Spring Exhibitions

25.03.2023 – 13.07.2023

Yemima Ergas

 Urban Painter 

Yemima Ergas, a well-known Jerusalem-based artist, calls herself an “Urban Painter”. Since the late 1980s, she has been painting cityscapes: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the man-made installations between them, such as the Nesher cement plant in Ramle, the numerous construction cranes rising up on the Coastal Plain, the Reading Power Plant, and recently, the gas drilling platforms in the sea. These painted images are stamped with familiar Israeli local character.

Slava’s treatment of the cranes and buildings is similar to his paint handling of the trees and clouds, testifying to his approach that anything made by humans form a natural part of the cityscape.

Slava began his art studies at the Art Academy of Baku, Azerbaijan, and continued at the Avni Institute after immigration to Israel. Son of a construction worker, born into a family of laborers, Slava’s eyes are open to the workers in his environs based on identification and a shared fate. The windows of his home in Rishon Lezion gaze out at urban renewal projects, enabling him to follow the construction process closely and continuously, watching the people involved with the site. Slava throws himself totally into his work, capturing the noise and constant movement of the construction in the rejuvenating city.

His gaze is at first distanced, like a natural scientist following life in a nature reserve from a blind, but in time he felt an increasing intimacy with the subjects and attempted to come closer and look at them face to face while creating closeness and visibility to the people laboring under the public’s threshold of awareness. When Slava completed the series of paintings, he set up an improvised exhibition on the sidewalk facing the building. The workers, who had been the objects of the artist’ gaze, were now the subjects observing the artwork. The circle was completed.

Slava’s animated films move with the beat of the city’s core, penetrating into the very innards of the bustling activities taking place within the heart of the urban space.

 From the dark inside of the “cave” we are drawn to the blinding light of modern life. We are swept into the labyrinth of the building site, losing orientation and balance. The circular movement in a monotonous rhythm emphasizes the workers’ Sisyphean labor required to carry loads to the top of the building, then return all the way down and repeat again and again. The experience of daily labor with its risk of danger and loss of control in the midst of chaos creates a sensation of vertigo in the unstable, constantly moving and changing space. Slava creates a liminal world that comes to a stop only when the lunch hour arrives. At the moment that the cranes, drills, and hammers cease, it is possible to look up and see the pigeons’ flight. 

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus
 

Slava Ilyayev

 Under construction

Slava Ilyayev’s exhibition operates like the lens of a microscope examining the urban organism, its rhythm and movement, the frame of scaffolds and cranes supporting it, and the residents moving through it like blood cells nourishing the huge entity. The city is the largest human creation, with the construction workers like worker ants, reinforcing and expanding it. 

Slava’s treatment of the cranes and buildings is similar to his paint handling of the trees and clouds, testifying to his approach that anything made by humans form a natural part of the cityscape.

Slava began his art studies at the Art Academy of Baku, Azerbaijan, and continued at the Avni Institute after immigration to Israel. Son of a construction worker, born into a family of laborers, Slava’s eyes are open to the workers in his environs based on identification and a shared fate. The windows of his home in Rishon Lezion gaze out at urban renewal projects, enabling him to follow the construction process closely and continuously, watching the people involved with the site. Slava throws himself totally into his work, capturing the noise and constant movement of the construction in the rejuvenating city.

His gaze is at first distanced, like a natural scientist following life in a nature reserve from a blind, but in time he felt an increasing intimacy with the subjects and attempted to come closer and look at them face to face while creating closeness and visibility to the people laboring under the public’s threshold of awareness. When Slava completed the series of paintings, he set up an improvised exhibition on the sidewalk facing the building. The workers, who had been the objects of the artist’ gaze, were now the subjects observing the artwork. The circle was completed.

Slava’s animated films move with the beat of the city’s core, penetrating into the very innards of the bustling activities taking place within the heart of the urban space.

 From the dark inside of the “cave” we are drawn to the blinding light of modern life. We are swept into the labyrinth of the building site, losing orientation and balance. The circular movement in a monotonous rhythm emphasizes the workers’ Sisyphean labor required to carry loads to the top of the building, then return all the way down and repeat again and again. The experience of daily labor with its risk of danger and loss of control in the midst of chaos creates a sensation of vertigo in the unstable, constantly moving and changing space. Slava creates a liminal world that comes to a stop only when the lunch hour arrives. At the moment that the cranes, drills, and hammers cease, it is possible to look up and see the pigeons’ flight. 

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus
 

Jonathan Ofek

Neither angel nor seraph

Jonathan Ofek’s ten clay angels surround us, standing in a circle without end or beginning, open to all directions, symbolizing a liminal space between heaven and earth. The space proposes a humbling insight: in the end, we all return to the same point, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).

The angels’ feet are grounded to their base, while their crude wings can bear their weight only through a miracle. The angels’ mouths are open in a mute cry, as a still small voice is carried over the circle.

“The angel calls out in a loud voice; as for me, I hear not; but I must pay attention, attempt to read his lips, think about his intent, because each angel is important. This is a very familiar feeling when looking at art, is it not? It always calls out loud, without a sound heard at all,” as Dror Burstein wrote about Ofek’s 2017 exhibition “Lord of Wings.” 

Ofek’s angels are no strangers to Israeli art. They stand at attention like a link in the long chain of angels whose beginning lies far back in the Diaspora, with Chagall’s angels hovering above the shtetl, or with Ephraim Moshe Lilien’s Ministering Angles whose sublime wings point to the path to the Redemption of the Jewish People and the Land. Ofek’s angels are far from the ideal image striving towards the sublime; these are frustrated angels, having failed time and again, seemingly engaged more in the human condition than the Divine.

Their heads are not proportionate to their bodies, their gaping mouths reminiscent of Siona Shimshi’s damaged ceramic angels from the 1980s, evoking pity. Ofek’s angels seem to have been brought down from the heights of their omnipotent status as protectors. They have crashed down to the grounded, difficult, Israeli reality.

Ran Schechori stated, “If the angels fly about, they are also destined to fall. An angel falls from the azure sky, sky which is purity without blemish, the bright body collapses in its nakedness towards old age, ugliness, and evil, to the crawling on one’s belly in the filth of everyday life…” 

The “fallen angels” the rebellious ones who disobeyed Divine Law and took wives from among the human women and created the giants. They are hybrids, a synthesis between upper metaphysical worlds and the earthbound world of the flesh. The angels’ gestures show the mental price of the burden they bear. Ofek marks them with additional indicators casting doubt their angelic nature: prominent fangs, horns, and tails, identified with the “dark side” (lit., “the ‘other’ side),  or Pre-Columbian sculptures of gods.

These hybrid angels create a synthesis not only between upper and lower worlds, but also between the image of the sublime of western art to the primordial and native-born. It seems that the tables have turned: Ofek’s big-headed angels with their heavy wings have become transformed from being symbols of a protective and consoling ideal essence into those seeking protection, in need of consolation like children.

Through his art, Ofek reenacts Divine Creation in reverse: a man creates angels from the earth with his own hands, and breathes life into them. This is an act of pure iconoclasm that empties the sacred out of the image and secularizes it, restores it to its context of a hollow clay vessel. He does not deny the immanent connection between angel to artist as bearer of an annunciation, but in contrast to the angel who can rebel against the one who sends him, the artist, whose mission is personal, works according to an internal command and cannot rebel against it.

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus

Niv Shafran

Source of Love (2020)

Niv Shafran, trained as an architect, made the sculpture Source of Love installed during Spring-Summer 2003 on the roof of a building adjacent to the Municipal Gallery (on the property of the Rishon Lezion Museum). In Plato’s Symposium, comprising the Greek myth about the source of love, the story is told how humans were first created as people joined together bearing doubled power and powers of insight.

Due to great hubris, Zeus split the being into two separate people, creating creatures more similar to human beings. Niv Shafran refers to this myth as one of his inspirations for art. Source of Love is based on additional visual sources etched in the memory of all who love art (such as Brancusi’s Kiss (1907-08) and 3m. high Endless Column; Rodin’s The Kiss, and more).

The sculpted figures of a man and a woman unifying into a single point on the ground, made of iron rods looking like ropes create a kind of whirlpool with an illusory silhouette.

In its physicality, the piece connects to the contents of the cluster of exhibitions in the Gallery: it is made from iron bars which are used as one of the basic elements in construction.

 Shafran has bent and welded them to enable viewers to discover the human being, the couple coming into being in the middle, and to think about the action of the creative hands that make structures and buildings. The work anchors the human to the structure, using casting and formwork, thus providing an “introduction” to the work of other artists engaged in constructions, structures, and workers, on view inside the Gallery.

Shafran’s animated film is based on an existing place and graffiti works by others, reviving the neglected back alleys of Tel Aviv. The walls become liquid, the graffiti art crumbles and melts. They become inflated and burst in all possible ways from the walls into the alley’s narrow space.

Alleys signify liminal space, as they are neither road nor sidewalk, too narrow to contain anything substantial, shoved to the margins of the illuminated, orderly urban space. It is precisely in this threatening space in which the borders have blurred that new “life forms” can develop on which the urban order cannot be imposed. The innovative technologies of the new media are a new frontier, the “wild west” of civilization in which virtuality is possible. This is a new evolution, but it is too early to tell where it will lead.

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus

Jane Labaton

The shadows within

In a small studio underneath a lovely Jerusalem house, Jane Labaton works with infinite patience for hours on end. Her works form a totality, as Jane uses recycled cut paper, hand-painted with images of moths, which according to spiritual tradition symbolize the soul, freedom, and the transience of life.

The moth images are connected to form objects reminiscent of giant chandeliers, alongside of which are broken, shaky, black-and-white polka dotted chairs which are impossible to sit on. Jane collects discarded books from the street. By painting each book a pure white they are effectively given a “clean slate”. A virgin purity, they have become a blank canvas on which a new story is written. Amongst the works, scattered on bits of paper mounted on wire mesh are the artist’s thoughts, fears and doubts written as she creates her works. A need to record the creative process as it happens. 

The two installations in the two gallery spaces are comprised of objects painted in bold colors but convey a world of shadows. The “chandeliers” do not illuminate but engage in shadowing more than disseminating light. The chairs, which in the “real world” are meant for sitting, cannot be sat upon, since they are in pieces, while the books are not meant to be read. They symbolize an extinct world of culture and intellect. 

The objects seem to have been extracted from backdrops for Beckett’s plays, arousing tension and discomfort in viewers.

Jane’s objects are stamped with memories from her distant past, from the dark, industrial north of England. The dimness enveloping the objects arises from the deep vulnerability etched deep in Jane’s soul as a young Jewish girl living among non-Jews, constantly harassed. The prestigious school that was supposed to provide her with childhood experiences and excitement turned against her and became threatening and fear-inducing. Jane became introverted, searching for many years for her “artistic place,” that would finally become a source of consolation and desire. Her constant search for a means of expression that could give an outlet to her many emotions swirling wildly inside her, led her to her art pathway. This was a Sisyphean, painstakingly laborious, and aesthetic path in an art kingdom of which she was the unchallenged ruler.

Jane makes art expressing protest, a scream underneath a perfectly, tightly made surface. The “actors” she brings to center stage were taken from her day-to-day world but are stripped of their use, leaving only the shell. From a conceptual aspect, Jane moves on the axis of postmodernism as she revives a variety of prior historical eras in a new guise. Her “neo-Gothic” style is expressed in the large scale, density, and multiplicity of decorative details in the object, suffused in the spirit of the Vanitas tradition hinting at the certainty of death. The installations are comprised of pseudo-objects, stripped of function, through which she conveys social criticism of the consumer society of plenty which is abusing Earth. In contrast, Jane uses recycled materials to which she gives new life. The emotional darkness that accompanied the artist for so many years and the crisis that modern society is currently experiencing are intertwined in the beautiful art objects.

Sari Paran
Curator

March 2023

דן בירנבוים

רישום

על גבי קיר במבואת הגלריה, מציג האמן והאדריכל דן בירנבוים רישומים נבחרים מתוך עבודות אחרונות. עבודתו הרישומית עסקה בעיקר בתיאור נוף, ישראלי. נופים אשר התעלמו בדרך כלל  מנוכחות אנושית. הפעם, נדמה שהאמן מביט אל תוכו. מתוך התנועה המיומנת של מכחול יבש  וצבע שחור על נייר, הוא מצליח להעביר אותנו דרך ציור עין, גם אל מה שהעין רואה (העין כמייצגת את המבט, שולחת בעקיפין גם אל דיון פילוסופי עמוק על המבט) [1]. אנחנו חשים את התנועה המתעקלת של היד ורואים את גלגל העין, אישון, דמות שנקלטה במבט. האדמה עליה ניצבים שלושה ברושים (מוטיב ביצירתו וסמל ישראלי) התעגלה באופן בוטח, עד שנדמה שכך יש לציירה. דמות נקלטת בעין, משוכפלת לדמויות רבות ואנחנו מתבוננים ברישום קהל רב של יחידים הנדמים כגופים אורגנים על צלחת פטרי במעבדה. הרישום נכנע לתנועה עגולה, טבעית, כמעט שלמה, שהופכת לבסיס, למקום ממנו נצרבים הדימויים,העין.  רישומיו של דן מאופיינים בתחושה דואלית אצל הצופה . תנועת המכחול לצד הקפאת הרגע ונדמה שאנחנו נמצאים על סיפו של דבר מה שיש לבחון אותו שוב. רגע חשוב. הבחירה בטכניקה שהיא כמעט וקליגרפית, יוצרת רגע ציורי, יחידי, מרתק.  אלו מתעגלים יחדיו לכדי סממנים חדשים ונוספים ביצירה עשירה, רבת שנים ומרתקת של אמן ישראלי שמצליח לזקק עבודתו כקליגרף יפני, ועם זאת לייצר תחושה מקומית השייכת לכאן ועכשיו.  
[1]  “הנראה והבלתי נראה” (1964) -מוריס מרלו-פונטי העמיד את הגוף במרכז החוויה התפיסתית של היותנו בעולם. לדעתו, ראייה היא חוויה גופנית, בדרך של דואליות והיפוך: גופי הרואה הוא גם הגוף הנראה על ידי האחר. חוויית היסוד של היותי בעולם היא זו של סובייקט צופה שהוא גם נצפה. גם לאקאן ( 1964, סמינר 11) התייחס להתבוננות: המביט הוא חלק מתמונה רחבה יותר, המבליעה בה את המביט בהיותה כוללת את הצופה שהוא תמיד גם נצפה, ותמיד נמצא גם בשדה המבט של האחר.

ללא כותרת 2019 | אקריליק על נייר 42/30 ס"מ
ללא כותרת 2019 | אקריליק על נייר 42/30 ס"מ
ללא כותרת 2019 | אקריליק על נייר 42/30 ס"מ
ללא כותרת 2019 | אקריליק על נייר 42/30 ס"מ
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Spring Exhibitions 
25.03.2023 – 13.07.2023

Catalogue
Video

Yemima Ergas

Urban Painter

 Yemima Ergas, a well-known Jerusalem-based artist, calls herself an “Urban Painter”. Since the late 1980s, she has been painting cityscapes: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the man-made installations between them, such as the Nesher cement plant in Ramle, the numerous construction cranes rising up on the Coastal Plain, the Reading Power Plant, and recently, the gas drilling platforms in the sea. These painted images are stamped with familiar Israeli local character. 

Yemima’s most recent exhibition was a richly varied “semi-retrospective” shown at the Jerusalem Artists’ House in early 2022 (curated by Shulamit Breuer). It became a catalyst for the current show, stimulating the artist to bring some of the pieces to the Coastal Plain – to the city of Rishon Le-Zion for the exhibition “Urban Painter”.

Does it make sense to speak of a common denominator or the differences between the two cities, or about the sea to the west? Maybe this is the mid-point, and if so, what does this “middle” mean? Is distance also meaningful?  Can the differences between the cities be identified according to the shape of the houses, their density, how they are distributed in the space? Perhaps it’s the tension between hills and plain, houses covered with stone compared to houses with peeling plaster and new residential towers. It seems that the “middle” and what takes place within it (constant construction, the area studded with cranes) hint at a space between the cities that is constantly shrinking, as space in general is narrowing. Everything around us is “human- made”. We are also destroying nature, removing it from our midst. Yemima’s oeuvre opens up an interpretive space.

The exhibition attempts to set us thinking about extreme urbanization and about the disappearing open space as compared to “what is”: streets, walls of houses, roofs, parking lots—the total architecture of a locale. Yemima’s paintings do not attempt to trace a specific house, or a particular neighborhood. Her paintings are about painting (lights and darks, composition, the palette) but also illuminate and stimulate viewers to truly look at their environs. On the surface, the paintings seem to direct viewers towards a shared memory, to placeholders, and not to reality. A mid-point does exist, a gap between the depicted reality and its representation on canvas, wood, or in clay. We observe the artist’s mental maps which succeed in resonating mental maps imprinted on us all. Cities, fragments of urban spaces, sections of streets or an almost panoramic view are depicted in a clearly realistic manner, and yet within the paintings are touches of abstraction in restrained hues. As Yemima stated, “…In my work, a continuum of transitions may be identified, from representation tending towards abstraction towards figuration and realism, back and forth, as movement enriching the language.”

Yemima Ergas Vroman has been active for years on behalf of the Jerusalem art scene and was the head of the Jerusalem Artists’ Association in the 1990s. She later was one of the founders of the cooperative gallery Agripas 12 in Jerusalem. These two public, non-governmental galleries are major spaces for artists, with great impact on the local art scene. Yemima’s artist book, Day by Day (Carmel, 2017) was published with the support of the Pais Council for Art and Culture.

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus

Slava Ilyayev

Under construction

Slava Ilyayev’s exhibition operates like the lens of a microscope examining the urban organism, its rhythm and movement, the frame of scaffolds and cranes supporting it, and the residents moving through it like blood cells nourishing the huge entity. The city is the largest human creation, with the construction workers like worker ants, reinforcing and expanding it. Slava’s treatment of the cranes and buildings is similar to his paint handling of the trees and clouds, testifying to his approach that anything made by humans form a natural part of the cityscape.

Slava began his art studies at the Art Academy of Baku, Azerbaijan, and continued at the Avni Institute after immigration to Israel. Son of a construction worker, born into a family of laborers, Slava’s eyes are open to the workers in his environs based on identification and a shared fate. The windows of his home in Rishon Lezion gaze out at urban renewal projects, enabling him to follow the construction process closely and continuously, watching the people involved with the site. Slava throws himself totally into his work, capturing the noise and constant movement of the construction in the rejuvenating city. 

His gaze is at first distanced, like a natural scientist following life in a nature reserve from a blind, but in time he felt an increasing intimacy with the subjects and attempted to come closer and look at them face to face while creating closeness and visibility to the people laboring under the public’s threshold of awareness. When Slava completed the series of paintings, he set up an improvised exhibition on the sidewalk facing the building. The workers, who had been the objects of the artist’ gaze, were now the subjects observing the artwork. The circle was completed.

Slava’s animated films move with the beat of the city’s core, penetrating into the very innards of the bustling activities taking place within the heart of the urban space. From the dark inside of the “cave” we are drawn to the blinding light of modern life. We are swept into the labyrinth of the building site, losing orientation and balance. The circular movement in a monotonous rhythm emphasizes the workers’ Sisyphean labor required to carry loads to the top of the building, then return all the way down and repeat again and again. The experience of daily labor with its risk of danger and loss of control in the midst of chaos creates a sensation of vertigo in the unstable, constantly moving and changing space. Slava creates a liminal world that comes to a stop only when the lunch hour arrives. At the moment that the cranes, drills, and hammers cease, it is possible to look up and see the pigeons’ flight.

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus

Jonathan Ofek

Neither angel nor seraph

Jonathan Ofek’s ten clay angels surround us, standing in a circle without end or beginning, open to all directions, symbolizing a liminal space between heaven and earth. The space proposes a humbling insight: in the end, we all return to the same point, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). The angels’ feet are grounded to their base, while their crude wings can bear their weight only through a miracle. The angels’ mouths are open in a mute cry, as a still small voice is carried over the circle.

“The angel calls out in a loud voice; as for me, I hear not; but I must pay attention, attempt to read his lips, think about his intent, because each angel is important. This is a very familiar feeling when looking at art, is it not? It always calls out loud, without a sound heard at all,” as Dror Burstein wrote about Ofek’s 2017 exhibition “Lord of Wings.” 

Ofek’s angels are no strangers to Israeli art. They stand at attention like a link in the long chain of angels whose beginning lies far back in the Diaspora, with Chagall’s angels hovering above the shtetl, or with Ephraim Moshe Lilien’s Ministering Angles whose sublime wings point to the path to the Redemption of the Jewish People and the Land. Ofek’s angels are far from the ideal image striving towards the sublime; these are frustrated angels, having failed time and again, seemingly engaged more in the human condition than the Divine. Their heads are not proportionate to their bodies, their gaping mouths reminiscent of Siona Shimshi’s damaged ceramic angels from the 1980s, evoking pity. Ofek’s angels seem to have been brought down from the heights of their omnipotent status as protectors. They have crashed down to the grounded, difficult, Israeli reality.

Ran Schechori stated, “If the angels fly about, they are also destined to fall. An angel falls from the azure sky, sky which is purity without blemish, the bright body collapses in its nakedness towards old age, ugliness, and evil, to the crawling on one’s belly in the filth of everyday life…” 

The “fallen angels” the rebellious ones who disobeyed Divine Law and took wives from among the human women and created the giants. They are hybrids, a synthesis between upper metaphysical worlds and the earthbound world of the flesh. The angels’ gestures show the mental price of the burden they bear. Ofek marks them with additional indicators casting doubt their angelic nature: prominent fangs, horns, and tails, identified with the “dark side” (lit., “the ‘other’ side),  or Pre-Columbian sculptures of gods. These hybrid angels create a synthesis not only between upper and lower worlds, but also between the image of the sublime of western art to the primordial and native-born. It seems that the tables have turned: Ofek’s big-headed angels with their heavy wings have become transformed from being symbols of a protective and consoling ideal essence into those seeking protection, in need of consolation like children.

Through his art, Ofek reenacts Divine Creation in reverse: a man creates angels from the earth with his own hands, and breathes life into them. This is an act of pure iconoclasm that empties the sacred out of the image and secularizes it, restores it to its context of a hollow clay vessel. He does not deny the immanent connection between angel to artist as bearer of an annunciation, but in contrast to the angel who can rebel against the one who sends him, the artist, whose mission is personal, works according to an internal command and cannot rebel against it.

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus

Niv Shafran

Source of Love (2020)

Iron sculpture, h: 330 cm, d: 175 cm

Niv Shafran, trained as an architect, made the sculpture Source of Love installed during Spring-Summer 2003 on the roof of a building adjacent to the Municipal Gallery (on the property of the Rishon Lezion Museum). In Plato’s Symposium, comprising the Greek myth about the source of love, the story is told how humans were first created as people joined together bearing doubled power and powers of insight. Due to great hubris, Zeus split the being into two separate people, creating creatures more similar to human beings. Niv Shafran refers to this myth as one of his inspirations for art. Source of Love is based on additional visual sources etched in the memory of all who love art (such as Brancusi’s Kiss (1907-08) and 3m. high Endless Column; Rodin’s The Kiss, and more).

The sculpted figures of a man and a woman unifying into a single point on the ground, made of iron rods looking like ropes create a kind of whirlpool with an illusory silhouette.

In its physicality, the piece connects to the contents of the cluster of exhibitions in the Gallery: it is made from iron bars which are used as one of the basic elements in construction. Shafran has bent and welded them to enable viewers to discover the human being, the couple coming into being in the middle, and to think about the action of the creative hands that make structures and buildings. The work anchors the human to the structure, using casting and formwork, thus providing an “introduction” to the work of other artists engaged in constructions, structures, and workers, on view inside the Gallery.

Shafran’s animated film is based on an existing place and graffiti works by others, reviving the neglected back alleys of Tel Aviv. The walls become liquid, the graffiti art crumbles and melts. They become inflated and burst in all possible ways from the walls into the alley’s narrow space. 

Alleys signify liminal space, as they are neither road nor sidewalk, too narrow to contain anything substantial, shoved to the margins of the illuminated, orderly urban space. It is precisely in this threatening space in which the borders have blurred that new “life forms” can develop on which the urban order cannot be imposed. The innovative technologies of the new media are a new frontier, the “wild west” of civilization in which virtuality is possible. This is a new evolution, but it is too early to tell where it will lead.

Efi Gen, Keren Weisshaus

Jane Labaton

The shadows within

In a small studio underneath a lovely Jerusalem house, Jane Labaton works with infinite patience for hours on end. Her works form a totality, as Jane uses recycled cut paper, hand-painted with images of moths, which according to spiritual tradition symbolize the soul, freedom, and the transience of life.

The moth images are connected to form objects reminiscent of giant chandeliers, alongside of which are broken, shaky, black-and-white polka dotted chairs which are impossible to sit on. Jane collects discarded books from the street. By painting each book a pure white they are effectively given a “clean slate”. A virgin purity, they have become a blank canvas on which a new story is written. Amongst the works, scattered on bits of paper mounted on wire mesh are the artist’s thoughts, fears and doubts written as she creates her works. A need to record the creative process as it happens. 

The two installations in the two gallery spaces are comprised of objects painted in bold colors but convey a world of shadows. The “chandeliers” do not illuminate but engage in shadowing more than disseminating light. The chairs, which in the “real world” are meant for sitting, cannot be sat upon, since they are in pieces, while the books are not meant to be read. They symbolize an extinct world of culture and intellect. The objects seem to have been extracted from backdrops for Beckett’s plays, arousing tension and discomfort in viewers. 

Jane’s objects are stamped with memories from her distant past, from the dark, industrial north of England. The dimness enveloping the objects arises from the deep vulnerability etched deep in Jane’s soul as a young Jewish girl living among non-Jews, constantly harassed. The prestigious school that was supposed to provide her with childhood experiences and excitement turned against her and became threatening and fear-inducing. Jane became introverted, searching for many years for her “artistic place,” that would finally become a source of consolation and desire. Her constant search for a means of expression that could give an outlet to her many emotions swirling wildly inside her, led her to her art pathway. This was a Sisyphean, painstakingly laborious, and aesthetic path in an art kingdom of which she was the unchallenged ruler. 

Jane makes art expressing protest, a scream underneath a perfectly, tightly made surface. The “actors” she brings to center stage were taken from her day-to-day world but are stripped of their use, leaving only the shell. From a conceptual aspect, Jane moves on the axis of postmodernism as she revives a variety of prior historical eras in a new guise. Her “neo-Gothic” style is expressed in the large scale, density, and multiplicity of decorative details in the object, suffused in the spirit of the Vanitas tradition hinting at the certainty of death. The installations are comprised of pseudo-objects, stripped of function, through which she conveys social criticism of the consumer society of plenty which is abusing Earth. In contrast, Jane uses recycled materials to which she gives new life. The emotional darkness that accompanied the artist for so many years and the crisis that modern society is currently experiencing are intertwined in the beautiful art objects.

Sari Paran
Curator

March 2023

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