SARAÏ DELFENDAHL, Chimaerae mirabiles
For Saraï Delfendahl there is no difference between animal, human, plant and matter. Living in harmony with nature and art, she creates, shapes, and paints with her agile hands wondrous mythical creatures between animals and humans made of ceramic. Intoxicated by this creative energy, she could work on her creations day and night and likes to compare herself to a “cement mixer” who continuously mixes influences, memories, obsessions and ideas.
Your imaginary creatures seem to come out of dreams, nightmares… What are you dreaming of right now?
For me, there is no difference between dreaming, daydreaming and everyday life. There is also no fundamental difference between animal, human, plant, material and symbolic. My creatures seem quite “normal” to me.
So where does this very deep connection in you between humans, animals and plants come from?
What I’ve experienced as a child with my parents, undoubtedly has a big impact on my work. Indeed, my father was an ethnologist and he often took us to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris where I was impressed by the art of different civilizations. In these cultures the links are very close between humans, animals, plants, and finally the universe …
Talking about art from other civilizations, your work is often compared with art brut.
Art brut is a term that seems to me to be able to define my work.
I am also fascinated by the works of these self-taught women and men, but it seems more correct to speak of singular art…
My way of working is indeed quite “singular” and I do not subscribe to any artistic movement.
By observing you working, you can literally feel this strong need for manual work.
My mother, who was an artist, took me to a lot of exhibitions. I only went to school from fifth grade on. My mother used the Montessori Method to teach me to read and write, and every day I drew and made up stories. I was also initiated by her into the richness of nature and all kinds of manual activities. She read us stories from all over the world. I still remember and reread the Catalan tales collected by Joan Amades, in particular the one entitled The Daughter of the Sun and the Moon.
My parents were intellectual but also very manual: at home everyone worked all kinds of materials, we wove, we did mechanics, electricity, carpentry, masonry, weaving, pottery, vegetable dyes, gardening …
This manual work, the gesture, the material, are essential elements for an artist. Brancusi said “It is by carving stone that you discover the spirit of matter, your own measure. The hand thinks and unites thought with matter. … ”
How do you feel when you start creating, facing matter, facing the unknown?
When I am facing matter, I do not feel that I am facing the unknown. I am with matter, I feel in harmony with it, I experience great strength and great joy in this metamorphosis of matter.
I rarely have a preconceived idea of what I’m going to do and if I have one, I happen to do something quite different … I am actually often surprised by what I have just done. Creation is a jubilation, I feel a lot of energy in me when I am in my studio and I find it difficult to stop: I could work day and night.
Francis Bacon used to compare himself to a “concrete mixer” that mixes all kinds of influences, memories, etc. This term suits me.
There is also this very maternal, very protective gesture that you can often see in your work. Is being a mother a source of inspiration for you?
I am the mother of three children and it has taken a big place in my life: I loved carrying them in my arms, taking care of them and I have always really liked the representations of mothers and children, especially in the paintings of the old Italian masters. I like the idea of hugging, protecting. I want to protect a lot of people in the world: children but also animals, plants, etc.
When my kids were little, I didn’t have much time to work in a studio. Thanks to them, I therefore created the “Notebooks of my fantastic daily life” in which they appear a lot: they are collections of paintings and writing. These notebooks have been filling my need for creation for a few years.
And when you’re not in your studio, with your hands full of clay?
When I’m not in my studio, I have a lot of other passions, one is cooking. I love food and I cook since I was very small. When preparing dishes, I feel a bit like in my studio facing a sculpture.
Photos : Iza-Menni Laaberki
Text: Anahita Vessier
Saraï Delfendahl Instagram
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