Bela Silva: The Ceramic Touch
Ceramic artist Bela Silva’s first solo show at Spazio Nobile (BE) is the perfect occasion to (re)discover her poetic works and universe.
Portuguese-born artist Bela Silva has made a name for herself not only with her vivid, poetic drawings but also for breathing new life into an ancient technique with her dreamy, organic ceramic sculptures. Based in Brussels, Silva recently set up a vast studio in Zaventem Ateliers, a former industrial complex turned creative hub. A big workshop is required for Silva’s layered practice, as she says, “the sculptures can weigh up to 50 kg and sometimes I need seven men to move one”.
TLmag: Why ceramics? What fascinates you about this medium?
Bela Silva (BS): I’m not sure I would call it a choice. I’m a creative person – I also do illustrations and I work in metal and wax, but when I touched clay for the first time in my early 20s, I was hooked. And even though it’s very physical and is giving me back problems, I keep working with it. There are so many possibilities and so many different kinds of clay.
TLmag: Is it a difficult technique to learn? What are the challenges?
BS: Working in clay is a long, creative process, and often this is not understood. People may ask me to ship something in a week, but it’s not like baking a cake. Clay needs to dry, it can crack and you have to start over, or the colour doesn’t turn out the way you expected. The drying period alone can take three to four weeks. One of the trickiest parts is the glazing – which can take a lot of time to learn and it is very technical.
TLmag: Do you see yourself as more of an artist or an artisan?
BS: I don’t think about this. I just want to create. Society likes to put a label on everything and it drives me insane. I just do my work and I’m glad I have galleries selling my pieces so I don’t have to deal with all that aspect of the business myself.
TLmag: Ceramics and ancient craft techniques seem to be in fashion nowadays. Why do you think that is?
BS: A few years ago it was photography, now it’s ceramics – this is how it goes. But I think there is a legitimate reason for it: people feel the need to touch things again. In this digital world increasingly ruled by computers, where we are getting more and more disconnected from our emotions, there is a surge for reconnecting with nature, going back to the basics. People need that; it makes them feel good.
TLmag: You have a solo show coming up at Spazio Nobile. Can you tell us about it?
BS: The exhibition will open in March 2020 and I will present a series of new work inspired by my recent travels to Mexico. I felt so good there; I think I might be Mexican at heart! It was warm, music everywhere, and people are very social and talkative. I discovered the rich Latino culture and its history and museums, where craftsmanship and ceramics are very present. The art scene is vibrant, and it increasingly attracts artists from abroad as rents in New York or London become unaffordable. The trip made me work with new colours, such as pink for example, a colour I had never used before. I will not only show ceramic works but also several drawings, which can be seen as a kind of travel journal.
Spazio Nobile will present Bela Silva’s work at PAD Paris, October 19 -25, 2020