October 2012: In Conversation with Diana Al-Hadid
Diana’s Al-Hadid’s large scale sculptures draw from various sources including art history, mythology, science, and architecture. In her most recent work, Northern Renaissance and Mannerist Paintings serve as the site of departure and the figure is introduced more directly. Bodies seem to meld with architecture becoming one with the landscape. Memories of crumbling ruins and civilizations lost come to mind: the tower of Babel, a cathedral turned upside down, ghosts from vanished cities. Diana Al-Hadid’s sculptures seem to hover between a state of dematerialization and creation forming a presence that evokes memories of the past, but seem very much of the present. Her first solo show with Marianne Boesky, The Vanishing Point, opened September 13th, 2012.
Katherine Mangiardi: What is your starting point when creating a new piece? For your upcoming show did you plan out the entire body of work beforehand or was the process more organic, one piece growing from the next?
Diana Al-Hadid: The starting points for each piece are different every time, but usually I learn something from the previous work that I want to explore further--whether material or conceptual. For the upcoming show, I am including three in-the-round sculptures of different sizes, one large wall work (which is imbedded into the gallery wall), and two (maybe three) drawings. I plan out the general things and get more specific as the works develop, one absorbing the lessons learned from the other that is developing alongside the next. They sort of finish each others' sentences.
Mangiardi: What period of history do you feel most connected to or fascinated by?
Al-Hadid: Art history of just about all periods is fascinating to me, but right now I have been looking at a lot of Northern Renaissance art and the Mannerists. I also love the Dadaists.
Mangiardi: If you could transport yourself back in time and visit any place where would you go and why?
Al-Hadid: I would probably want to meet my ancestors. Ancient Egypt would be amazing to see, but honestly, I have never really thought about it. I think it's easy to romanticize what the past was like, and I wouldn’t want to get stuck somewhere and not have a good way to get back home in case the time machine broke. I like living in this time period, even if I am always looking into the past.
Mangiardi: It is interesting to me that your sculptures are composed of fragments being added to space. The process is additive but a large part of the subject seems to be a reflection on what isn’t there. How do you think about creating absence with presence? What is your process?
Al-Hadid: That's right, the work is built up of many small components and everything is handmade, I have used relatively few found objects in my recent work. My process is both cut and paste, I add a lot and then I take back a lot. My recent small sculpture, Antonym, is a good example of that--it looks like it was a whole sculpture that might have cracked and broken, but in fact, it is the opposite, pieced together and built up one layer at a time.
Mangiardi: For the site-specific installation, Suspended After Image, in VAC’s Vaulted Gallery in early 2012, a figure from the Gothic painting of the Visitation served as a starting point for the piece. Is the role of the figure a newer element in your work? What dialogue does it take on with the other elements in the sculpture? Are you planning to do more work drawn from painting and/or the figure?
Al-Hadid: I have been incorporating the figure in my work more directly since 2009. Before then, it was, in some ways, implied. Since my first bronze In Mortal Repose, I have been working with the figure more directly. For Suspended After Image, the cloak is in fact what is taken from the painting you reference. In my upcoming show, all the works but one incorporate figuration in some way. Antonym, is a sort of invisible figure on a pedestal. I am also making smaller bronze works which will be the first time I work with busts (none of my figures have heads so far).
Mangiardi: What is on the horizon for you after your opening at Marianne Boesky September 13th?
Al-Hadid: In the spring I have a two person exhibition with the work of Medardo Rosso in Venice during the 2013 Venice Biennale and an upcoming solo exhibition at The Weatherspoon Art Museum that opens February 8th.
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