BERTA BLANCA T. IVANOW

WE LOVE WOMEN 


PHOTOS BY CLAIRE O'KEEFE

Berta Blanca T. Ivanow is an artist living and working in sculpture, film and painting from her studio in the small seaside town of Teià near Barcelona.

“I live between the sea and the hills. I am surrounded by flower nurseries as the climate is almost tropical. I’ve found great peace here. I came here after living in big cities like London or New York, where I studied and worked for other artists. I like the intenseness of the big city, but in small doses. We are often over stimulated and I feel that in nature my thoughts flow and manifest themselves more organically. Here I have the mental space to create from within.”

“I gather all the materials I use in my practice from nature. For example, ash, which is the inorganic part of a tree that is left unconsumed. These particles hold all the minerals absorbed by the plant and contain all those elements that smelt to create a glaze. As does the clay that I extract from the earth and mould pieces with, without the need or industrial processing. I grind dry lava from the volcano to paint my pieces and later fire them in my kiln.”

“My astrological element is Earth, so for me clay is rooted, is pliability, purity, connection.”

“I feel my sculptures are a continuation of our corporeality, they are self-penetrating forms, protrusions, bulges like a maternal belly gestating life, amorphous volumes that remind me of soft flesh. I feel very connected to dance and movement of the human body, I recently present my latest film HOC EST CORPUS MEUM, a piece of video-art presenting an amorphous mass of bodies all beating in unison, fused and intertwined with 10 sculptural pieces. These sculptures were placed covering the dancers’faces, as if their bodies continued and expanded. The idea was to erase the face to focus on the rest of the body. The face connects you to human nature and by eliminating that part, these other almost animalistic bodies emerged, connecting us to something more atavistic, instinctive, a heartbeat from the deep, an ancestral voice, a connection to the esoteric.”


“Body experience is the centre of creation” - Barbara Hepworth


“Pregnancy was a huge physical and emotional transformation. I had never felt my own body with such intensity, in every way, I felt pleasure and pain amplified. Once I had given birth, my body was then at the service of my baby Atlas, to feed him. I felt unconditional love. Once I stopped breastfeeding, I began to recover my unity, and my body and being were no longer the same as when I had started out on this adventure. Sometimes it’s hard, seeing how time changes my skin, my breasts, but it teaches me to accept and love myself for who I am on the inside.” 

“In daily tasks with my son I rediscover the awe in everyday things like peeling a potato, making tea, looking at the sky, collecting dry leaves... In my work, the sense of touch precedes sight. I mould my work with my hands. And my imprint is embedded on the clay. Just as I hold the memory of the song my mother would whisper me to sleep with on long nights, the smell of the fields after a storm, or the caresses of my son’s skin on my fingertips.”

In Ivanow’s latest opening we walked through different areas where performers interacted with her clay sculptures and other materials such as food, candles and soap sculptures. A girl in a bathtub invited members of the public to wet and feel these waxy shapes that looked like giant ears. It was only when you approached, touched and smelled them that you realised they were made of soap and would wear away over time. An extremely sensual aesthetic experience.

“The idea of soap came to me as I climbed the eroded marble staircase of one of the Sagrada Familia’s towers. I was fascinated by how such a robust material had been deformed by the steps of an infinite number of people.” 

Now far from the madding crowds she watches the winter sea from her home and breathes its tranquillity, vastness and permanence “It’s hypnotic, it remains intact after a storm - it’s a meditation in itself.”


“Beauty is light, it illuminates and astonishes. I find it in women whose life is reflected in their face and whose gaze oozes hope. In that little girl who dresses up to try and find herself, that grandmother that cooks for you and feeds you with love. I don’t feel beauty is something physical that can only be captured by sight. It’s something that runs deep and emerges in a harmonious, pure, simple direct way that elevates our being.”

WORDS BY VICTORIA MACARTE