opposition to balance, conflict to harmony.
To add, subtract, divide or multiply.
To construct or deconstruct.
To realize and to resolve.
To hold, suspend and elevate.
To question and to defy.
To imagine, feel and express.
To demand Change.
Art challenges conceptions -
creating choice and alternatives.
Art extends Time.”
Who are you, Paul Taylor?
I was born and raised in London, England, and since the age of 7 attended a series of mediocre and repressive boarding schools around the London area. After school I became involved in a variety of experiences and experiments in my attempts to understand life and examine alternatives. I worked in the music industry, which was great- I love music, it’s like sculpture, existing as layers and textures, but I was always more visually immersed, and I don’t play an instrument, and although my efforts did support the projects of others I knew in my heart that my juices were in another place. In 1979, and somewhat to my relief, Decca, the company that employed me went redundant, and I decided to seek out an art school in London that would meet my needs. I found the City & Guilds of London Art School, a traditional art/craft school, to be neither dogmatic nor politicized - mainly because of its very concrete approach. The school was founded principally to teach skills and technique, they were not particularly interested in statement, but to pass on the tools and skills required to create art. I completed my studies in 1984. These were the days of the Thatcher regime and everything was ugly: miners' strikes, nuclear threats, the Brixton riots and the filth in the streets. I rode the Underground, listened to the Clash; it was great to be living the life of an artist, swimming against the current. London did not interest me though, too noisy, greasy and aggressive- so I decided within the year to move to Scotland, I set up a studio in the Borders between Glasgow and Edinburgh, in a studio whose foundations had been laid in the 11th century. At long last, I could begin to do what I had always wanted – my art.
How is it that you arrived in Israel after a journey that had led you to where you always wanted to be?
During 1988 I undertook a journey of sorts: a pilgrimage to Israel, accompanied by my mother and almost my brother, something not unheard of among Diaspora Jews. And although a Jew, I had no idea what that defining characteristic meant. I was hesitant, for various reasons, and my trite response had always been that “if I went to Israel I was likely to return a Rabbi,” as it turned out, I returned with a Rabbi's daughter, my future wife, Muriel. She was the trusted one and it was obvious that we would live in Israel, we raised a family together, it was a great Love Story, Muriel died of cancer in 2010 following a long and difficult battle.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a creative artist- in the purist way, passionate, conflicted, restless, dissatisfied, demanding, believing and compassionate; also I have a highly developed sense of humour.
Could you explain a little about your professional values?
I like well-made art, considered and well-conceived, well executed, the history of art and a lot of self-discovery. I don’t like labels, when I reflect on a work of art, it depends on me: the value I find. I like dialogue, so that as an observer I always gain knowledge about myself through my journey through a work, a journey into an alternative -where I represent the point of sensibility; if Rodin or Picasso relates to a figure their way, it permits me to relate in my way. I am interested in Permission at the moment. I feel practically self-developed.
What do you mean by “practically”?
In the sense that I cannot ignore the foundations that were laid over hundreds of years and that accord each individual the possibility of transforming his or her being, influenced through reflection and knowledge into becoming a creative artist. Also the engineering side of sculpture is a great game for me, as much as I want to distort the pragmatic, there is always consideration.
Could you say what sculpture is, according to you?
The term “sculpture” can relate to almost anything; it is a totally open concept (especially in our day). I think it is the name of an activity that can be implemented with consciousness through any form and material into anything that we may or might conjure up.
What materials do you use?
At present I use clay, plaster, steel, stainless, bronze and, of course, stone, I’ve made sculpture with water, glass, sound, shadow, air, performance- sculpture is an activity.
How do you, as a British artist, feel within Israel as a culture?
One thing that I can say is that there is a chaos in my mind, and that sculpture makes order of this chaos. When I was a student I asked one of my teachers how I might recognize that an idea is ready to become a sculpture. His reply, delivered in a heavy North England accent, was, “It must be pregnant with sculptural beauty”. At the time, this sounded pretentious and patronizing, and I rejected his reply. After a few years I understood the reply and could agree with it; ideas flow endlessly through my mind- I turn them inside and out, outside in, upside down, on its head, over and over until it matures into a sculptural act. These processes make me the creative artist that I am- within whatever space I occupy.
Since my arrival to Israel I have become more aware of the Holocaust; it seems to me that as an event it is very active and behind many understandings in this country. In England, the concept of Sho’ah is hidden within numerous other layers, while here it occupies a significant dimension.
My coming to Israel did not much benefit my career, but that since my arrival here I have been very involved in teaching, and my ability to successfully convey my knowledge of sculpture to my students supports me. I can say that I feel that the language of sculpture is international. And I can say that being an artist and British in Israel has taught me about myself, my art, as well as about life in the broadest possible terms, sometimes too much so.
Also importantly for me to understand what it is to be a “Jewish Artist”, to discover a somehow alternative aesthetic, not based on the Greek archetype but on the “agreement to differ”, and where “wisdom of heart” is a central concept to art.
What about your studio here in Jerusalem?
I opened “create – A – space” in 1999, primarily for myself, and in order to teach sculpture as I think it “should be done”, that is, in an independent and creative setting- different and exceptional. I wanted to create a space optimally equipped for myself and that would provide a place to work. A pragmatic but imaginative space, a school by necessity.
More than 200 people have studied sculpture in the studio and created some truly good work, imaginative, challenging and important work; it’s a privilege to facilitate that. The students evolve and interact with diversity, individuality, integrity and all in the world of sculpture and drawing; they work in clay, plaster, metal, stone and more. The studio is truly thrilling, creative and exciting, definitely not mediocre, not the usual kind of place.
Could you explain the enjoyment and the creative process involved in your art?
I can describe that the series I am currently working on “The Fatman”, in effect, a series that has been going on for 34 years and probably even earlier, and clearly a reaction to my biography, and I am thoroughly immersed in this process. The pursuit of the idea yielded hundreds of sketches and drawings, as well as long hours in thought before the sculptures started actually to take shape, and to my mind it will take an additional “x” amount of years to reach completion. It might not entirely succeed – the amount of sculptural materials and the casting, the mass that could disintegrate any day, at any moment – a fact that leaves me fascinated. It connects me to many different contexts: my wife’s death, war peering at us from all sides, greed, economic downturns, ecological abuse, my own story, stupidity, pathos, humour, irony; the Fatman is a great vehicle for me and technically very challenging. The very existence of a sculpture is fascinating, a moment that lies between non-existence and existence.
When is a sculpture ready and complete?
It’s ready when it creates its own sound. It is complete when it is sold, like a wheel; it needs to go 361 degrees in order to move forward, to create movement.
Is there an artist with whose work you identify and who provides you with inspiration?
All of them! Rodin, Giacometti (the present Fat Man series of which we spoke is “like Giacometti in reverse!”), Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Keifer, Guston, even Damien Hirst, all of them, really. I simply love good art and love seeing good art; I even love the huge amounts of art we see today on Facebook. In fact, as I see it, it is wonderful that art exists because it means that somebody has created it, someone is creating an individual and valid reality. In the Israeli context I like Kadishman’s work, during my first visit to Israel I was in an exhibition of his and it really opened my eyes; Kuperman, Sigalit Landau, Larry Abramson, I like it all – art is so inventive and challenging, I even like video art although, I prefer my art without electricity.