*Featured photo: Where to go, 2008, photo cr. and copyright Ursula Gerber Senger
Ursula Gerber Senger, fiber and digital artist, was born in Zurich in 1958. After training at what is now Zurich University of the Arts, she turned to textile design and as early as the early 1980s participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Europe, the United States, Japan, China and Argentina. Prestigious recognitions and awards to his work, including the Excellence Award From Lausanne to Beijing 11th International Fiber Art Biennale; First Prize – 9th International Biennial on Textile Art “Scythia 9” Kherson Ukraine and Merit Prize “Global Intrigue” 3rd Textil and Fibre Art Triennial Riga, Latvia, among others.
The artist currently lives and works in Männedorf, Switzerland.
In this exclusive interview, given on the occasion of the media partnership between ArteMorbida and the Mini and Micro Textile and Fibre Art exhibitions “Scythia” 2023, in which she is exhibiting some of her most recent works, Ursula Gerber shares with us the highlights of a prolific and well-established artistic career.
How did you come to art and where does your passion for textiles come from?
I have loved dealing with colors and shapes since kindergarten age. During my later education in the field of architecture, I was able to attend additional lessons in nature studies and color theory at the Zurich School of Applied Arts (now Zurich University of the Arts). Thanks to this artistic training, I was later able to teach color theory during my 3-year stay in Venezuela.
My mother had our clothes sewn by a tailor. I loved it when we went to the tailor for fittings. From her, I always received a variety of fabric scraps that fascinated me. I loved the different patterns, colors but also the different textures of the surfaces.
In Venezuela, I began to create textiles. I created quilts, inspired by Moorish and Chinese ornaments and combined them with freely invented forms.
Since 1984 I participated in textile art exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
What themes do you explore through your work and what attracts you to these topics?
There are different topics for me. For the social aspects, I make the following groupings: Society on the move – rapid changing world – strong individuals – unity in diversity. Since 2006, “man on the move” has been my central theme.
Time Flies – Speed of today’s world 2007, 2012“ Time flies” stands for the rapid changes being experienced in today’s world. In my work I am depicting the speed and the pace of today’s world.
Our workflow and mobility is becoming more rapid and faster, human relationships are becoming more challenging and more demanding and social bonding more fragile. The flood of information which we are receiving today causes a fragile surface like walking on thin ice, on which we struggle and grasp for orientation.
People on the move 2007, 2010, 2011
I am interested in the people who move around the world. A society in motion. Tourists, immigrants, traveler, people just passing through, some more in evidence than others. Whatever else, I am particularly interested in those groups of immigrants who fall into the category of people who live without means. These people are laden with the hope of finding a better life in a prosperous country. Many make long journeys, never achieving what they thought their untertakings would bring them
Another group of works are my photos with the technique of overlaying. With the overlay I obscure the spatial situation, so that the overlayed image figures partially dissolve in the here and now – modern man is everywhere and nowhere, but especially on the move…
Torso/ Body forms 1997, 2005, 2023
My first 3D work was the group of Torso in 1997. Half transparent, a series of pleated and creased body forms. These are metal mesh strips sewn together with inox wire.
Erotic nothing, that could be a feathery corset, with just a hint of where the breasts, stomach, waist and hips could be. But it could just as easily be the dream like vision of a woman’s body where skin and body, reality and fantasy become a bewildering and witty mischevious game of revelation and envelopment.
Improvisation or planning? Can you tell us about your creative process?
Both is right! Sometimes it takes longer until an idea condenses, then I look for the material to implement the idea. During this process of realization, I always leave room for the coincidental. It is an ongoing process of divergents and convergences.
Are there artists and/or artistic currents that have influenced your approach to art?
Yes, there are many. In my youth, for example, I was fascinated by the work of the Swiss sculptor and painter Hans Aeschbacher, an artist I knew personally. His development from the figurative to the abstract, his sculptures that were first formed from terracotta and plaster and later made of stone or metal and how his late works with acrylic glass became completely translucent.
During my quilting phase, I was interested in constructive and concrete art, Verena Loewensberg, Sophie Taeuber-Arp or Sonia Delaunay-Terk.
Later it was in addition Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.
I also received important impulses from “The Lausanne International Biennials of Tapestry”. These Biennials came to an end in 1995, beacause textile art became by then an acceptance in the world of art.
Artistic currents are so many-sided, besides fine arts I am also interested in ephemeral arts, for example music, especially jazz.
Dance of Memories I, Dance of Memories II, Mysterious Move I and II, are the works you are exhibiting at this year’s Mini and Micro Textile and Fibre Art Scythia exhibition. Can you tell us something about these works, how they came about and what they are about?
With my two works Dance of Memories I and Dance of Memories II, I pick up where the earlier series “Time Flies” left off. Dance of Memories is about memories, dreams and wishes – an attempt to capture the ephemeral. Mysterious move is thought to be a work which will challenge the beholder.
What kind of challenges are involved in working with small works?
A large work cannot simply be reduced in size, it must be rethought so that it acquires the desired expressiveness in its reduction. Interestingly, in this search process I often receive impulses for a larger work.
Looking back into the past, how do you feel your work has grown from the beginning to today? How has your artistic research changed/evolved and what impact has this had on your practice?
Depth and complexity runs like a thread through my artistic work. In my earlier works, the quilts which were created 30-40 years ago, the patterns were subverted with colors painterly and broken up. Everything that happens between people has always interested and inspired me. Through extensive private travels, I was sensitized to the fate of people on the road. Since 2006, being on the road is a central theme in my artistic work.
Again and again, I found inspiration and developed ideas, which I also began to implement with new or different materials and techniques. Examples are wall objects made of metal and acrylic glass. Later, photography and digital art became as important to me as textiles and fiber art. My later works reflect modern social phenomena, so the temporary meeting of different people can also be read as a social pattern.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, another work is being created for “Revealed and enveloped”. I would also like to follow up on “Dance of Memories” in my future work groups and continue to capture the accidental meeting of people and their being on the move as well as the ephemeral.