start from the feet upwards. They are symbolic of enabling the body – I find their perfectly engineered form an ability, and as symbolically equipped to convey emotion as the hands.
Why do you travel so much?
In Cape Town, being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I live on the Atlantic ocean surrounded by mountains and sheer beauty. In London I live on the Thames, which inspires me because I absolutely love Europe. London represents opportunities unique and different from anywhere else. In addition to Cape Town and London I also spend around two months on the Mediterranean in Kaş, Turkey, where I mostly write.
Are you financially independent?
I am and it means I am not dependent on sales so can produce the work with certain freedom.
“I usually know exactly what I want to do, but during any creative process, there is always a possibility of change, and a different direction can sometimes be taken, which is very stimulating…”
Have you worked with Stefan before?
Yes, we have assisted each other in the past. In September 2015, when arriving in Cape Town to start working on the current exhibition, I had a meeting with Stefan in his Cape Town city studio. The place was unusually empty after having he had removed everything specifically on my behalf, placing himself at my disposal for as long as I needed him. ‘The grey, grey horse’ is one result from this generous gesture and became a definite collaborative piece of work between us.
How does that work in terms of the exhibition.
Although conceptually part of ‘the body’s split’ exhibition, Stefan was able to bring to his own personal experiences, and ideas to it as well as his passion. Adding his name as collaborator next to mine was mere formality.
Did you work physically in the same space at the same time?
We mostly worked together in Stefan’s studio. It was interesting working so closely together on the same project. Being both headstrong, brothers and fellow sculptors, in the past we had always worked independently from one another. This was a liberating and fascinating process, one made easy by mutual respect and a growing maturity.
Was the intention to do this from the outset?
No, not from the outset. I took the originally concept to Stefan with the intention to discuss the project and ask for his assistance and expertise. During the discussions, partly because the concept of ‘the grey, grey horse’ was fairly open to interpretation it was easy for Stefan to believe in and make it his own. It was a very open idea and he just ran with it. We then decided to brand it our first fully collaborative work.
Will this lead on to further collaborative work?
Yes definitely. We already have ideas to carry on with this collaboration, in addition to our own individual careers.