5 artists from our “Contemporary Art in Israel” issue

5 artists from our “Contemporary Art in Israel” issue

Shai Kremer

Shai Kremer is an Israeli artist born in 1974. He studied at the Camera Obscura School of Arts in Tel Aviv where he obtained his M.A, later on going to the School of Visual Arts in New York where he obtained his Masters of Fine Arts. His artistic practice spans from landscape photography to more experimental creations such as his series Perception. His work was exhibited in reputable art fairs like Art Basel Miami, Art Chicago, Les Rencontres d’Arles, Paris Photo, The Armory Show, Tseva Tari and more. His work has been nominated to numerous prizes such as the BMW Paris Photo Prize, the Henri Cartier Bresson Award, the HSBC Photography prize, and has won the Photo Folio Review Prize at les Rencontres d’Arles. Furthermore, his works are in prestigious collections like in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art collection, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Tel Aviv Museum collection, the Musée de la Roche-sur-Yon collection and more.

Atomic Mushroom, 2017

Raida Adon

Raida Adon’s work explores women’s condition and concepts such as belonging, border and the limitations of the body. In her videos she recurs to the colour red and black embodying death and femininity. She was born in Acre, Israel in 1972 and assisted the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Her first exhibition was in 1996 at the Artists House in Tel Aviv. Aside from her artistic career, Adon is also an actress working for television, theater and the film industry. In 2008, she won the Minister of Culture and Education Prize for Palestinian Art and in 2011 the Minister of Education Prize for most prominent Israeli Artist.

Michel Na’aman

Artist Michal Na’aman was born in 1951 at the Kvutzat Kinneret in Israel. Her oeuvre, often described as pertaining to conceptual art, delve in issues such as language and gender. She studied at the art College of Ramat Hasharon and later obtained her Bachelor of Arts at the Tel Aviv University. Her first solo exhibition was called “Vai Hai Oh” at the Yodfat Gallery in Tel Aviv in 1975. She continued to showcase her work all over the world in countries such as the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, England, Italy, and more. She has won several prices and scholarships such as the Meir Dizengoff Prize for Painting and Sculpture in 1998, the Jacques and Eugenie O’Hana Prize for a Young Israeli Artist in 1981, the Sandberg Prize for Israeli Art in 2002, the Israeli Prize in the field of visual arts in 2014 and many others. Her work is in museum collections like the Tel Aviv Museum and the Israel Museum among other private collections. Since 2005, she is associate professor at the Midrasha Art School of Art in Kalmania.

Death of the Savior has Arrived, 2006, oil and masking tape on canvas, 130 x 100 cm.

Tanya Preminger

Tanya Preminger is a Russian artist living and teaching in Israel since 1972. She studied at the Surikov Academy Arts where she obtained her M.A in Sculpture. Her grandiose sculptures can be ascribed as land art as they engage organic materials and are to be found on the outdoors. She has participated in numerous residencies like at the Houston University residency program in the United States (2002), the residency program at the Pedvale Art Museum in Latvia (2009) or the Artis Grant for the Setuchi Triennale in Japan among others. Her work has been displayed in numerous international exhibitions in countries such as Argentina, Japan, South Korea, Italy, China, Russia and more.

Death of the Savior has Arrived, 2006, oil and masking tape on canvas, 130 x 100 cm.

Fatma Shanan Dery

Fatma Shanan Dery’s oeuvre focuses on realistic, large scale paintings where she depicts the village of Dreuze in Israel. Born in 1986, she studied at the Oranim College in Israel and with the artist Eli Shamir. She participated in numerous residency programs such as the Home Base Project in Jerusalem in 2014, the ArtPort residency in 2016 and the Peleh Fund Residency in California in 2017. In 2013 she won the Pais Culture Council Grant for her solo exhibition “a single Continuum”, the Artis project grant in 2016, the Haim Shiff Prize for Figurative-Realist art given by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2016 and more. Among other collection, her work pertains to the Israel Museum collection, the Luna Art Fund in Tel Aviv and New York, the Rivka Saker and Uri Zucker collection and others.

Untitled, 2017, oil on canvas, 66 x 100 cm

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Motley’s the Only Wear

Motley’s the Only Wear

Tucked in the far right corner of the image, dressed in motley, specked with black dots is the artist duo Anthony Aziz and Samuel Cucher in clowning disguise as the silent observers in the woven chaos of Aporia. This iconography is a recurring motif to Aziz + Cucher’s work ever since its first appearance in their self-reflective work By Aporia, Pure and Simple in 2012 rather as an answer as artists to the question “how proceed?”. A significant culmination of their 26-year career and their aesthetic, Aziz + Cucher fully assumes their role as fools and as the vehicle to the viewer’s understanding of the truth to the realities of living.

Unassuming and ethereal, a peacock is captured in its full virility, in a moment of majestic sexual dominance surrounded at the same time by ritualistic ruins and modern urbanisation. Within a barren field, a bed of dandelions sprouted in the midst of figures screaming in silent, excruciating pain as if writhed by some other-worldly, imposing force. Five sheep look on as people hurry on with their nylon bags in search for a better settlement. The beasts’ docile innocence starkly contrasts with the ignorance of the selfie-takers. This is the aesthetic of violence prevalent in Anthony Aziz’s and Samuel Cucher’s tapestries – hypocrisy in our modern way of living, corruption of our natural habitat.

In Aziz + Cucher (A+C)’s Some People Tapestry Cycle (2014-2016), digital images taken from the duo’s travels to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, and countries within the Balkans are electronically woven by their collaborators Magnolia Editions into Jacquard tapestries. The symbolic meanings to be studied in the featured animals, the Renaissance composition, and its employment to depict battlefields remain faithful to the historical functions of tapestry. Yet, in a stroke of genius, A+C’s artistic report on the current belligerent sentiments gives the medium a contemporary revitalisation, moving a topic so blatantly political onto the stage of an Absurdist theatre.

The violence in A+C’s work stems from the uncanny; it is the sight of familiar objects put in extraordinary circumstances. Considering A+C’s audience, they are the people who frequent the contemporary art milieu. Therefore, when we see building cranes in the background and ceremonial carvings on the wall in The Visitor, the peculiar positions that the figures are in with bags on their heads in The Road or limp bodies lying on the ground in Some People, our associative brains recall the horrific imageries perpetuated in the news. The effect of anxiety or even agoraphobia that plagues every single person in our globalised society does not require the artists to be specific like their predecessors, Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano (1440) comes to mind, but rather this question of land, home and humanity is mythicised and becomes universal in their tapestry.

Retrospectively, the evolution of A+C’s previous photographic and video oeuvre constructs a condition unique to their way of shaping the uncanny. Fairly early on in their first collaboration, Faith, Honor and Beauty (1992) evokes a strong sense of malevolence in how society views the human body. We see the subjects as the canon of beauty, yet there is a chilling impression to the photographs because the figures are without their sexual organs. The confrontation towards censorship in art, which was extremely polemical during the 90s culture wars in the United States, using literal self-censorship in their work was the first step A+C took to question the origins of our fears. From the dissolution of the body to the eeriness of the mechanical flesh in Plasmorphica (1997) and in Chimera (1998), to the architectural abstraction in Interiors (1999-2000), and again to the ecstasy, hallucinatory imagery in Synaptic Bliss (2003-05) and Scenapse (2007-2013), we see a trajectory against figuration or even anthropocentrism.

Aporia

However, a turning point came in 2006 in the form of the Israeli-Hezbollah War. With family ties in both Israel and Lebanon, the sense of ridicule and helplessness in the present complicated political realities gave impetus to A+C’s donning of the garb of jesters. While the duo confesses the self-deprecating image of the costumes, the interpretation runs deeper. The quintessential Shakespearean fool is a device, a motor that goes beyond giving comic relief to tragedies, but instead rendering deeply complex and traumatic scenes more understandable in their metaphorical resemblance to reality. The physical intervention of the A+C clowns, the artists’ departure from abstraction, and their subsequent change in the support of expression to tapestry in 2014 mark the duo’s questioning of the nature of power and the value of humanity sitting on this house of cards.

The unique tactility and the almost relief sensation in A+C’s design metamorphoses the moment captured in their digital images into sequences of movements.

This effective medium defines itself between the closeness and the distance with the viewer. The unique tactility and the almost relief sensation in A+C’s design metamorphoses the moment captured in their digital images into sequences of movements. The solemnity yet mystic fleeting fragility of the textile adds to the fear of contact dictated by the unspoken decorum in exhibitions and the romance of art. It is in itself essentially a symbol of the empty shell of power woven centuries after centuries.

Look closely at the tapestry Aporia, there is a severe expression of anxiety in the work’s narration: jet fighters across the tinged blue sky, scenes of struggle in the foreground, and undescriptive flags and gibberish signs waving in mid air. The centralised triangle with the male figure in a worker’s jumpsuit and a surgical mask as the apex of the tension and in the composition is unceremoniously skewed by the two odd figures on the right. The artists, as clowns, have the function of exposition in this storyline. They are not a physical demonstration of the silliness of the conflict, but rather a statement of truth, of the existence of such a conflict, the essence of which comes from us, the viewers looking at our reality in the third person perspective, from us looking at these figures as aliens and that we are aliens to them as well. While fools are a most unostentatious character in a play with a most pitiful ambition, it is through this pretense that A+C achieve catharsis in their personal tragedies and through which we, the viewers, recognise the cynicism of our phenomenal world.

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In our post-reality consciousness, all acts are political. Such is a great point of contention in the realm of the arts. In a moment of consideration, contemporary art can oscillate between propaganda and a reflection over calm waters. Ever since their first project together, Aziz + Cucher never cease to position their art in the current cultural and collective psyche, yet the relentless sensation of sterility muffles all conspicuous or personal commentary. Their ongoing tapestry series presents an even more eloquent demonstration of an abject anxiety under our warring times. The tapestry medium, from its historical to contemporary usages and manifestations, transmutes the inherent stirrings of the human soul into lasting forms.

A Matter of Blood

A Matter of Blood

In the Jewish religion, blood is a cornerstone embodying the religion’s precepts. From their diet to whom belongs to the faith, the red liquid is replete of numerous connotations. The Israeli artist, Sigalit Landau centers part of her artistic practice in blood and the land where she was born.

Navigating Israël allows the wanderer to understand the visual poetry and the significance of the symbols in the artist’s oeuvre. Starting with blood one can read her work as a metaphor of the violent events that have agitated the country from its creation in 1948. Growing during the Intifada years, Landau witnessed the commence of the brutality that continues – perhaps less deadly now – to shudder the region. As mentioned before her work favours red, her sculptures reminds us often of the Viennese actionism and of Francis Bacon taste for fleshy compositions.

 

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The Dining Hall a sculptural installation mimicking the interior of a house is flooded with structures with red and visceral textures. If there is amy similarity to the Viennese Actionism in this work is not by mere coincidence as Landau’s grandparents were very close to the movement during the 60’s. “I grew up inside some Viennese Actionists, my grandparents were very radical. (…) I’ve always been very interested in this, it’s in my DNA”, declared the artist during our conversation.

Human anatomy is dissected constantly in her work reflecting her background as a dancer. As she studies human body and gives it a political meaning, she touches upon femininity and the way it is viewed through the male gaze. Dead Sea for instance is a video in which the artist is floating naked on the sea with watermelons surrounding her body. The body here is freed and shamelessly presented in a natural context, it is acknowledged and put under the spotlight. Furthermore in her salt sculptures the spectator is introduced to feminine cloths reminiscent of Victorian fashion. During this period of English history, women were confined to the household, their rights were no less than non existant.

Starting with blood one can read her work as a metaphor of the violent events that have agitated the country from its creation in 1948.

The submersion of this dresses in salty water transforms them into crystalised objects mirroring the customs and values from that epoch, same that prevail and preserve women stigma. Another video exploring this is Barbed Hula wherein Landau dances the hula with a barbed wire. Although not directly mentioned during our exchange, the artist did alluded to the importance of pain in her artistic practice. The previously mentioned shows Landau dancing without any protection moving the barbed wire all over her naked body. While she examines feminine pain, she too delves on Jewish suffering.

 

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Symbols of Jewish traditions and rituals appear in Landau’s work, such is the case of salt and blood. As stated before, she submerges objects in the Dead Sea, a salty body of water so saline that no animal or living being can survive to the levels of salt. The Dead Sea is a symbol for both, Jordan and Israel and serves even as a border between the two countries. Traditionally, salt is used to dry and preserve food, and in the rituals rabbis recommended it to drain the blood from the meat which is a procedure to purify food and make it proper to eat according to the Bible, another term for this practice is Kosher. Sigalit Landau’s body of work manifest contemporary Israeli society, from its roots and its ideology, to its metamorphosis over the years.

 

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Sigalit Landau’s work touches upon different aspects on Israeli culture and lineage, it explores present day customs as well as subjects such as identity and the bridging of cultures. One of her most ambitious projects yet to date is to construction of structure joining Jordan and Israel through a salt bridge built with the salt of the Dead Sea. This particular enterprise testifies of the state of mind of Israeli contemporary artists encouraging dialogue and peace instead of deaf conflict. Through the prism of sharing, blood gains a different connotation as it units rather than tear apart.

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David Hockney: The Versatile Hand

David Hockney: The Versatile Hand

Celebrating as well the artist’s 80th birthday, the museum is exhibiting more than 160 paintings, photos, engravings, video installations and drawings focusing on Hockney’s artistic evolution. The first part of the show unveils his initial steps where he centered on the city’s urban landscape, particularly on industrial architecture. While attending the art college in Bedford, his paintings were deeply influenced by the Kitchen Sink School and realism, subject that has prevailed in his canvases over the years.

Nonetheless, if he emulated the movement’s color palette – black, red and gray mostly – his creations soon became more vivid. Yet, another element producing a transformation in Hockney’s style was the retrospective in 1960 devoted to Pablo Picasso. His versatile compositions convinced the artist of the incommensurable potential of painting, he needn’t to espouse a sole style as he could embrace them all.

Enthusiastic about this new approach, Hockney embarked in a journey to America that revolutionized once more his painting. The American way of life – the country’s relaxed ambiance and counter culture – impulsed Hockney to more hedonistic hedonistic subjects such as in Domestic Scene, Los Angeles (1963) where two young man take a shower together. Moving to the West Coast his style transfigured into more geometrical configurations where form, either human or landscape belonged to the realm of painting. The intensity and clarity of the Californian light was also investigated during this period, its refraction on water bodies mainly pools sought the birth of iconic works such as Bigger Splash (1967) or Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972), and more.

The perspective in his paintings became linear as in Renaissance canvases with precise vanishing points, imitating reality turned into an obsession. Moreover, presumably the artist became more interested in photography and its mimetic ability. He created what he named “joiners”, a mosaic of polaroids joined together. Although known as a painter, the exhibition sheds light on the artist’s early interest in new technologies.

David-Hockney-Looking-Pictures

From this point on, space and its pictorial representation were steadily investigated in Hockney’s artistic practice, his canvas Looking at Pictures on a Screen (1977) is a brilliant mise en abyme were the spectator observes an inner spectator observing paintings from diverse artists like Vermeer, Van Gogh and Piero della Francesca. Evoking art’s heritage, Hockney’s interest in human vision as well as reality’s representation became more distinct commanding the decades work. To unravel the slightest details registered in man’s eye and to reproduce them was the creator’s ambition, paintings such as Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) or Contre-jour in the French Style (Against the Day dans le Style Français), (1974) bears witness of this argument.

Nevertheless, after the linear rigidity, Hockney’s oeuvre in the 1980’s and 1990’s frees form transfiguring the pictorial space into two dimensional. Henri Matisse vibrant colours supplant the diluted tones utilised by the artist, landscapes and nature take over his oeuvre and joyously celebrate Mother Earth. The 4 seasons, time lost and found, transform into a recurrent narrative that the artist keeps expanding currently. Continuing with this everlasting interest in technology, he employed the Ipad to create more sophisticated drawings.

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Friday Artist to Watch : The Color Space of Hans Christian Berg

Friday Artist to Watch : The Color Space of Hans Christian Berg

Hans Christain Berg - Color Space

Visual Vortex and Color Space

Anthropomorphous sculptures and geometric canvases give life to the work of the Finnish artist Hans Christian Berg. “New visual dimensions” are suggested in his series Visual Vortex as well as in Color Space, both being projects where the eye discovers light in different shapes and sizes. He studied sculpture and was part of the ceramics programme at the Aalto University of Art and design in Finland from 2002 to 2004.

Concerned about the loss of ceramic tradition in Finland, he founded, together with his fellow artists, LASIKOMPPANIA in the village of Nuutajärvi, a glass cooperative aiming at revitalizing this ancient practice in his home country. He has had exhibitions in numerous venues such as the Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki, the Finnish Institute in Stockholm, the Norwegian Institute in Oslo, the Kashya Hildebrand gallery in London and more.

In 2000 he received the young Sculptor Award in the memory of the sculptor Utriainen. Hans Christian Berg won the juried sculpture competition for the new “Fennia ”House in Helsinki , Finland in 2008 and was in 2014 awarded 1 prize in the execution of Contemporary Calligraphy at the 6th edition of the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennal. The Willian Thuring Foundation’s Main Prize for excellency in art for a mid career awarded the artist in 2009.His work is part of museum collections such as Kiasma, EMMA, Helsinki Art Museum, Art Nova Museum in Turku and many more.

 

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Artist to Watch: Kathy Lovas

Artist to Watch: Kathy Lovas

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Born in Duluth, Minnesota, Kathy Lovas first graduated from Major’s College where she majored in biology. Nevertheless after this first encounter with science she decided to pursue a creative career where photography became the cornerstone of her expression. Her work was recently acquired by an important company, helping her to pave her way through the corporate art world.

Regarding her artistic practice, photos from family albums retrace the artist’s intimate familiar history unveiling a parcell of her identity. In the manner of vernacular photography, Lovas analyzes images’ repercussion and role in our lives. Company House, an installation exhibited at the Arlington Museum of Art in Texas investigated the symbols behind the photographs and their evolution over the years. With an aesthetic resembling at times the surreal takes of Man Ray such as in M-TRAIN or Seagoville Assignment: Repatriation Lovas expands upon this medium’s legacy.

Archive, artwork or footprint, photography has a versatile nature enabling Lovas to experiment at her own will. Moreover her oeuvre references not only the photographic field but art history at large, her piece Dining Room Chair echoes Joseph Kosuth’s artwork One and Tree Chairs while questioning object’s role within the image. Seemingly for Lovas, photography goes beyond the 2D surface diverging with purist’s opinion, the medium can be material and conceptual.  

Last year she had an exhibition at the Liliana Bloch gallery in Texas in which she presented her work I’m So Glitché in which she made allusion to the mistakes or malfunctions on digital technology. Using digital tools, Kathy Lovas reconstructs the image while pondering on the future of the latter.

 

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