The point of departure for Ayala Serfaty’s work process is the choice of the raw material, which acts as a companion on her spiritual journey. For Paludes, the matter she chose is felt, the most ancient form of manmade textile. Felt is made of layers of wool, silk, linen, and other fibers that are laid and pressed by hand. Serfaty finds the qualities of antiquity and elaborated close-to-the-eye–and-hand manual process essential to her work. The palette of this work is inspired by grade figure sculptures from the Vanuatu Islands in the Pacific, which serve as receptacles for the spirits of the gods during ritual ceremonies. The form of Paludes is reminiscent of primeval sloughed off skin, a cocoon or female womb, a mythical giant pod. Its inner space is dark and sooty, mysterious and enigmatic. Paludes is related to cyclical processes of fertility, decay, life, reincarnation and transformation. Its form calls to mind the shape of a canoe – a vessel viewed as a vehicle for passing from the world of the living to the world of the dead and from one state of consciousness to another in the course of initiation ceremonies, burials, and other ancient spiritual rituals.
The process used by Serfaty to make felt may be likened to the process of creating a multi-layered oil painting: the textile is composed of very thin layers of fiber that are pressed together to create a chromatic effect, which reveals more and more details as one approach. At the same time this laborious painting is the matter itself that is formed into an object in the space. The physical presence of the sculpture, which is more than ten meters long, brings to mind an eruption of magma of some sort. The details on its outer and inner surfaces are reminiscent of organic substances (wood, minerals, rust, moss, mildew) or of the mucous membranes in the interior of the body – thus raising questions concerning the tension between organic and inert matter. These questions are underscored by the title of the work, Paludes (marshlands), which was inspired by Nobel Prize winner André Gide’s 1895 book by this name. In this context, the marshland is perceived as a liminal zone between death and life, the organic and the non-organic, noise and quiet, movement and stillness.
Paludes is part of the exhibition “Cabinets of Wonder in Contemporary Art: From Astonishment to Disenchantment” at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art.
Dalia Levin, Daria Kaufmann and Ghila Limon