Israeli sculptress Ronit Baranga creates wonderfully unsettling clay sculptures that exist in a liminal realm where determining what is alive and what is inanimate is a hazardous guess at best. For series such as The Feast, Untitled Feast, and Breakfast, Baranga sculpted nimble human fingers and sensuously open mouths emerging from porcelain and ceramic tableware.
Baranga delights in turning inanimate dishware, both fancy and humble, into something visceral and unpredictable. When describing her tableware to Hi-Fructose, she said:
“I took the simple utensil- the utensil we take for granted, the passive utensil- and I gave it the limbs with which we use it. So, now the utensil is in a different place. It is active. It can decide whether to use itself, whether to allow me to use it, or whether to run away.”
Self-aware and aware of its surroundings, Baranga’s surreal dishes and cups are active participants at mealtime. Sure, you’re hungry, but your plates are too. So dine with care or perhaps learn to share with your china, lest you lose a finger.
Sitting down to afternoon tea sounds like a perfectly cordial and mundane event until the teapot starts to wander off, your saucer refuses to let go of your biscuit, or your teacup tries to kiss you.
In 2015 Baranga participated in Banksy’s Dismaland Bemusement Park project in Somerset, England. Her Untitled Feast was exhibited inside a small circus tent on a large wooden dining table surrounded by 10 chairs.
Assembled around the table, as though about to participate in the wayward feast, was a motley gathering of fantastic creatures, each created by different artists. Among their number was Damien Hirst’s preserved “unicorn” (The Dream), Dorcas Casey’s Dream Beasts, a taxidermy mount created by Polly Morgan, one of Scott Hove’s Cakeland scupltures, and Banksy’s own envoy, a rabbit sitting upright inside a magician’s top hat holding a broken wand.
Was Lewis Carroll born too soon or Baranga much too late? Either way, the Hatter’s tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland would’ve been an even more chaotic and deranged affair had the guests included these 3 masked ladies and their dextrous china.
The odds are good this grabby teapot would’ve simply eaten the somnolent dormouse.
Sentient tableware is only part of Baranga’s fascinating oeuvre. With an educational background in psychology and literature, she uses her relentless drive to create with clay in order to explore both herself and human nature on a larger scale, the intimacy of relationships, or sometimes simply to seek out the humor in the grotesque.
“My art expresses my life as it is at any given moment. It emphasizes my thoughts and feelings at the time. Some sculptures deal with feelings of lost or unused abilities – of which only the remains can be framed for display.” (Public Republic)
No matter what’s on her mind when she’s working on a sculpture, Baranga’s primary goal is to provoke an emotional response from her audience, be it positive or negative.
“Viewers of my work almost instantly react: they are either enthusiastic or appalled, but never indifferent. I hope that their harsh physical reaction stimulates them to think about the ideas and content that’s derived from my art.” (PUBLIC REPUBLIC)
All images via Ronit Baranga.