If you joined us earlier this year for our annual unravel… a festival of yarn you will have been welcomed by a fantastical landscape of felted woollen tentacles, brain-like orbs and a cloud-like canopy of fluffy wool – all from the mind of artist Uriya Jurik. We caught up with Uriya to talk to her about her work:
What are you working on at the moment and where do you find ideas for your work?
I work across multiple platforms including painting, photography, performance, sculpture and installation, although currently focused on the latter.
Over the past few years a number of art shows and institutions have diverted from overabundance of the technologies, which along with serving, consume our lives. Curators are stressing the importance of spiritual values and self-care which brings into focus the wisdom of indigenous people, including shamanic traditions. For example, curator of the 57th Venice Biennale Christine Macel proposing the Pavilion of Shamans articulates that we live in a time where “the need for care and spirituality is greater than ever”.
Terence McKenna, an American writer, philosopher and ethnobotanist, views “the shaman as a prototypic figure for artists and scientists”. They are engaged in the most ancient of human practices and are driven by an authentic internal source in order to move human consciousness forward. According to the earliest cave paintings and archaeological findings of anthropomorphic rock, clay or bone statuettes, since the Upper Palaeolithic era shamans have been utilizing artistic techniques in their rituals.
Intertwining the latest shifts of worldview in science with ancient wisdom, particularly the concepts of quantum theory and shamanism, the concepts of which are so hard to comprehend, inspires to create immersive, palpable installations. These metaphysical sculptural spaces are an invitation to slowing down and focusing on fundamental act of perceiving the world. My work is essentially about transformation of consciousness.
What medium do you use in your practice and why?
Appropriation of archaic media like wool and bones regenerates DNA encoded memories of my ancestors in Kazakhstan, for whom these materials made nomadic lifestyle possible. Drawing on wool’s unique materiality, the history of which goes back to the dawn of man’s earliest technology, the work asks searing questions to awaken and expand individual and collective consciousness within the context of globalisation and rapidly developing technologies.
My engagement with wool is highly experimental. In some sculptures this ancient organic element, is like an epidermis alluding to unveil potentially toxic man-made substance beneath – polyurethane foam. Despite the opposing nature of these media, they are utilised for the same purpose – insulation. Sometimes I fluff it up to create ‘clouds’. Embracing the inherent tendencies and properties of wool fibre, some of my installations expose the medium’s infinite transformations: from primal to industrial and even digital.
Inspired by wool’s alchemic constitution, the work communicates the holistic conception of the Universe which evolves through us – the tiny wool fibres in the infinite interconnected tapestry of the world.
What motivates you to make work, who do you believe has influenced your career and inspired you to start?
The engagement with the ancient tradition of felt and textile can be seen in many postmodernist and contemporary artists’ practices: Sheila Hicks, Chiharu Shiota, Anish Kapoor, to name a few.
Robert Morris, American sculptor and performance artist, in the late 1960s, began introducing indeterminacy and temporality into the artistic process, referred to as Process art or Anti-Form. By cutting, dropping, or stacking felt rags, Morris emphasized the ephemeral nature of the artwork, which would ultimately change every time it was installed in a new space.
All my felt work is built upon the profound concepts of rhizome, becoming, deterritorialization/reterritorialization by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
The work of J. Beuys, L.Bourgeois and A. Kiefer have had a crucial impact on my work. Joseph Beuys takes on a visionary recourse to shamanism in hope for future transformation. Louis Bourgeois uses authentic primitive sculptural language “to grasp the meaning of the world”. Anselm Kiefer’s ambitious and obscure work, especially his last exhibition Superstrings, Runes, Norns, Gordian Knot, has a grounding power of articulating enigmatic subjects to the audience.
If you could name one, what is your favourite piece of work you have created, and why?
One of the most exciting perspectives to the world order – Biocentrism suggests that “life creates the universe rather the other way around”, “what we call space and time are forms of animal sense perception” (R. Lanza,). These ideas cannot be easily comprehended by the human mind. Is it possible to expand our mind to experience the entanglement of the matter, meaning and energy of the universe?
As a response to these challenging questions I created the installation Expanding Consciousness. It consists of interconnected bodily objects and rhizomatic tentacles/sensory nerves with an unsettling psychic and corporeal resonance.
It took me a very long time to make. I highly appreciate help and support of my friends and family in creating this work.
If you can name one, what is your proudest achievement?
2019 was a challenging but overall successful year for me. I have graduated MA Fine Art with Distinction from the University from the Creative Arts in Farnham. I have become a member of Free Painters and Sculptors London and ArtCan. However, it’s been an honour to receive the 1st Prize award for Expanding Consciousness installation during London Ultra at the Bargehouse OXO Tower in October. More than a hundred artists exhibited brilliant work in a variety of media.
Previously overlooked, textile art has finally been recognized as a vital part of artistic canon. Prominent shows like Frieze London and London Art Fair have had an entire curated section dedicated to this medium in a past year.
For me personally, this award means that people appreciate and feel the energy I put in my work. I am glad the installation inspired many people to awaken from the illusion of separation and starting to realize the unity with all that exists.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
A needle felting tool, of course.
Where is your favourite place to see art?
Besides creating art, my favourite activity is to attend art exhibitions and museums. I try to view as much as I can wherever I go. I am a member of Tate, however, I really like to discover charming local venues that can surprise as much with creativity and the indispensable essence of a place.
Thank you very much for inviting me to be a part of this fantastic festival.
And thank you Uriya, for sharing your artwork and perspective with us!