INTERVIEW: BER LAZARUS | ITSLIQUID

INTERVIEW: BER LAZARUS

Interviews | July 1, 2022 |

Berlazarus Interview 004
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

Luca Curci talks with Ber Lazarus during the 10th Edition of CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2022, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.

Born in Canada, Ber Lazarus is best known for his use of found material in creating unique contemporary sculptural work evocative of our post-industrial age. He studied Sculpture and Contemporary Aesthetics at Concordia University Fine Arts (Montreal) graduating with distinction in 1991. His work has been shown in many group and solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe. His practice explores the inter-relationship of objects in space, the nature of perception and the effects of scale on composition. He uses a variety of forms, materials and scales to bring a unique sensibility to his practice, which gives new meaning to found or discarded objects in the understanding that art is itself a regenerative process. His signature series of bookwork installations, Ex Libris: An Intimate Immensity, has won several awards and is found in numerous private collections. He is now living and working in Ramat Gan, Israel.

Berlazarus Interview 010
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

Luca Curci – Which subject are you working on?
Ber Lazarus –
At the moment I am working on a series of what I call “object paintings”. I’m using the traditional picture frame and found objects to create works that go beyond the frame and plane of the picture. I’m looking at the idea of “frames” as a metaphor for how we look at our world. In other words what frames our view, how solid or porous are the frames? Do we allow our vision to go beyond our frame of view or do we keep to it?

Berlazarus Interview 001
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
BL –
My current practice of assemblage, using found material, objects and images, began in art school even before I was exposed to Marcel Duchamps’ Readymades or Joseph Cornell’s box constructions. It just seemed very natural to use the material I found around me to express my visual ideas. I remember being very intrigued by how much “stuff” people kept around them. I realized just how central objects are to our lives. We attach great importance to many of them and others we discard. I work with the discards.

Berlazarus Interview 002
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
BL –
Ironically the most challenging part is a result of the very material I use. Each found object has its own colour, texture, form and size. Yet, many, if not most of the objects I use
also resonate with meaning derived from their previous use in our post-industrial society or from the natural world. It is the process of assembling the various objects and in some cases images in relation to each other so that the whole becomes an aesthetically coherent work that proves to be the biggest challenge, and the greatest of pleasure.

Berlazarus Interview 003
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
BL –
When I have finally come to that moment when I say, “OK. Enough! It’s done!”, I feel a great sense of relief and at the same time a kind of emptiness, which must be filled by the next work. At the same time I feel that my work is only really complete when someone, other than myself, views and interacts with it. So it’s a wonderful feeling of satisfaction each time the work is completed by yet another viewer.

LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
BL –
No, looking back, I can say that I have been pretty consistent in my style even as I moved between free-standing work and work for the wall, between larger sized work and the smaller scale installations in the “Ex Libris” and my current “Frames” series.

Berlazarus Interview 005
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

LC – Can you explain something about the artwork you have in our exhibition?
BL –
Ex Libris: La Divina Commedia, the artwork in ItsLiquid’s Contemporary Venice exhibition, is one of my series of bookwork installations, Ex Libris: An Intimate Immensity. The work operates on many levels but essentially I’m exploring imagination and perception. Using found objects and images I have created a series of small installations inside books. I use books because they are readily available and because, like the objects I use, they resonate with additional meaning from their history and original content. The scenes I create within the books are dreams and daydreams, products of pure imagination. Once we give ourselves over to our imagination we enter a world that is immense, limitless yet so very intimate at the same time. So it is with this work. The books are intimate. A small, imaginary world resides within. But the lens through which this dream world is viewed expands the perception of the space within by making it seem larger than it is.

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Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

The viewer perceives something they had not imagined, an Intimate Immensity. The work is presented to show how books, in our day, have declined in importance as a means of cultural communication in favor of more visually based media. The original text of a book is removed and secured to one side under Plexiglas, as one might display an ancient artifact. It can no longer be read. The original book has become a sealed container. It can no longer be opened. A visual vocabulary has replaced the text. Text I keep in the book has been reduced to act as simple lines of perspective in a visual tableau. The presentation also changes the relationship of the viewer to art. Most of the time we stand back from a work to appreciate it in its entirety. In my work there is no way to view it unless you approach it and interact intimately with the work. In fact you have to effectively bow when viewing the work. The installation within is accessible only through one eye. Yet our depth perception depends on the information the brain receives from two eyes. So what the viewer sees when viewing the work is a one-dimensional impression of a three-dimensional space, which appears larger than it was expected to be. This disrupts the normal visual mechanism if only for an instant. This is a moment of disbelief and confusion. I often see viewers do a double take and look around the book to see how it is they are seeing what they see. My aim is to create an image, which, even though viewed only briefly in this instant of visual disorientation, will continue to resonate in the viewer’s mind for some time after viewing it.

Berlazarus Interview 007
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
BL –
This was my first time showing work in Venice so I was very grateful to have entry into the art world here at a reasonable cost. ItsLiquid’s idea of sharing the space with more than 60 other artists from around the world made that possible. It has been very exciting to be a part of it. I think it was very successfully curated even with so many diverse artists.

Berlazarus Interview 008
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
BL –
Yes, very much. I have worked with many galleries and exhibition groups over the years and the people at ItsLiquid are among the best. Truly! From the start of my interaction with ItsLiquid my emails were answered promptly and politely. The organization showed great flexibility and accommodation that made it much easier for myself as an artist to participate fully.

LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
BL –
It is quite wide ranging covering quite a few disciplines and seems to offer a lot to creative people who want to develop their careers in the arts. It’s very impressive.

LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID Group?
BL –
Before showing my work with ItsLiquid I really had no idea about the Group. Now I’m beginning to see how really diverse and comprehensive ItLiquid is. I look forward to participating in more ItsLiquid events. Thank you for the opportunity to present my work to a wider audience.

Berlazarus Interview 009
Image courtesy of Ber Lazarus

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