Voo Visits: Alexandru Gavriel Ganea

Voo Visits: Alexandru Gavriel Ganea

Voo Store: Would you like to tell us a little bit about your background in art?

Alexandru Gavriel Ganea: My mom is a painter and growing up I was surrounded by art, music and fashion; just a bit more of a loose and alternative lifestyle. But although I was surrounded by art, I wasn't really practicing it myself except for doodling and graffiti. Some of it you can actually still see in my hometown. I studied architecture at first - I thought it would be a beautiful thing to do, still artistic and also three dimensional. But during my studies I found myself way more attracted to landscape architecture and monuments, and I lost interest in my studies eventually. I had a fling with gastronomy for a while and could even envision a future in it, but when my then-girlfriend/now-wife and I came to Berlin for the first time, we were captivated by the creative energy here. We already had the desire to leave Israel and get a taste of something else, so we decided to move to Berlin.

V: How did you get into sculpting?

AG: After moving to Berlin I started an internship with a Berlin-based fashion brand, but I realised that as much as I loved fashion, it was not what I wanted to study. I did know I wanted to study something within the field of art and design. Because of my mom's influence on me and my love for the three-dimensional, I decided to try and enroll to sculpture studies.

V: And now you're making these wonderful sculptures of stone and wood. How did these materials find you?

AG: Each material has its own identity that is made out of natural appearance, history and connotation. Wood has fascinating grains your eyes and mind can wander off into, there's texture, there's warmth. Stone is cold, sometimes distant, yet very elegant and sleek. It has veins in different colours, it has a different art and political history. The differences are really interesting.
I was playing around with various other materials before I realised what materials I wanted to work with. Through cosmic intervention and the help of a befriended set designer, I found Usama Alnassar, a sculptor based in Tuscany, and he taught me how to carve marble. Meeting him was a pivotal point in my life, he taught me so much and I'm very grateful for it. I try to return as much as I can. His place kind of became a second home where I go to only create and escape city life.

V: What's the story of the three green stone sculptures in your studio?

AG: They are made out of Indian soapstone. One of them is the left butt cheek of my wife and is called "half-assed", because its only the half of an ass. Half of the stone I left untouched which is a playful reminder of an half-assed job, hence the name.
"Almost Eight" is a sculpture I created in direct carving. There was no planning or thought-out idea. I simply allowed the material to lead me into forming it to what I felt like was its calling. With the third one, "Carrespondence", I tried to create a correspondence between two objects in a very gentle way, so it‘s a word play on caress and correspondence.

V: Do you always let an idea guide you or it it also the material that speaks to you? What's your creative process like?

AG: I think overall my creative process is driven by what currently inspires me. I gather objects, quotes, visuals - anything that evokes something inside me. Then I analyse my subjet of interest, its lines, curves. I choose extracts from it and try to reinterpret them through the language of sculpting. But I also think that each work of mine has a slightly different process, some of them are far more abstract and driven by form and movement, some are more conceptual.
Actually, the three sculptures we just spoke about are somewhat representitive of my creative process. If I have a specific idea, I will look for a material that has the size, initial shape and qualities that will allow me to execute my idea. You know, that one stone that has my sculpture hiding inside, waiting to be carved out. But I also love being more intuitive and I naturally am a very intuitive person. I love walking around and looking at stones and other materials that have a natural shape, that almost seem to call me to play with. Then of course, it also comes down to supply and what's available around you.

V: What's inspiring or influencing you?

AG: I use all my senses for inspiration. I really try to translate everything that catches my interest into sculpting. I am currently working on a piece based on a sentence I read in "Just Above My Head" by James Baldwin: "Then we would simply lie in each others arms, in each others element, each others time and space for a long time: And I had never, in my life before, felt such a tremendous safety, or such power to protect."
For my graduation piece "Duality" I was thinking about how graduation naturally is such a big mark in one's life and it led me to think of the way I've come through in my life and what made me who I am today. I grew up in a family of Romanian immigrants that had just moved to Israel. My father passed away when I was only five leaving my mom, my older brother and me behind. My father was Jewish but my mom isn't, so when he passed, it basically made me loose my Jewish connection. We weren't familiar with the Jewish customs and the Israeli culture, we had to slowly acquire what we weren't born into. I don't feel that we ever really managed to acquire so much.
My experience growing up in Israel wasn't bad but it was definitely complex; I just felt very foreign and different, everything in my house was different from my friend's houses. It almost felt like two separate worlds. Top that off with feelings of shame for not being Jewish in a place that culturally intertwines your national identity with religion - it made me feel like it's something that needs to be hidden. And indeed, I did hide the fact I'm not Jewish until maybe the age of 22. My identity is embedded in that, and my identity is dual, strong and bold, but also fragile and alienated. And this is what inspired this piece.

V: I think this feeling of "not fitting in" is very relatable to many, in one way or another, and it's very powerful to share this experience and translate it into art.

AG: Yeah, growing up I felt very alienated. I felt like an alien and I still kinda do to this day. And it does have an impact on my work. I believe that if I had been more inspired by humanly matters, my work would be very different, maybe even more figurative. But as an alien I'd rather look away most of the time, and what helps me to feel good is looking at nature and being reminded of the beauty of life and this planet we are on. Sculpting is my meditation, my therapy. When I go to my studio I escape the world, my practice doesn't involve other people. It's me and the material.
In a way, me feeling like an alien is exactly what drove me towards my creative practice.

V: What advice would you give your younger self?

AG: That's a tough question because I really like where I'm at today and I believe that by doing one thing differently, I perhaps wouldn't have been where I'm at just now. But if there's something I would like to advise a younger version of mine, it would be to believe in myself and my intuition and simply live the life I want to live.

V: What's something you thought you'd never achieve but did and something you really want to achieve as an artist?

AG: When I was younger I never really thought about the future, so in some ways I'm surprised of where I am. I never thought I'd achieve living the life I live which I'm really proud of. Long term plans aren't really my thing, so I'm quite surprised by anything I achieve in some way, but I'm starting to have expectations and a clearer goal. As an artist I want to be able to keep on doing what I love and continue to take so much pleasure out of it, hopefully intriguing people's minds and touch their souls.