The awareness that art leaves a mark not only on the spirit but also on the environment is a mantra that has both distinguished Croatian artist Sandra Ban in the last ten years and led her to produce ceramics in a totally sustainable way in a magical place: a forest in the Croatian mountains. Her entire artistic production is driven by the need to convert the art of ceramics into unconditional respect for nature, utilizing the land, its colors and its products as infinitely reusable and transformable raw materials. Her experience, gathered over years of research and experimentation on the regeneration of materials and energy, is transmitted to guests in workshops that Sandra organizes right in the heart of a forest, in her laboratory-mountain residence, located in Gorski Kotar - - an isolated and quiet enclave dedicated to contemporary art, not far from the villages of Skrad and Kupjak. eARThforest Residence is a place where Sandra Ban welcomes her guests and involves them in a contemporary artistic dialogue with the surrounding landscape through an experience of contact that is first visual, then becomes overwhelmingly material. The space in which the residence extends is conceived as an ideal exhibition location for green installations and as a proscenium for artistic activities where the natural element becomes the essential essence of human action. The stimuli for visual artists, musicians, composers and writers are at hand, with the performances and works produced, documented and connected to the rest of the world via the world wide web and social networking pages. From the eARThforest Residence, you can enjoy unparalleled starry skies thanks to the total absence of light pollution, and you can quickly reach a special geomorphological reserve where you can admire sites of unspoiled natural beauty, such as the Devil’s Pass Canyon, the Green Vortex waterfall or the source of the Kupica and Kupa rivers. Building on past experience with “Earth Evolution - Earth Elevation 0.1," occurring on 22 April 2021 - - World Earth Day - - which brought a collective of artists from all over the world to the residence, Sandra is now proposing an international artist-in-residence project with the evocative title: “Connection with Nature for Regeneration of Culture”; a cultural renewal experience assimilated via contact with nature in spots dear to her and from which she draws her energy for a “natural renaissance” following ancestral codes of union with the surrounding environment.
INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA BAN
Sandra tell us about yourself, what you do, what inspires you and what animates your work?
I live perpetually in a state of creative challenges, continuously guided by many ideas and the desire to make them happen. This requires an enormous effort, both in the time required to consistently devote to the various activities, and for the design and construction techniques that are complex to faithfully maintain the principle of self-sufficiency that animates all my work. It takes inner strength, both mentally and psychologically, but also the ability to manage emotional impulses with rationality, courage, perseverance and patience. I believe that art is a profession that cannot be chosen; it chooses you. If talent only equates to 5%, everything else is work, discipline and passion.
Is it the ideas that influence your works or do your works end up influencing the ideas?
Good question! In reality, the creative process starts from both directions: from the inside outwards, and from the outside inwards. By this I mean that the inner impulses push towards materialization just as the external influences of life circumstances guide me towards profound cognitive and creative processes. Life has taken me through many and different cultural and artistic activities. I have been living with art since becoming aware of my existence. During 30 years of experience, the first 20 years encompassed drawings, paintings, murals, textile creations, digital works, classic clay sculpture, wood sculpture and installations with mixed techniques. In the last 10 years, since returning to live in a habitat of human origins - - into the essence of nature - - my dominant expressive medium has become the land. Using clay, I can express all other forms of art. The artistic value of ceramics, therapeutic in of itself, is simultaneously combined with a scientific and spiritual value along with matter and vibrational energy, since clay is made up of the basic elements of life itself.
In your Croatian forest residence, nobody can get bored, so how did you organize the space to make the artistic process effective and therapeutic?
I have always been afraid of only one thing: boredom. I am convinced that combining spontaneous creation with clay stimulates and evokes deep memories from the subconscious that create a connection at the level of neurons, storing data in the amygdala and stimulating the creation of matter and structures that bring out emotions manifesting in creativity, and so on in infinite cycles. The artist residency is an open and fluid concept that covers a wide range of activities and commitments. Through new technologies, new experiences are achieved, including the possibility of operating in connection with distant locations thanks to cyberspace. Filming of a documentary at the residence is currently underway, through which you will have the opportunity to see what the entire estate looks like; the concept is a real, symbolic Noah’s Ark for art that emerges from the land.
Are you satisfied with the international collective event "Earth elevation 0.1,” which includes 77 thematic works received from artists across 7 countries, for the most part members of the "Pandora" association? Are the "Planets" works still levitating at your residence in the frost and snow of a harsh forest winter, or have they returned to their earthly origin?
Thanks to the Pandora association, the event was a great success! A flow of works by generous women who have a sensitivity for environmental projects like this and who have made this one-of-a-kind event possible have arrived. Regardless of the transparent layer of protection that I’ve made against frost and humidity, some of “the planets” works are still here; some are in transformation while others have changed. Some works that cannot withstand the frost will gradually transform into little animal houses or shelters for flying seeds that will give life to new shoots in the next vegetative cycle. So, we can say that some of the works have evolved and others have elevated. Among my works, some survived after 10 winters; others did not. This taught me the demarcation line between breakdown and resistance. This experience is the incentive for two different workshops: one on basic construction techniques for beginners, whose goal is to avoid the destruction or breaking of a piece over time; the other on the creation of complex shapes with deep penetration chemical processes used on object glazes, aimed at professional ceramists. It is wonderful to see the spheres glistening in the moonlit darkness due to the thin layer of ice; they really look like celestial bodies, stars.
I thank everyone for their excellent work and a special thanks to Anna Rita Fasano, president of Aps Pandora Artiste Ceramiste.