Artists on Coping: Michal Gavish

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Michal Gavish, Hidden Features; acrylic on fabric and paper; 86”X60”; 2019; courtesy of the artist.

Using microscopic imagery and collaborative laboratory data, Michal Gavish focuses on DNA and proteins. Her process begins by adopting old traditions of nature drawings that she modifies by constantly searching for new materials. Her installations examine the delicate balance that is essential for bio-structures and their vitality. Gavish is a multimedia artist working on paper, fabric, plastic and video. With her background as research scientist she concentrates on the intersection of art and science. Her work is exhibited nationally and internationally. She writes art reviews regularly and is a contributor to SciArt Magazine.

AS: How are you coping?

MG: By now, over a month into quarantine, I am coping well. At first, when the pandemic started, it felt like I was thrown into a storm. Everything around me has changed at a very fast pace. By now I’ve adjusted to the fact that instead of going out or commuting, everything is happening inside my home. I got used to the streets almost completely disappearing from my life. Stepping beyond my front door became a rare occasion. I adapted to a new routine and that helps me cope. My art making was interrupted at first as teaching took over for a while. By now, I am able to balance this work with my art making as my practice provides a source of stability.

Michal Gavish; Angel; 2020; Watercolor on paper 22”X30”; Courtesy of the artist

AS: Has your routine changed?

MG: My routine has changed completely. It is as if my everyday actions contracted into my desktop. My art images, my review writings, my class teachings, my social life and even my yoga routines, have all gathered into one screen. My schedule is much busier than before and I am struggling to keep my plans going while finding enough time to work on a new exhibition. I feel the need to examine each new installation in a new light and notice how it feels so different than before.

I connected a few months ago with a lab in Philadelphia that works on viruses. I connected this subject to my nano-portraiture work as I began reading about viral micro life forms. I became fascinated both by their aesthetics and biology and it felt this interest was a premonition. I gradually extended my genetics paintings towards sequencing of viruses. Like much of my work that is informed by scientific data, the seamless transition opened for me a new field of ideas and visual directions. This opening is unexpected and I still need to evaluate it. Meanwhile, I draw and investigate while reading and learning and trying to follow this development in my practice.

Michal Gavish; Influenza; 2020; Watercolor on paper 22”X30”; Courtesy of the artist

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

MG: I used to imagine that my life is separate from the world by having around me in a defined private sphere of my studio, my home, and my family. Recently, paradoxically, through the process of social distancing I feel that I have lost this definition. The large public sphere now overlaps and interrupts my space on a daily basis. The spreading virus, the chattering news, and the incredible politics are hard to block and I could no longer put them aside during the day. I feel that things that are happening in the world penetrate my life and are making me more emotional. These dramatic changes in the definition of the space around me trigger a sense of uncertainty.

I find that my worries about the world have become personal and my private concerns develop into more general ones. Reality changes for me from day to day and the virtual nature in which I experience these changes is confusing. It feels like nothing is real and on the other hand a new reality takes over our lives. The disappearance of much of the physical world turns my art practice into the most real experiences of each day. It occurs in real life as I am using brushes and paint this experience comforting in its physicality.

Michal Gavish; Crop Genetics, 2020; Watercolor on paper 22”X30”; Courtesy of the artist

AS: What matters most right now?

MG: Today, during this pandemic, health is the most important thing for me. Its significance has become more acute now.

Aside from that, everything else that matters has changed in the past couple of months. Normalcy, which I used to take for granted, has become what I value the most. Now that it is gone, my hope for returning to old routines is personal and specific yet it is also general and coincides with the public concerns all around. I want to return to regular life eventually and at the same time I realize that this would be impossible so that I will have to adjust to a new normal.

Michal Gavish; Genetic Matrix, 2020; Watercolor on paper 22”X30”; Courtesy of the artist

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

MG: I am definitely wondering about the future and about the fact that we will not be able to return to our previous lives so easily. Only a few months ago such thoughts might have sounded incredible but now these general abstract worries are turning into personal concerns. Living through this epidemic is very different from previous ones in other parts of the world. I am wondering about my personal life and my upcoming projects. At the same time I am thinking about life in general and about how topics like the environment and wellbeing are now real and personal.

When all this has started I thought that the new reality will change people and make them listen to reason. I thought that science-based art will become important. I thought that people would now understand the urgency of science. It felt like the epidemic would shake the world into a new wave of scientific progress and reasoning. Now, a couple of months later, while I see extensive collaborations between scientists, I see that we are sinking into rumors, fear, and superstitions. Still, I hope that this becomes a constitutive experience that will bring interesting new forms to our lives and our art.

Michal Gavish, Ribosome; acrylic on fabric and paper; 60”X60”; 2018; courtesy of the artist.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: