Daniel Silver works in a "barn in the middle of Hackney". I can see why he calls it a barn, its lofty wood ceiling resembling an alpine village cow barn. Ranged around the light space are shelves full of sculptures, kin to the objects in Dig, Silver's impressive proto-archaeological installation in Euston, central London.
Silver was born in England in 1972. His parents decided to emigrate to Israel in 1973, arriving just before the war. His father, a doctor, was immediately in demand. He claims he has memories of his mother, a painter herself, and himself in a concrete "adjustment" shelter. His grandparents remained in England and Silver returned to do his art studies at the Guild School, the Slade and the Royal College. He mentions that he studied with Phyllida Barlow and Mike Nelson, respectively, and I can see their ghostly influences brushing by me in the studio.
Silver sees himself as a sculptor, saying, "I believe in the autonomy of the object. It is through the object that 'I discover myself'." With his analytical style of discourse, it is unsurprising to find that he discovered this rich bank of images at Freud's house in Hampstead where Silver managed to convince the then-director to open the cabinets of curiosity housing part of Freud's collection. He photographed the images and blew them up to "understand more about them and the man who collected them."
Silver moved into the space two years ago, sharing the building with fellow artists Francis Upritchard and Martino Gamper, living nearby in Dalston with his wife, Tali and young son, Irah. He uses his modest canopied outdoor space to carve marble that he sources in Italy. Silver has one assistant, Klaus, an amiable carver from the south Tyrol who is engaged today with a large marble work that will eventually be capped with a bronze head loosely based on an Armenian monk, an image retrieved from Silver's childhood in Israel. When he was "a five year old, I went with my father, then a young doctor, to the old city, and we sat and ate pigeons in this huge workers hall with one of his patients, an Armenian".
Silver found in Oxfam a book of photographs of Jerusalem taken in the 1970s, with an image of an Armenian monk, and they have become layered in his mind. It is this conglomeration of multiple images that makes Silver's sculptures mysterious and hard to pin down. Collaged of materials – marble, clay, rubber and fabric – and ideas of present and past: "The fact that something comes from 3000 years ago and some from 150 years ago. I see everything now".
Recently, Silver has been working on a project in Jerusalem and determined to find the place of his encounters with the Armenian and his father. "I found it, and it's not so big any more – that is interesting in relation to perception." The archaeology of ideas is embedded in the work but in the end, "I think it is about telling a bigger story."
Daniel Silver: Dig, Artangel, London EC1 (www.artangel.org.uk) to 3 NovemberReuse content