Ronit Baranga was born in 1973 in Israel, where she still lives and works today. After studying practical art studies, art history and majoring in psychology and hebrew literature, she began working as an artist with a strong focus on clay. Her work was shown in several group as well as solo exhibitions all over the world.
"In this combination of the still and the alive joined as one, I try to change the way in which we observe useful tableware. The useful, passive, tableware can now be perceived as an active object, aware of itself and its surroundings - responding to it. It does not allow to be taken for granted, to be used. It decides on its own how to behave in the situation. This is how I prefer to think about my plates and cups. Metaphorically, of course."
Ronit, in how far do mouths and fingers resemble activity more than for example ears and eyes?
I gave the tableware organs we use when using it, like hands, which we hold the tableware and transfer it to our mouth. As for your question, I believe fingers and mouths are indeed the most active organs we have. The mouth is a sensory organ which is used both for touch and taste, an opening to the interior of the body, into a physical and metaphorical space. With our mouths we swallow food, breath, speak, express emotions, scream, laugh, smile, sigh, kiss…
Fingers, as well, are active by definition. Sensing of the fingertips is one of the human body’s most powerful abilities; most of our interaction with the environment and with our body is done by our fingers: we caress, hold, pinch, write, scratch, itch, slap, build, toss …
You mentioned the eyes and the ears, both absorb information from the environment, by seeing and by listening, but they do not respond to it. They are not active in any way.
Do you perceive passivity as something negative?
Definitely not. I never treated passivity in a negative way, exactly as I did not treat the opposite in a positive way. I do not see it that way. It depends on the situation. Sometimes passiveness is positive and activeness is negative. In referring to the passiveness and the activeness of the tableware, I simply mention the situation, in my opinion. When the tableware has the ability to sense and react to the environment, it becomes active.
Do you think usefulness and passivity are connected and valued or judged in objects only, or are these characteristics people tend to search for in other people as well?
It is clear that these are human characteristics that are projected on objects, but these characteristics metaphorically relate to situations and relationships between people.
How does living in Israel influence you as an artist? And as a person?
I'm not sure there's a clear answer to your question. I was born here, this is the reality I know and in which I live in. I never thought living here has an extraordinary effect on me as an artist or a person. My art is not political or religious; I sculpt content relevant to social and emotional situations in general. I think that these are universal ideas that any person, anywhere in the world, can relate to.
How did your work develop over the years?
I work in series. A work derives from another work which is derived from another work… and over time, a significant evolution of an idea that sharpens or changes completely, can be seen. For example, in my "Doubtfully Alive” series, works transformed from rigid, still, tableware to “living” tableware, moving in space, interacting “physically”.
Also, lately I have been working on figurative sculpture and very much enjoying this enormous challenge and its great expression abilities, from newborn babies to sculpting life-size women figures.
What is it that you find the most fascinating or inspiring about working with clay?
Clay is an amazing material which enables me, as an artist, to create whatever comes to my mind, with minimal limitations and in the convenience of my personal studio, working on my own. I love the unlimited options and variety of techniques available with clay. For example, I combine hand sculpting with clay molds, wheel throwing and slabs in one work.
In my opinion, clay is difficult to work with; however, once you understand it and gain control, it is an amazing material. I love everything about it; its look, smell, texture and feel – while working and when dry. I also love its ability to surprise and change during the firing, sometimes in ways I don’t expect.
Does your psychology degree influence your art in any way?
My University studies, both in the Psychology and in Literature, sharpened my analytical way of thought and the comprehension that people and the reality around me are very complex and built from many interrelated layers, influencing and influenced by each other.
And so I sculpt. My works consist of situations and characters that generate emotions within the viewers, emotions that occasionally contradict one other. Viewers can sense attraction and feelings of sweetness alongside something threatening. Something funny and amusing while at the same time, deterring. This is how I see the reality around me: people, complex creatures dealing with situations and conflicting emotions, creating life itself.
If you were to choose any other job, what would it be?
Not an option. My art is an existential need, not a choice.