A Hammer is The Secret Weapon of Zemer Peled’s Artwork
Zemer Peled’s work examines the beauty and brutality of the natural world. Her sculptural language is informed by her surrounding environment and landscapes, and engages with themes of memories, identity, and place.
The association of porcelain with refinement and civilization is turned on itself when broken into shards. In Peled’s organic formations, a whole from the shards is recreated, estranged from its original context, but nonetheless unified by an overall cohesiveness of movement and composition.
Peled (b. 1983) was born and raised in a Kibbutz in the northern part of Israel. After completing her BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (Jerusalem), she earned her MA at the Royal College of Art (UK).
Zemer Peled can still remember the first thing she ever demolished. “I was about 8 years old,” said the artist, now 31, “And my mom wanted to take down a wall in our house, so we grabbed hammers and started smashing.”
It’s a memory Peled often reflects on today when creating sculptures, each assembled from thousands of porcelain fragments shaped into blossoming abstracts.
“The word ceramics usually evokes small items you can hold in your hand, But I’m most interested in making pieces that are enormous,” she said.
Peled has exhibited her sculptures in galleries from Milwaukee to Milan, but her life as an artist didn’t begin until her early 20s, when a breakup led her to try art therapy.
“We painted and worked with different materials, and I was drawn to clay. It responds to your touch, movement and emotions.”
In 2010, her passion brought her to London’s Royal College of Art for a master’s degree in ceramics. There, she began experimenting with her now-signature shards, hoping to capture the fluidity and firmness found in nature. “From a distance, the sculptures look soft, but up close, you realize they’ve got bite,” she said to oprah.com.
Whether she’s working on pillow-size sea anemones or a ten-foot-tall treelike figure, Peled always begins the same way: Using a slab roller, she flattens wet clay into large, thin sheets.
Next, each layer (still wet) is either stained and cut into narrow, featherlike shapes or fired, glazed, refired and shattered into pieces. Then, with a rough sketch in mind, she sticks individual shards into clay forms or clay- and concrete-covered frameworks.
“It can be very chaotic in the studio,” says Peled, whose larger structures typically take four months to complete. “I always have Band-Aids on hand.” Despite her work’s gorgeous complexity, Peled continues to rely on one rudimentary tool: “A hammer is still my secret weapon.”
In recent years, her work has been exhibited internationally at venues including Sotheby’s and Saatchi Gallery (London), Eretz Israel Museum (Tel Aviv), and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City) among others. Her work is found in many private collections around the world.
Peled lives and works in Los Angeles, California, USA.
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