INTERVIEW WITH SAYAKA GANZ
Sayaka Ganz is a Japanese artist who works with recycled materials, mainly plastic objects, who works without changing their color to give life to her beautiful animals in movement, giving a new life to objects that have not yet exhausted their life on earth.
How much do you think your Japanese culture influenced the concept behind your Works?
I think that as a Japanese child, I was encouraged to believe that all things have a spirit or soul. This animist belief is part of the Japanese Shinto philosophy. All of my work using found, discarded objects is rooted in this belief.
Why the choice to represent animals and why they are always represented in movement?
I want to express the spirit, an universal life force that exists in everything including what we consider inanimate objects. I want to depict them as something that is alive and in motion. When we look at animals there is no question about their being alive, that they share some of the same emotions that we human beings have. So it makes sense for me to turn them into animals, to bring them closer to us.
How does your sculpture technically work? How does your idea of the subject start and how do you work the materials?
I have an on-going collection system that I have kept for over 12 years now. I would go to one or several thrift store(s) and buy all the plastic objects that have the right kind of shape that I can use. In case of larger toys and electronics or appliances, I might buy something if I can use more than half of all the parts included. Otherwise I do not buy the item. In my studio these are sorted into storage bins according to color and size.
When starting a project, I usually am given some freedom to choose what animal I would like to create. I usually choose an animal that I believe to have the greatest drama in the movement, and still fulfill the needs of my client. I do some research, mostly on the internet these days, finding photos and illustrations of the specific animal I’m going to
make, then I select a pose that is natural and most dramatic in expressing the movement.
I select a few photographs of the same or similar pose from various angles and design an armature to be made in steel or aluminum wire. For the design I usually use Adobe Illustrator and draw lines directly on the photograph to decide where I want the wire to go.
The armature gets fabricated, usually with help from my assistant(s). The wire gets shaped, cut, welded together, the welds get cleaned, then holes are drilled so that I have places where the plastics can attach to the armature. When that is all finished the armature gets painted or powder coated to the color of plastic I plan to use.
Final step is attaching the plastics. I do this by drilling small holes in the plastic and using either electronic wire (harvested from computers, Christmas light wire, appliances etc.) or cable ties.
Your sculptures are sometimes accompanied by natural elements such as the grass or the idea of water and even in the photos sometimes the animals are inserted in their environment. Would you like your sculptures to be exposed in an exhibition in a natural context?
The one difficulty with using plastic is that my sculptures cannot be exposed to too much UV light, as it deteriorates the plastic. I have photographed my work outdoors and I have had temporary exhibitions outside, but these are typically very short, just a few days. I like to experiment with different environments, and I love the all white or black gallery spaces just as much. It lets the focus be on just my work. But sometimes it is also fun to have other additional natural elements that my sculptures, I, and of course the viewers, can respond to.
Scrap metals are a very different project: the idea of movement is abandoned as well as the basic material no longer plastic but metal. Can you tell us about the idea behind these works?
I started making scrap metal works when I was a university student. The metal sculptures came first, then several years later, when I was in the graduate program in Ohio, I began making the plastic sculptures. To me the two are not so different. Because most of the scrap metal pieces I find are either much larger or much smaller than the plastic pieces, I tend to use larger metal pieces that describe the gesture and the musculature of the animals very well, but usually this does not allow me to focus as much on the movement. I think it really depends on the size relationship between individual material and the whole piece I am working on. I am very interested in doing a metal project where I focus more on the movement.
How is your study structured? I think organization is fundamental thinking of the type of materials you use.
Right now I have 5 different rooms where I work, 3 are rented outside my house, and 2 are the garage and the basement at my house.
I have about 60 plastic bins of materials, sorted by color and size, that I keep in a space I rent in a shared maker space, and I have a storage unit I rent to store crates of finished sculpture and empty boxes for transporting my work when I have exhibitions. I have some space where I use a welder in another shared maker space, and I do some metal fabrication in the garage. The basement of my house is where I do most of my plastic work. When I have assistants helping me, I typically work at one of the shared maker spaces, depending on the project.
I read that about half of your work is commissioned. Do you find a difference in making works that have been commissioned? Are your commissions mostly in the private sector or for public clients?
I would say that right now I am doing about 80% commissioned projects. I’m very fortunate because usually I have great freedom within the parameters my clients give me, so I usually do not feel restricted in any way. But because these are the projects that pay my bills, I tend to spend all my time working on them and I don’t have a lot of time to do projects that I’m curious about, that I have been wanting to try. The most recent project I completed was a private commission, the project before that was for a company, the project before that was public. They range from something small, like a blue jay (a blue bird, about 25cm long I think) to a big installation that takes up an entire wall or ceiling of a lobby.
Do you think this artistic form can awaken human consciousness about the production of plastic and its waste?
I try not to set very specific intentions about what the viewers can take away from seeing my work. I hope that people who see my sculptures can imagine the plastic items as something with great value and potential and that maybe deserve love and respect. I want us to be able to imagine a different relationship with the plastic, with more awareness and more kindness toward one another as well as toward the materials, the Earth, and all living things.
What are your future projects?
Right now I am working on a private commission of a metal crane for a beautiful spot in my client’s garden surrounded by three apple trees. I also have some proposals I have
submitted recently for public art projects that I am waiting to find out about. I have so many new ideas and directions I want to explore right now, but I am not yet sure which one (or if any) will come to fruition.