PORTRAITS AND PAPER DOLLS: AN INTERVIEW WITH LINDA TOIGO (by Cyrila Ringele)

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She arrives smiley and enthusiastic on her bike, proudly holding the big keys of St John On Bethnal Green church. The show, called Non-Sterile, is Linda Toigo’s first exhibition, the result of over two years’ hard work.

Toigo’s art varies from graphic design to paper engineering, covering illustration for books and magazines. After completing her degree in architecture, Toigo realized that the subject, which once felt like something serious, was not right for her. She moved from Milan to London– a city that changed her view on craft and creativity and introduced her to the world of art on a new level.

“There is the idea of not needing to have a proper definable profession to be someone,” she says. There is so much freedom of expression and so many other people that are living out the same idea.”

“When I decided to go to university I decided to do something serious, a profession that would lead me into a proper career, but I wasn’t happy and I carved my own way into the subjects that were not really fit for me. So I simply moved from a profession and a city to another profession and another city.”

This was not a gentle move for the artist, but nevertheless some degree of relevance remained from her studies: “I am sensitive towards material and the idea of volume and space even if it is applied to a small object.”

She walks up the stone stairs to the church’s top room. As she carefully analyzes all the keys, she smiles– proud to present her work. When she finally finds the right one, she pushes through an old door and we enter a dark room. The only light comes from small selected lamps aimed directly at the art pieces.

“I define my work as intricate. I really value the time that is spent for each piece. Time means not just the time made in craft but also that which I spend with thoughts.”

Toigo wanted a very strong and specific idea for her exhibition. In October she started developing the idea of working with the body. Female magazines inspired her work, taking it to a symbolic level that she had not accessed before.

“I realised by working with these magazines that there was a very strong communication about beauty. I realised how strong this was and I narrowed down my work only on fashion magazines to end up with this exhibition.”

The idea of ‘Non-Sterile’ came to Toigo in exactly the same way as most of her inspirations: from the object itself. She finds a book, takes it home and starts cutting to create something new. “Non Sterile is what is written on the blades that I use. And they are the same ones they use in surgeries. This made me think of surgical achievements and the alteration of bodies and how that is suggested through the over-exposure of non-natural beauties in magazines. Secondary, there is the idea of the non-sterility of the object itself, because I’m working with magazines that have been used. So with this title I wanted to put everything together.”

Toigo decided to divide her exhibition into two styles of paper engineering:

Portraits and paper dolls. “I take a new magazine and I select one element and then I just remove the rest. Nothing is added, it’s only a matter of removing what is not necessary and the effect becomes almost a monstrosity because until you see the parts contextualised, you don’t see the multitude that is offered within the same volume.”

Toigo’s message is clearly readable through the vast use of body parts emerging three-dimensionally out of the magazine. The image is that of a slaughter of dolls. Lips, legs, arms and hands, which in the context of the page look so perfect, become unreal and disturbed in the context of the whole cut out magazine. “We get this kind of over communication of beautiful bodies, and smiley faces, and translucent skins and we don’t realize how scary this could be”.

As we walk down the stone stairs and sit on church pew, Toigo explains how the message conveyed through her art is priority. For her, all the effort put into the exhibition does not have a commercial purpose. “I haven’t done this exhibition to sell anything, but for exposure”. To her surprise it was difficult for people to understand that.

“The other day, I went to a dinner, and a friend of the hostess was there. He works in a gallery. The first question he asked was: “Did you sell anything?” And of course I said: “There is nothing for sale” and he didn’t see the point in doing the exhibition because that’s what is expected. Why would you be an artist if you can’t make living out of it? But then it would just become like any other job where you just produce an object.”

She looks up, slowly smiles, saying: “Of course if someone wants to buy and gives me a good offer, I wouldn’t reject it. That would be crazy.”

People walk up and down the stairs behind us, clapping and complimenting Toigo for her work. She gives a smile to every person leaving the church– truly appreciative.

The exhibition is showing now at St John On Bethnal Green, every Thursday 6-9pm and Saturday afternoons from 2- 6pm. The last night will be April 3.

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