Naomi Gilon is a Brussels-based multidisciplinary artist who creates fantastical ceramic creations encapsulating both terror and the sublime. From mini ceramic handbags to show stopping vases, her sculptures and objects possess mythically long, clawed fingers, thorns and spikes, which have become a signature style of Naomi Gilon.
Hello Naomi, welcome to RED•EYE World. Share with us a few highlights about your background related to art. When was your first approach to fashion and how did you decide to combine art with it?
I think my first approach to fashion dates back to the end of 2020 with my first bag. Before that I had worked a lot on the historical aspect of shoes, but without making the direct link with the fashion world. It was as I found the confrontation of the two mediums interesting, and this risk-taking of the ceramic work of art often perceived as too fragile.
Tell us more about your inspiration sources for your iconic bags in ceramic. Tell us more about your sources for main materials ( sand, ceramics etc ). Walk us through your design process a little bit.
I name my creations contemporary chimeras. They’re anthropomorphic objects inspired by the imagery of popular culture; mythologies, science fiction, gore cinema, car tuning, japanese manga. I generally work with stoneware that I fire between 1220 and 1240°C. More exceptionally with porcelain. The process is classic; I model my piece, then I let it dry covered (under plastic), 1st firing at 950°C, I apply the enamel, then 2nd firing at 1220/1240°C. Each piece has its own difficulty, but to sum it up, that's it.
You have a special talent to show the beauty of a design related to some kind of monstrous... From where this inspiration for monsters? Are there any pieces that are your favorite? How challenging is the business part for you as an artist?
I have many books that are interested in the figure of the monster that hangs out on the corner of my desk. But I also draw a lot of inspiration from the contemporary human figure and the shadowy side of everyone.
I perceive the monster as a being that is both beautiful and terrifying - a bit like the captivating and sensual figure of the vampire found in 21th century films.
If I had to choose pieces in my work that I particularly like I would mention "Porcelain Slipper" made for my last solo show in Milan. Or my first installation "Survivors" which I presented in the Like a Little Disaster gallery in 2019.
I find them singular and representative of my technical evolution.
It’s true that the commercial aspect is a part that I didn’t master well before. That's not what you learn in art school. But the more we advance, the more we learn from our mistakes and successes.
The status of an artist has always asked to be multitasked.
How would you define the term “long-lasting” in the fashion industry? How important is the way an artist is facing the challenges in such a complex industry?
I think it’s essential to raise public awareness and not to enter into a spirit of capitalist consumption; buy without really needing it, unconsciously follow our desires. Respect for the material also means using what we have been given and not asking for more. Each piece must be considered, and integrate a spirit of rewarding recycling.
In my work, there is this parallel with the unique work of art. There’s only one, because I work very little on a series of perfectly similar objects. Each piece is made by my hands, in Belgium with clay from Germany or France.
My production is organized so as to have no waste (or very little), my raw materials are sorted, and I minimize over-consumption.
I’m talking about sorting because in ceramics we use many products that are harmful to the environment; such as the oxides contained in the enamels (which colors my pieces), so it’s important to sort them in order to have them recycled correctly in specialized centres. We often forget that beyond the hobby, ceramics is a real job with real responsibilities.
I don't want to move towards industrialization. It doesn't make sense for what I want to show and promote.
What are some of the biggest fears when it comes to collaborations with art galleries?
There’re no particular fears to have, even if some galleries aren’t very honest when it comes to paying artists. They have their own problems but sometimes they forget that for us it is also our livelihood.
Sometimes there’re also communication and organization problems, which is very complicated when you have to create and manage. Shipping the work is always the most complicated and headache, but that's part of the job! Then when you reach a certain notoriety you can count on assistants.
How do you see the future of art and how digital can improve it in a better way? What do you think of Web3? Do you have any intention to collaborate with digital artists in future?
I think it’s important to take into consideration the evolution of digital. Being able to integrate this evolution into specific projects allows you to broaden your vision. I make the parallel with what I consider to be a good exhibition; it’s a scenography that brings together different mediums, both painting, sculpture and video (for example).
So for me working and mixing mediums is essential.
Besides, I already had the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of 3D visuals with two artists, which worked very well.
A few words about your experience with Candy Snake Gallery in Milan, Italy.
Concerning Candy Snake Gallery, it’s a very good experience. It’s a space that perfectly promotes young artists, very dynamic with recurring exhibition proposals. It’s important to seek visibility at the beginning and therefore Andrea, who manages this space, fulfilled her mission very well.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on during your career?
My collaboration experience with Han Kjobenhavn was great but as we worked remotely it was not really intense as a project.
One of the last series made for my Hard Skin exhibition at Candy Snake was really rewarding. Because I was super proud of the works made for the occasion with porcelain. Then the collaboration with the tattoo artists perfectly staged our universe. What was also interesting was being able to bring the works to bear and dialogue with a model – Jihane, the series of photographs taken by Lars Larkin is magnificent. It really expresses my vision of works that extend the body, like human extensions.
Other hobbies not related to art or fashion?
I feel like my life is ruled by art. My angle of vision is always looking for the small particularity of things. Not too far off, I love literature, mainly SF, but I also like works from the New Roman literary movement.
I enjoy cooking for others. I’m very curious about biology, to dissect the functioning of the human body. When I was very young, I also developed an attraction for gardening, still linked to the biological aspect with the cohabitation of plants in particular environments, etc.
What is your favorite place where you feel inspired?
A place that is very rejuvenating for me is certainly the family vacation home that my parents own in the Normandy countryside in France. It is a place where we have chosen not to have the internet in order to be able to make a real break with the outside world and be there to enjoy people in real life. This is the place where I take the most time to read so I resource myself intellectually in a fairly intense way.
A letter to your future self. What would you write?
I would say: "Hi Naomi! It's easy.. stay true to your convictions and your intuitions. Feed on the past with joy and enjoy the people who have always surrounded you. And maybe the monsters in your nightmares will help you achieve your dreams."