British-Israeli Sculptor Digs for Meaning in New Artwork

'All three characters - the archaeologist, the psychologist and the sculptor - dig,' says Daniel Silver, whose new art installation opens in London.

An abandoned old movie house in central London is the venue of British-Israeli sculptor Daniel Silver’s newest art installation - a faux archeological dig called, simply enough, “Dig.” The work was created with the help of Artangel, a British institution known for sponsoring challenging, site-specific creations since 1992 by a long list of artists, including Israelis Oreet Ashery and Yael Bartana.

“Dig” comprises hundreds of artifacts that Silver sculpted himself over the past four years. In the two levels of space, Silver has placed plaster figures of varying sizes and finishes - bearded characters with a large number of breasts, heads without lips, statues with damaged or broken parts, and a number of sculptures inspired by the collection were scattered in the office of Sigmund Freud, now the Freud Museum in Hampstead. A small, 3,000-year-old Syrian figurine located in Freud's office has been turned by Silver into a huge plaster statue, tall and threatening.

Born in 1972 in London but raised in Jerusalem, Silver returned a decade ago to his birthplace, where he lives, works and has garnered acclaim.

He remembers visiting archeological sites in Jerusalem regularly. “Near the Old City, for example, there’s a spectacular collection of different periods and cultures, and all this richness was being revealed now, all at once. It was like a collage; you have to understand and absorb everything at once,” he says.

The site he chose for “Dig” is walking distance from the Slade School of Fine Art, where he studied, and also close to the hospital where his grandfather died a year ago. Along with the impressive display of his sculptural transformation of historical objects, his installation is largely a work of self-discovery.

“All three characters – the archaeologist, the psychologist and the sculptor – dig,” says Silver. “The psychologist digs to find the source of the problem, from where the solution will come, the archaeologist digs and finds objects to try to understand who we are, and I, as a sculptor, am trying to understand myself through the history of sculpture and the things that I do.”

Marcus J. Leith