Swiss artist Nat Girsberger is no stranger to creating visual harmony from the seeds of chaos. The artist, currently based in Brooklyn, New York City, holds a degree in visual communication from NYU and specializes in analog collaging, taking commissions in her Bedstuy studio for clients such as Universal Music Group, NYU and Magilla Entertainment. Girsberger also works as an installation artist and production designer, and is a committed student of meditation and yoga.
Gisberger notes, “applying an instinctive process, I artistically adventure into the infinity of my psyche to break the structures that externally limit my inner vastness.” Her work utilizes collaging to create new links between the subconscious mind, juxtaposing elements which do not usually go together. Girsberger’s New York City exhibitions include solo shows at the Storefront Project (2018) and at Ivy Brown Gallery (2017) and group shows at Carrie Able Gallery, and Wallplay, and her work has been covered by Bedford + Bowery and Whitehot Mag, among others.
ANTE. sat down with Nat to discuss her practice, learn more about what influences her conceptual approach and gain insight into her evolution into an ever-present emerging artist on the New York art scene.
ANTE. We’ve been following your works for some years now and noticed that you center your artistic practice around the medium of collage. Have you always been drawn to this process?
Nat Gisberger. I arrived at analog collage after playing with many different mediums. I went to school for photography and worked in film, behind the camera making sets and constructing installations. In 2017, I held an exhibition at Ivy Brown Gallery which integrated all of these mediums into one environmental installation. Shortly after the show, an old copy of LIFE magazine caught my eye at a local thrift shop. I have always been interested in magazines, even utilizing them for source material in the past. With the encouragement of my collaborator Kurt McVey, I began collaging found photographs and commercial images to make my work.
I really enjoyed the intuitive process of collage, and how it managed to combine diverse aspects of my previous work. Looking through that particular LIFE magazine – as well as the many more I found after that – I began to notice patterns: a visual subtext which revealed a lot about consciousness of a certain time. Much of my work prior to using collage revolved around describing a collective consciousness, so this is something that immediately inspired me. One of the first things I noticed was the sexually charged portrayal of women. I made it my quest to alter the historical narrative and drawing attention to these faults through collage.
After that initial project which centered around reclaiming the female image, I was hooked. I instinctively ventured to do the same in regards to my own inner world I started making work that expressed the transient, expansive terrain of my psyche, something which is influenced by what I consider to be ‘the collective unconscious’.
ANTE. What are some techniques you use to construct an image?
Gisberger. I fell in love with the process of analog collaging, hand-cutting found imaged and composing them into new planes, new realities. I found a parallel between the process of analog collage and how the psyche stacks and re-arranges experiences. I find it incredibly satisfying to layer my own psychology through found imagery. Through collaging, the subconscious mind finds new relationships, juxtaposing images that do not usually go together and then liberating them from the boundaries of rationalism. My collages challenge reality by encouraging the dialogue between ego and that which is unknown to it. Because I am limited by my material, when I make my analog collages I try to apply an ‘automatic’ unconscious process. I naturally pick and choose images and then assemble, rather than having a clear plan in which the ego would interfere. By doing this, it allows for all of the imagery to ‘pour’ out of me.
ANTE. You also translate your artistic practice goes beyond visual arts and into your practice as a yogi. Can you explain the crossover between image and physical body, and how this crossover manifested in your recent solo exhibition “Close Your Eyes” at Storefront Project?
Gisberger. For me, art has a lot in common with yoga and meditation: it’s about tuning into the multiple dimensions of being to enhance our overall experience and better engage with the physical world. Both art and yoga nurture our physical, spiritual, and psychological layers to keep them all balanced. Breath is a helpful tool which helps one drop down deeper beyond those physical layers and begin to appreciate the subtleties within vastness. This concept of vastness allows me to expand beyond my inner world to connect experiences with a new level of consciousness.
The shared goal between my visual arts work and my yogic practice is to create a reality which inspires others to tap into their full potential. I structured (the exhibit) “Close Your Eyes” as a visual meditation, following the typical chronology of meditative practice. This creates an experience: something that gets a viewer into an expansive feeling by visually drawing her inward into herself. My work shows unconscious energy, freed from the structures of ‘reality’ for an ultimately fuller experience of life.
ANTE. As a Swiss artist living and working in New York City what was it like to develop your practice? Looking back on your experience what advice would you give your past self?
Gisberger. Run while you still can? – just kidding. At least, mostly kidding. The thing is: I couldn’t have. If I could wake up one day and have the desire not to be an artist, that would be a relief in a lot of ways. I find it quite painful at times to create. The words, “only pursue art if it is an absolute necessity”, from Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet really resonate with me. Making art is a deep, inner work – a process that is never easy. At the same time, it is fulfilling to my whole being. Life being alive, experiencing the human condition— it’s so difficult and yet infinitely rewarding at the same time.
New York City has had an influence on me from an early age perhaps because it embodies a powerful energy: it’s pulsating nature, diversity, magnitude, and honesty fascinates me. Even though I am Swiss, I often feel like I ‘grew up’ in NYC — I moved here when I was 18, right out of high school. I feel that I learned many of my bigger life lessons here, and I feel inspired to establish a dedicated art practice here. I also view the adventures and difficulties of establishing myself in a new country as a part of my inspiration. In the end, I believe that all my mistakes benefit my wholeness and growth. I would want myself to make them all over again. I’d be that annoying person that wouldn’t give young Nat any advice if I met her.
ANTE. Talk to us about your social media presence: you’ve managed to amass a large Instagram following (almost 12K and counting). How do you utilize social media? Do you consider it an extension of your practice or a marketing tool?
Gisberger. I finally caved when I knew I wanted my art-making, my collages, to pay my bills. In art world circles it can feel as though social media carries a negative connotation. I think this belief is rooted in nostalgia, and that notion that technology is disconnecting us from our physical reality. Although I’ve felt that in the past, I am quite interested in the invisible energy and psychology surrounding the rise of social media. I saw how empowering it could be as a tool after watching a close friend of mine, Julia Hunt, make a full-time living as a blogger. She is someone who is doing what she loves on her own terms.
I began viewing social media as a simple part of my overall marketing strategy. I felt it was really powerful sharing what I care about without it being edited by someone first. We no longer need agents to do our advertising for us. Instagram, because it is so visual, already lends itself to artists. It’s a low-stakes portfolio review, basically, that informs your audience as to who you are. My followers didn’t appear overnight, and I put in a lot of work to understand the best ways to get my works seen. I read about the subject and learned how to encourage growth on the platform – i.e. how to use hashtags and when to post: all of that stuff that makes most people cringe. Eventually, my following started growing on its own. I now make a large part of my income through Instagram – either through direct sales or commissions. In regards to my practice, it pushes me to produce work and to respond to themes I observe.
ANTE. Who are some contemporary influences on your work? What’s next for you in 2019?
Gisberger. I am a lot more inspired by life than the art world, actually. I have synesthesia, and so my senses constantly explode: I get inspired by my interactions with the world itself. Psychology, especially Jung, and philosophy and spirituality influence me. Don Miguel Ruiz and Michael E. Singer have both impacted me. To be honest, travel is probably my biggest passion next to my artistic practice. By changing environments I get to see the world in a new way which then inspires what I create. I am also really inspired by music — I love The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd, Patti Smith, Dylan, David Bowie and more modern bands like Beirut, Beach House and First Aid Kit – their sound gets me going. That’s why I’m very much into making album covers too, I love giving a musical piece a visual. I am currently working on a number of commissions including some album covers. I recently started a long-term project in the studio which will merge the 78 cards in Tarot card with my analog and digital collage sensibilities. If all goes well then later this year I plan to make an immersive 3-D installation which cross-pollinates my collages with a performance artist, so stay tuned. Lastly, I plan to take the “Close your Eyes” exhibit abroad.