Artists on Coping: Pauline Galiana

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

Working space view with Tears of Fire, drawing series in progress. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Pauline Galiana’s work, from collages to paintings, ephemeral installations to small sculptures, addresses the broad themes of deconstruction versus reconstruction, mixing intuitive states of mind with free hand, formal associations, and meditative processes with rigorous grids. Galiana was born in Algeria and grew up in France.  She received her MFA at ESAG, Paris. Her work is included in the collections of UBS, New York University, the National Museum of Romanian Literature, where she won the 2018 Bibliophile Object-Book Biennale award, and private collections in New York, Washington, Houston, Paris, Riyadh, London, and Sydney. She lives and works in New York City.

AS: How are you coping?

PG: My best shot at coping so far is to stop reading the news and to limit my time on the phone. Though I love to hear from my loved ones, strangely, talking and texting exacerbate my anxiety. I cannot even listen to music. I’m busy trying to sort my thoughts out and I try to focus on tasks I can tackle from home. Doing helps to contain my anxiety.

As an artist, I naturally gravitate toward art as a coping mechanism. In early January, before we were officially in the Coronavirus pandemic, I started making a new art series called “Tears of Fire,” it was my homage to the people of Wuhan. When the virus spread out of the rest of the world, I put this drawing series on pause for a few weeks. I’m back at it now. 

As a citizen, abiding to the advice of scientific experts makes sense to me although it might lead us to a much more restricted confinement like it is happening now in the rest of the world.

Tears of Fire 5, in progress. Gouache, acrylic and collage on paper. H10” x W8”. Photo courtesy of the artist.

AS: Has your routine changed?

PG: I have a different routine indeed: I’m tougher on myself about making art. Don’t we now have all the time we want to accomplish our personal projects? Actually, I feel that I do not have the time to waste time. Having the time and not having the right set of mind, is challenging. Since the beginning of the pandemic it’s harder for me to get up in the morning, not knowing what the future is going to be, and as a mother, not knowing if my young-adult child, who has a severe lung condition, will be spared from the virus, if she’ll be able to find work in a post-pandemic job market.

So, to prevent myself from drifting into a haze of anxiety, I go to my work table first thing in the morning. Seeing the work-in-progress from the day before gives me a solid anchor into the new day. I have established different working tasks: artworks to be finished and archived, cleaning up of computer files, updating art inventories, other administrative chores, new art, and taking notes for future projects. Later in the day, I tackle the house chores. It gives me a sense of balance.

Earlier this year, because I had initially intended to visit family in France before the pandemic, I planned a work-on-the-go-kit project, something small that I could work on anytime, anywhere. Presently not traveling, I use this project as a coping tool: I make these miniature drawings on identification tags, like labeling feelings and observations in an obsessive manner, floating thoughts, and random shapes. Since I do not have access to my art supplies from my studio, I work with what I have handy. I adjust. I’m also using this time to learn how to use video editing software.

My stay-home buddy, the mourning dove. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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

PG: Deep sadness. Incertitude. Anxiety. I’m angry at how some politicians are not connected to their people.

ID Tags 6 and 7. Graphite and colored pencils on Manila shipping cardstock tags, H3-1/4” x W1-3/4”. In progress. Photo courtesy of the artist.

AS: What matters most right now?

PG: Saving lives. Doing what we can in the moment, keeping ourselves physically and mentally healthy, supporting others without endangering ourselves. Small acts go a long way. We have to support our immediate community and to support the ones working on the front line. 

D Tags 1, 2. 3, 4 and 5, 2020. Graphite and colored pencils on Manila shipping cardstock tags, H3-1/4” x W1-3/4” each. Drawing series in progress. Photo courtesy of the artist.

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

PG: I do not know. It might be a long uphill and narrow road. The pandemic is showing us how vulnerable our societies are, wherever we live. We have to think outside the box. It’s going to take some time, and we need to readjust our clocks and habits to these new times.

Working space view with Shredded Timeline 9, 2016-NY Marathon, 2020. Paper collage on wood panel.

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: