This morning I was lucky to meet the artist Simon Fujiwara, on the opening of his solo exhibition at the Dvir Gallery.
One of the first memories as a first year student in Bezalel is the trip to the desert, organised by Didi Lin, who was then the head of the Ceramics and Glass department. All of us students and teachers alike spent 3 days on the Negev craters. We worked together, making environmental art – a term I was not familiar with back in the mid 90’s. The clay was all over us – we only used water to make it soft enough to work with. One big sculpture was made out of wood and paper and on the last night we burned it – that was the part conducted by Sharon Keren.
At the end of the first year in Bezalel I spent a year in Oxford, England. When we were back, in 1996 I had big decisions to make – the ceramics department was split into four – pottery, sculpture, glass and design. All of us students had to choose a main field and a complementary one. During the two years to come I changed my mind all the time until at the beginning of the fourth year, in 1999 I started making ceramic paintings: a technique I developed. My project was not accepted easily. Most of the teachers could not understand why I was painting in clay. My teachers were both from Ceramics and Fine Art departments. One of them, a leading painter said to me with much disrespect: “This is not painting!”. Others, from the ceramics department advised me to “go do my paintings on the 6th floor (fine art).
It is from Lidia Zavatsky, one of my dominant teachers, that I learned several things that still go with me – Firstly, do one thing, work in one technique – but know all you have to know about it, be a specialist. This phrase is always in my mind. I have been painting in oils since 2005 and I have learned the technique mainly through a daily struggle. Secondly, if you have an idea for a work- do it! otherwise you will be always thinking of it wondering what it would or could have looked like.
further reading about the technique of ceramic painting: Ceramics TECHNICAL no. 11 pp.60-61
Not an artist – declares Creed
Sign of MOTHERS circling above my head in a large hall.
I rest on the sofa.
Metronomes all along the floor. Ticking.
MOTHERS above my head.
Heavy still, Still Mothers, well lit, turning around, circling.
The heavy pole holding the huge sign – MOTHERS – is strongly attached to the floor.
In the year 2005 I was free listener at Tal Ben Shachar‘s packed classes at the Harvard University. One of the excellently conducted lessons at the Positive Psychology course was Comfort Zone. I didn’t know Tal, nor had I had the faintest idea about the amount of students that were going to listen to him, BUT the location sounded very interesting for me – A Cathedral! and the course title – Positive Psychology. Oh. And by the professor’s name – I could guess he was an Israeli.
Tal, was under the white light. We, free listeners, auditors, students – sat silently. The Show has begun. Every lecture was a magic. One day he was lecturing on Comfort Zone. we all have them – our comfort zones. We must have them – they are our family, home, hobby, career.
One day we want to make a change – to take a step forward, jump into the cold water.
This afternoon we went to the West End, to watch the Stomp. A show running in London for 20 years now. In the cast of 8 – we all found ourselves laughing, shouting, applauding or yelling. Everyone on stage was one of us, is one of us – wannabe or will be. Very simple – it is a spectacle – it takes you beyond the here, now, beyond yourself. You can’t take your eyes of the stage for a second – anything can happen.
I can’t stop thinking of Debord’s La Societe du Spectale, also first published in the early 90’s.
At Stomp – as in Debord’s Spectale – boundaries fall apart. No more Alpha and Omega – “dans le cadre du spectacle toute activite est niee” (Debord, p. 29) We are not audience to a “thing happening on stage” – rather – active participants on chairs. We shout, clap, yell, you can’t be wrong as long as you are in the game and familiar with the rules.
Cast – that is one of Stomp’s secrets.
I have started painting in the year 1995, as an art student in Bezalel. I had no idea I was going to be an artist, nor a painter. Yet, as a child I would love writing stories to paintings hanging in our house, and as an adult I studied history of art at the Tel Aviv university and felt a great pleasure being in the dark room where slides, usually in couples, juxtaposed, were shown on the white screen. The tender sound of the silde carousel turning was something I was familiar with from early childhood – slides from family tours and parents’ trip abroad were a part of familial evenings back in the early 70’s.
Back to the first year in Bezalel – as a ceramic student I learned throwing pots on the wheel. Before studying I was certain I was going to be a ceramist. (again – that was something I realized long after studying history of art and french language and literature and even continuing to masters in history of art.) As a young (not young in age, I was then 28 already!) first year student I found myself making pots and then spending more time and satisfaction in painting on them. They were mere canvas to me…At that time, I had a very good friend that studied with me in the ceramics department – Asya Lukin. I talked to her about how I would love to paint and thanks to her support I made my first steps in oil painting. She encouraged me to learn with Dedi Ben Shaul, with whom I found a common language – Dedi too was a potter. He generously welcomed me to his packed courses. I learned to paint from observation at models, at still life. In a way, I was also absorbing from him – for years to come – important tools for teaching painting. It is not painting that he taught, rather – the possibility for one to paint. There was no right or wrong, but a journey to walk within yourself. Since that year, 2005, I had different teachers and different painting series – they all had in common painting from observation. In 2007 I opened an art studio in Rishpon. My students are witnesses to the changes I encounter as a painter. As a young teacher I guided them to paint not even from photographs! They could only paint still life, interior, model or landscape – only what was physically in front of them. After long and lonely years of painting I felt around 2009, 9 years after graduating the Bezalel Academy, that I was at a dead end. I refused to go along the same path! Was I doomed to paint myself in the mirror? pots on a table? armchairs and models? Short trials of painting outdoors were pure disaster for me, so much to prepare in advance, people passing by and calling “hey! wouldn’t you like to paint me?”, it’s too hot, it’s too cold – all that ended in me starting painting from photos. In 2010 I had a solo exhibition of mainly seascpaes, in 2011 an exhibition of the Written Doe. Lately, I have abandoned the animals and started inventing my own abstract* landscapes.
For the first time as a painter I am fascinated with so many new feelings and thoughts:
1. No more struggle
When copying a subject matter – be it a vase, a portait or a photo of a doe – there was always a struggle between myself and the canvas. A “third-party” struggle. The questions “does it already look like?”, “why doesn’t it still look like?” always frustrated me. In a way, I now realize that the well defined objects – doe, monkey – stood like a fence between me and my canvas.
2. No more “what am I going to paint today?”
The horrifying question has disappeared altogether. No more “what” no more “where on the canvas” – I paint, I work in a direct way, no more boundaries between the brush, the colour and the canvas.
3. the 7 year old test
My most sincere and straightforward critics are always my sons (now 7 and 14 years old). The answer for “did I succeed in painting a monkey?” was always very obvious for them, much more than it was for me. Surprisingly, now that I show my 7 year old an abstract* painting he tells me stories about the animals and the waterfalls he sees there!
*Note on the term “abstract” in relation to my latest works:
I disagree totally to that term in relation to those paintings, but I haven’t yet found a better one. The reasons for them not being abstract:
1. There is a clear one way to hang them/look at them. They would look upside down or wrongly hung otherwise.
2. They are cleary landscapes, not people nor still life.
Does it stand in front of you and reject you? (it cries “don’t touch me”)
Does it have a life ot ite own? (if it does – you feel it, you can’t take your eyes of it)
Do you feel it has taken you on a long journey?
Do you feel it taught you a few lessons?
Do you feel exhausted?
It is probably finished.
I don’t believe in paintings done too quickly. I just don’t trust them. A painting must be a result of a long, hard and challenging process. Otherwise, they are nothing but a first layer of paint. A good painting will cause a “good” tension in my body, mainly in the stomach or chest. A good painting will take me to a place where time does not exist. Those are the paintings that I trust. That I can rely on. My paintings are built one on top of the other, on one canvas. None of them could have started with the final layer. All layers are needed, they can be seen in the final work. Either I expose them with a knife, or they add body to the paint. This is a journey. A struggle. Remember the aches I mentioned earlier? They are real. They must be real, because I need them. They guarantee that I am in the right place, in the exact tension and concentration needed to produce a work of art.
If ever an exception to this rule turns up, I know that the next day in the studio will make me see things right. All “fast paintings” are worked over. No shortcuts to a good work.
There is this style of painting that I name “self-contained”. It includes paintings in which you encounter no struggle, no hesitation by the artist. Those are paintings created by artists who paint in the same manner for years, without challenging themselves, as if a challenge, a risk, could threaten their success as artists.
I have once heard an artist declaring during a gallery talk that he doesn’t paint in large scale because he doesn’t know how to do it. I was tempted to ask him – don’t you ever get out of your comfort zone? Of course I said nothing to him, but I felt sorry and sad about that young artist. For me a day in the studio without a step out of the comfort zone is a day wasted.
When I enter a gallery or an exhibition hall with a paintings’ exhibition, I immediately know if the artist was bored while painting or was he taking risks, and therefore surprising himself with every work. It shows.
When a student comes up to me and decalres that he “doesn’t have a distinguished style” I say – good for you. Now you know your paintings are not “self-contained”.