Gabriel Schama (USA)


Artist’s statement

The formal qualities of my artwork tend to emerge from the particularities and structural limitations of layered plywood and paper. Many years ago I started manipulating photographs and old lithograph prints, stacking colored paper underneath, essentially as a series of graphic experiments. But as my designs became more complex, as the depth of the stacked paper become an element in itself, I started to drift deeper into pure abstraction. For years I worked simply for the experience of pushing up against the boundaries of what seemed possible within the simple set of rules from which all my cut paper work flowed: cut, glue, stack, repeat, until finished. 

When I first started prototyping ideas in laser-cut plywood, it became brilliantly clear that I needed a machine of my own to push beyond the soft limits of art paper. I received enough patronage from my second Kickstarter campaign to quit my day job, buy my own laser cutter and never looked back. The plywood compositions that I have focused on for the last couple of years are a direct expansion of the same ideas that began by hand in paper. Much of my creative energy has gone into mastering Adobe Illustrator, and I long since reached a point where I no longer sketch anything on paper, favoring the many shortcuts and tools the digital process affords me. 

Fundamentally my work is an aesthetic practice rather than a conceptual one, but I like to think of my work as belonging to an ancient, continuous line of craftsmen, who have adorned the fabrics, facades and structures of civilization for thousands of years. I was in the habit of sketching architectural motifs from the murals and columns of old temples and palaces many years before I ever noticed the same curves and patterns seeping into my own work.

The structural logic and process of my work in a digital medium feels like an intensified and sped up version of what used to unfold over weeks crouched over my cutting mat. I tend to start with a very crude idea, or even just a few simple subdivisions on an art board, and then I start solving problems. I might resolve one part of a design with simple linear extension and rotation, like an Arabian mural, and then find another problem created which seems to beg for a more gestural infill. Whatever other ideas or concepts I may have for a piece, everything still eventually filters through this idiosyncratic process, which for better or worse, I remain utterly obsessed with. 



Artist’s bio

Gabriel Schama was born in 1985. He graduated from Columbia University in 2008 with a bachelor’s in architecture. Variously employed in metal fabrication, furniture making, and photography, Schama started crowdfunding his artwork in 2012 on Kickstarter and has been entirely self-employed for the past couple of years.