Interviewed by Ava Jancar and Eric Jones of Jancar Jones Gallery, Los Angeles
Your work is very subtle and often takes on an ephemerality, but it is also very tied to the material, both formally and in relation to your process. Can you talk about this?
I am super invested in the materiality of the signifier–the breath of the spoken word or the inked shape of the letterform. Material is plastic and resistant, and those qualities really interest me. Like, how something is always displaced in translation.
The temporal dimension is not really separate from our experience of the spatial, so it’s natural to me as a sculptor to accept how materials can shift over time.
We’ve noticed, in visiting your studios over the years, that you collect a lot of source materials and found images. Can you tell us about how you began accumulating these items and how they feed into your process?
It’s important for me to be engaged in historical discourse. This is part of why I began collecting images from art books. I studied graphic design before going back to art school, so I am informed by design history too. In a lot of ways, my practice is about looking.
I also collect objects that might make their way into a sculpture. The “Scale” sculptures are based on simple rules; each object must relate to the next one by color, shape, material or size. I’m drawn towards interesting surfaces, everyday materials, tools for measurement, hollow objects…
In thinking about looking, most of your found source materials/images appear to be black and white copies. It seems like this could be equalizing or uniting in some way. Does this help to minimize to the point of a different translation?
Photocopying from books allows me to collect from libraries and also to move across categories. Selecting and sorting my copies helps me to articulate a visual lexicon. What are the connections between images of a melon, clock, figure, knot?
You mentioned that you engage design in your process. You also have a propensity towards craft… and anomalous scientific phenomena. Can you describe how you employ these disciplines?
Yes! There is an aspect of my practice that’s very cognitive, like when I generate the rules for my pieces. But I am super invested in hand making. Craft is rooted in the relationship between the body and materials. When I marble letterforms, or throw on the wheel, I’m working with clear intention, but the materials themselves continue to shape the result.
What makes me so excited about pop science is being at the edge of language and logic, where things stop making sense. I love models and tools for understanding invisible things: magnetism, the fourth dimension, the passage of time and the shape of the cosmos. They always bring me back to being in my body, and using language, which is humbling and exciting at the same time.
Are there other experiences or practices that motivate your work? And how do you translate these into the material?
In grammar school, my father and I made a barometer, looked through telescopes and built a fractal-generating pendulum system in my bedroom. His sensibility definitely shapes the decisions I make. As does my mother’s taste in the high renaissance and mannerism.
More directly, I’m interested in amateur astronomy and psychoanalysis. I keep a journal of my dreams, and make some works based on art that I dream about. I believe that the logic of the unconscious provides another way to explore the limits of language.
I recently flew over the North Pole and realized that there is no local time there, which is incredible to think about. I’m pretty motivated by that right now!
Claire is working on a book of a selection of her collected found materials. We spoke to her in Los Angeles, where she lives and works.
This piece is selected from SFAQ ISSUE #14.
For more information on Claire Nereim visit Jancar Jones Gallery, Los Angeles.