Adrift in an Immaculate White Void

An Encounter with Daniela Orvin, Photographer

The artist Daniela Orvin

Daniela Orvin in her studio apartment in Berlin in June 2016: in her hand, a plastic camera, her Holga; in the foreground, her photo book Dressur-Wunder; below right her dog, Laika; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Maren Krüger

“Dyslexic dysgraphia”—the title of the photo series by Israeli artist Daniela Orvin on sale since April 2016 in the Jewish Museum Berlin’s art vending machine is pretty difficult to grasp; but it simply means “difficulty with reading and writing.” “Every one of my artworks is a self-portrait,” the photographer and musician told me, when I paid her a visit one sunny afternoon at her studio apartment in Berlin-Friedrichshain. She herself has difficulty reading but she was 29 years old before the handicap was detected—despite it having caused considerable disorientation her whole life long. Place the photos in the “Dyslexic dysgraphia” series side by side and they resemble the symbols of some bizarre, outlandish language. In reality, they show tree trunks in snow. Daniela Orvin took the photos in Munich, from 2004 to 2006. It was important to her to depict the snow without any trace of a shadow; and so it is that the tree trunks appear to be rootless and isolated, adrift in an immaculate white void.

Five trees in front of a white background

Daniela Orvin, Dyslexic Dysgraphia, 2006, Edition 2015; Jewish Museum Berlin

For our art vending machine, Daniela Orvin mounted her work on acrylic, a painstaking task that forged a personal link between her and each and every image. To my question: “What is the essence of art?” she replied: “The void in my photos.” Loneliness, rootlessness, and the difficulties of interpersonal communication are recurrent themes in her work. She was born in Berlin in 1973 and raised in the small town of Ismaning, near Munich, before moving with her family to Israel at the age of 7. It is there that Daniela Orvin spent most of her life to date: in school and in the army; as a student at the renowned Midrasha School of Art in Beit Berl; as co-founder/ curator of a gallery for contemporary photography in Tel Aviv; and as an independent artist, presenting her work in various solo shows. But she never felt she really belonged. In her first years in Israel, she faced exclusion by other kids who saw her as “the German.” This sense of being an outsider has stayed with her ever since.

A tree and a reflector post in front of a white background

Daniela Orvin, Dyslexic Dysgraphia, 2006, Edition 2015; Jewish Museum Berlin

In 2012 Daniela Orvin moved from Tel Aviv back to her birthplace, Berlin. German is her mother tongue yet she had to relearn it nonetheless; or rather, as she tells me, to reactivate memories of the speech of her childhood: “The language was merely in sleep mode.” In Berlin she finds the inner peace she needs in order to be able to create: experiences and encounters here, the natural surroundings, and the weather inspire and suffuse her art. More than anything else she loves the intuitive aspects of her work, the unending endeavor to distil the essence of a new project and of photography itself.

Clear lines, bright light, a sense of calm, and a black and white color scheme are the distinguishing features of Daniela Orvin’s studio apartment. During my visit, she showed me her photo book Dressur-Wunder (The Wonders of Dressage): a volume of images taken from 2007 to 2009 at the Zoologischer Garten in Berlin and the Zirkus Krone in Munich. Here too, Orvin retraces childhood memories, since these are places she visited as a girl with her parents. However, the images betray nothing of the zoo and circus visitors’ enjoyment, but only how solitary and forlorn the animals and artistes appear to feel in the bleak shadows of their respective alienating circumstances. The photographs—no less than the artist herself—are quietly reserved, clinically appraising, and precise.

Maren Krüger instantly fell under the spell of Daniela Orvin’s poetic images.

Further information on Daniela Orvin on her website:

Leave a comment