"It’s only newspaper, how is it possible?” This is the question almost everyone asked as they viewed Frida Sasson’s artwork at her recent exhibition “Collision” at the Jerusalem Theater. “That is going to be the name of my next exhibition,” laughs Sasson.
Sasson’s vibrant pictures immediately draw a crowd. It is impossible to just look and then not look again and again. For what seem like beautifully abstract oil paintings are actually made from discarded newspapers. And what looks like a picture of a forest or a stream or a nature scene at first glance becomes something completely different upon closer inspection.
Sasson calls this artistic technique that she developed over the years “paper sampling” or “remix.” Both terms come from music, where sampling means taking a sample of a sound recording and reusing it as a different sound recording, while remix is taking an existing musical piece and changing the sounds to create a new piece.
“That is exactly what I do with my art,” explains Sasson. “I take color from newspapers, remix it and turn this same newspaper into a piece of art.”
Sasson developed her technique on canvas in 2002, after making very successful recycled paper animal sculptures, which are for sale at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv and exclusive shops. One day as she was looking at her sculptures, it struck her, “Why not make pictures on canvas?”
“I worked all day and night to create my first piece. I didn’t think about what the final outcome would be,” says Sasson with rising excitement. “This was my internal self speaking, and I just let my feelings pour out. When I was finished and showed it to people, they told me it was incredible.”
Sasson takes discarded newspapers and finds pictures and ads with colors and textures. She tears the picture to pieces, taking out the “noise of the words” until only the color remains. However, she tears the paper in a special way that she developed so it is in the direction of the grain and there is no distortion or discoloration at the edges as usually happens when paper is torn.
“The transfer from words to color reflects the movement in the soul,” says Sasson. “The design of the picture is my experience moving between constantly opposing forces, will and fear, strength and weakness, faith and despair. That is why my exhibition is called ‘Collision.’”
Unlike many artists, Sasson does not start out with a predetermined picture in her mind. Her first step is to cover the whole canvas in color; a color that matches her mood. And then she adds other colors and other pictures to this background, and the picture takes on a three-dimensional look. And when her mood changes, so do the colors. For example, when her father suddenly became ill, her pictures became darker. When her son was drafted into the army, her greens became more khaki.
“There is no erasing or going back,” says Sasson. “If I want to change something, I put another piece of paper over it, and thus my pictures have layers and layers of paper, and layers and layers of meaning.”
Sasson never uses scissors or paints. Glue (a special blend that she created) and varnish are the only material she uses other than newspaper. All her works are original pieces that cannot be redone, as each day brings new colors and textures from the newspapers.
Sasson, a 49-year-old mother of four who lives in East Talpiot, studied art at the Kalisher School of Art in Tel Aviv and worked in sketching and engraving before working as a graphic artist for many years. She says her art now “expresses her sensitivity to balance and color.” In fact, a prominent architect once told her that her compositions were like planning a city; they had the same balance and attention to detail.
“It’s like doing a puzzle,” says Sasson. “I take colors and textures and put them together until I create something of beauty that each person interprets through their own eyes and through their own feelings.”
This was clear at the exhibition as people looked at a picture, then stepped back and looked again and then went closer to see the even finer details. Suddenly, from what looks like autumn leaves falling, there is a picture of a ballerina in the middle, so subtle it is hardly noticeable at first; but once noticed, it becomes the central focus of the picture.
“It’s simply amazing,” says Liora Slomiansky, an intensive care nurse at Beilinson Hospital, who had come from Ramat Gan with her husband to see the exhibition. “The longer I look at the pictures, the more details I see and the more the picture keeps changing. I can’t believe this is just newspaper.”
“I’m not usually attracted to art,” said another visitor, who had come to the theater to attend a performance, not for the exhibition, “but I can’t stop looking at these pictures. It’s like they’re drawing me in.”
Sasson says that her art speaks to people from all walks of life, from
sophisticated art collectors to people who are simply attracted to the
vibrant colors. “One 16-year-old boy wrote in my visitors book that he
wished he had enough money to buy one of my pictures to put in his room
and just stare at,” says Sasson.
On average it takes Sasson two months of intensive work to complete a
canvas. And even once she thinks it is complete, she can look at it for
hours and then add another element or two so it’s just right.
Sasson’s works have been exhibited in the US and in galleries in
Israel. In August she will exhibit at the Opera House in Tel Aviv.
“I want to show that things whose function has ceased can change
purpose,” says Sasson. “I take something that would have been thrown
out and turn it into something that people can appreciate and that will