Lydia Gifford / Florence Rodenstein – L21 Factory

Here at Site-Specific Conversation, we have initiated a collaboration with Barcelona Gallery Weekend 2022, offering a series of conversations that will be published weekly over the summer.

The proposal takes Lucy Lippard’s novel, I See/You Mean, as a reference and uses its title to talk about affinities in the choices made by artists and gallery directors and about practices, projects and work dynamics. During the writing process, Lucy realised she was ashamed of being a woman. This same feeling has been experienced by many over the years, and still is to this day. For this reason, we have selected eight galleries exhibiting works by women at this edition of BGW. Throughout this series, we will be conversing with artists and gallery directors, focusing on the relationships generated in a field like this, where the creative is often mixed with the affective.

This new delivery introduces us to the world of Lydia Gifford, artist that will be showing at L21 Factory. We have been talking with her in the company of Florence Rodenstein, gallery manager, to dive in and navigate through the delicacy, subtlety and at the same time the emotional depth of Gifford’s works. Life, crossroads of paths marked by will, affection and the desire to always go beyond are the basis of this conversation. A deep communication moment as the one that any of you could have while discovering the works in space.

An example of how emotion, empathy, companionship, understanding and consistency are the basis of everyday work within the art context.


How did you meet?

Florence / The L21 space in L’Hospitalet was inaugurated recently. We didn’t know each other before but we have been working intensively and everything has gone very well. There has been a change in the project and she has adapted very well. She is very decisive. This is not always easy.

Lydia /I met Florence two weeks ago. We‘ve been back and forth because I’ve made a completely new body of works. My work is quite personal. I am always a little apprehensive about whether to steer the conversation into that personal space. But even in these impersonal formats of zoom, emails… It’s quite clear when the personal space it’s protected and reciprocated. We quite quickly talked about meaningful things.

Nowadays our relations are less physical, but at the same time technology offers the opportunity to connect with other people.

Lydia / I make very physical objects that you really have to see. The images of them always frustrates me. I think of the full range that the image has on the screen or the real one, with the dust that falls off…I think my work now has a full spectrum of experience: It can be something very digital and then, hopefully, it has the chance to be in the real space with someone.

I will be traveling to Barcelona to install. That’s pretty amazing! I’ve been involved in a few shows during covid and I couldn’t be there. In the way that I approach art, it’s quite crazy


Florence / We started working together with Lydia when Francesco Giaveri added her to a series of curated exhibitions he’s been doing at L21 Lab in Palma. We show one of your hanging pieces at the entrance door!

Lydia / Yes!! I  haven’t exhibited them before. It’s a kind of an act of faith, that they will be intacte, because they are very delicate. It felt like a good exchange. Letting these things go, letting them out.

And after that, did you start talking about being part of the programm?

Lydia / I had other works that were stranded in Barcelona. Óscar (Florit) finds this out. I do love to have all these works and the new ones side by side, but on this special occasion for BGW It felt right to show a new body of work.

Are you referring to your exhibition at Galería Alegría? These two galleries are both in Hospitalet, quite closed, but as well their owners are good friends.

Lydia / I guess it’s how Oscar came to need this work. I really love that.

Do you already have a title?

Lydia / I do! “Sink in, sink down”. From an Ursula K. Le Guin’s poem.

The science-fiction writer?

Lydia / Exactly. But that’s from a poem, before she dies. I read a lot of poetry and take little parts next to the exhibitions. Lot of the poems in this book are about death. I’ve had a lot of deaths recently in my life. It feels right because it suggests two states: an object state and a bodily state. In my work I think a lot about human conditions and try to work on objects to view this through into the material.

 It’s true. Your work has this psychological approach.

Lydia / Yes, definitely. It can be loose; I don’t want to force anything…but that’s how I approach it. It’s a physical meditation through very human conditions problems.

We love how you present your practice as a dance, as a choreography in the text of Galería Alegría’s exhibition.

Lydia / My sister had just died. Everything that I was doing was rooted in a very simple routine of just being: folding clothes, putting things away… just managing your life. Keeping healthy, keeping strong, keeping clear… and keeping my practice. I know that a lot of dancers during covid were keeping their practice in their tiny spaces. Do not offer too much to comment on. Just keeping it. That body of works were small, reworks and reworks… A simple kind of living rhythm.

But in this new exhibition there is a lot more vibrancy, more risk. These works have a different kind of energy, let’s say.

What has striked us about your practice is that idea of the painting as an object.

Lydia / I like using the painting as a place you go back to, and you go back to. You constantly revisit. There are many layers of canvas on it. The painting is the final surface, but for me the layers back, the time, is so sculptural. It is not painterly. These simple sculpture decisions are based in painting but I try to rethink painterly processes from a sculpture perspective, comment on them. I am interested in these nuances that are sculptural but, within the painterly, have a conversation on the painting. How you can make this quite tradition painterly processes, cultural and psychological and conceptual. That’s where I’m fascinated with when I am doing.

Is it the space where you work important for you?

Lydia / My studio is a kind of culture of what I am making, with all the traces of what I am doing. I’ve made an environment, and it works for me when it’s entirely covered with paint. I paint on the floor, often I paint onto the floor. The things that I make are just a little portion of what I am doing. It’s a physical space but also psychological for me. Works are kind of extracts from that. Like in the dance, much of it it’s in the practice, the routine, the exercise, the muscle.

What about your daily routine?

Lydia / I am at the studio for four days. I have a dog and I take it with me. I just let things happen. I don’t have many rules. A quite like the square format because it doesn’t prioritize any direction. And I see how the things are just cultured. When I can’t be there the things are drying and it allows me to come back and start a new layer.

It is like an organism!

Lydia / It is. Always drying and always adding another layer. And then I also write annotations that I can take whenever.

Do you use the texts in your projects?

Lydia / The extract that you mentioned before is from my notebook. It does represent the floods of time and what I want to represent. It’s very repetitive. It’s really about how my activities of painting connect with the psychological; the channels of what I am trying to work through as a person, as a human.

Your work is also committed to sustainability.

Lydia / I try to use as many natural things as I can. I do pigments, clays, it feels very geological for me. Since I was a tiny child I painted like that, using clay: I used to dig, do muggy substances, soaking clothes, finding natural clay…For me to paint is rooted in the natural material. I am really conscious of that. I use a lot of linens and cottons…But certainly I do cut corners. I am also interested in the contrasts.

At the same time, you also recycle your works.

Lydia / Anything I make can be considered layering. It’s just there, it’s just material to reuse. It’s time-based. And there is no end point. When work goes from my studio, that’s kind of like a forced end. But actually sometimes I rework them when they come back.

Barcelona Gallery Weekend seeks to reinforce and make visible the rich and varied artistic scene of Barcelona, promote art collecting and highlight the work of the galleries, as culture generating spaces open to citizens, and the artists they represent. From 15th to 18th September 2022, we celebrate our 8th edition in 33 galleries, presenting the work of more than 60 artists.