Technology tales

Niva Simon’s Instrumental Flying showing draws the eye, ears and cerebral functions, too. The title, more or less, spells out the thinking behind the artist’s project.

By
October 3, 2019 16:00
Technology tales

NIVA SIMON lets her subjects leave their own impression.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Over the past half century or so, Jerusalem Artists’ House has proffered the intriguing fruits of all kinds of artists, across numerous disciplines and feeding off a variety of mind-sets. The current crop of five exhibitions makes for fascinating viewing, with works that reach out into contrasting domains of visual and technological presentation and emotional intent.

Niva Simon’s Instrumental Flying showing draws the eye, ears and cerebral functions, too. The title, more or less, spells out the thinking behind the artist’s project.

“Instrument flying is a situation when the pilot relies solely on the plane’s instruments,” Simon explains. “He doesn’t look outside his windows, either because he can’t or because he’s practicing how to operate the plane without seeing where he’s going.”

MATIA OREN’S works express an ongoing battle to portray a solid visual form to human existence. (Credit: Courtesy)

Simon says she also flies blind when she’s creating.

“That connects strongly with the way I work. I don’t always see what’s happening on the screen, or see what’s happening in the darkroom. I only see the result.”

Like the pilot, Simon goes with the technological flow.

PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIES graduate Korin Abisdris probes the relationship between painting and photography, and between painting and other artistic media. ( Credit: Courtesy)

“I rely on the apparatus I have – the projector, my telephone. When I do that I have no idea what will come out at the end.”
Judging by her exhibits on Shmuel Hanagid Street, the laissez-faire continuum produced some satisfying – albeit unplanned – results.

“It’s a trial-and-error thing,” Simon notes. “But, like the pilot, I landed safely,” she adds with a laugh.

Like many discoveries, Simon’s new avenue of portrayal came about serendipitously. She was busy marrying old and more advanced technologies when her creative flow was rudely interrupted.

“I was in the darkroom with digital devices,” she recalls. “Suddenly my cellphone rang and my photographic papers burned up because of the light on the phone screen.”

That must have been a little irritating but, as jazz great Miles Davis noted many years ago, there is no such thing as a mistake, just an opportunity to change direction. After taking a deep breath, Simon, indeed, took a tangential departure and happily ran with it.

“I suddenly realized that my telephone was a source of light which I can use to create something. I took my phone and placed it straight on photographic paper. I left the light from the phone on for two seconds and then turned it off, and this is what I got,” she says, pointing to a small reddish print with the image of a hare. It is a charming piece that evokes sepia-toned prints of the 19th century.

ELENA ROT ENBERG’S 'Alaesh' conveys a compelling fusion of the pastoral serenity along with street level living. (Credit: Courtesy)

It was – pardon the pun – a light-bulb moment for Simon, as she follows a meandering anachronistic pathway through yesteryear’s approaches and current technological aids.

“That ‘accident’ showed me a shortcut. It was a much more interesting, and newer, way than the old school way [of producing photographs]. I could manage without all sorts of stages. I don’t have the patience for all of that.”

That’s a surprising observation from someone who clearly appreciates photographic means that were all the rage when her parents and grandparents were taking pictures.

“The ‘accident’ happened at Bezalel [Academy of Art and Design] when I was getting my final project ready, and I suddenly became interested in the two-way street you get from using light. Light produces an image, but light can also erase it.”
It is an intriguing double-edged sword property, and Simon used it to good effect to produce a captivating spread of photographs, scans and video works.

THE OLD-NEW leapfrog ethos also crops up in Elena Rotenberg’s layout, This Rock and All of the Remaining Ones. The exhibition, curated by Avi Sabah, won Rotenberg the Osnat Mozes Painting Prize for a Young Artist with the complementary elements in her work drawing the attention of the prize committee. In their statement, the committee members noted, “Elena Rotenberg’s paintings arouse curiosity, attesting to painterly intelligence rife with ‘street knowledge’ and ‘studio wisdom.’ They call upon the viewer to draw nearer and linger on the elusive details comprising their subjects, which are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar.”

ROT ENBERG DIPS into familial baggage, and her family’s relocation from Russia. (Credit: Courtesy)

I’d go along with the latter observation. There is a futuristic feel to the Soviet-born artist’s work, but there is also something almost simplistic and homey in there, too. One of the more compelling items in her impressive showing is called Alaesh (“On the Grill”). At first glance you get the impression that you might be looking at a pastoral landscape scene from the past. But then you note the barbecue apparatus and smoke spiraling upward amid a sprawling lawn and clumps of trees dotted around the background.

“Each year, when we choose the prize winner, we look for something different,” notes Jerusalem Artists House director Rutie Zadka. “There is a whole generation of artists that are growing up into a new world.”

Part of the director’s remark was aimed at the inclusion of various technological developments, both in the creative process and, in Rotenberg’s case, in the final visual result. Quite a few of the works on display feature the artist’s parents globe-trotting their way from one tourist attraction to another.

“That’s the selfie culture,” Zadka notes. “That’s not my generation,” she laughs.

Rotenberg certainly has a knack for taking seemingly banal scenes and infusing them with new life and new planes of appreciation. And she readily admits to straddling at least a couple of areas of thought.

“The figures in the paintings are my parents. They go abroad a lot and they get to all these famous places.”

Rotenberg says her imagination was fired by the interface between human beings – in this case people who are very close to her – and the actual sites they may have only previously known about as iconic elements of the world’s cultural evolution.

“On the one hand there is some sort of legend, or mythology, and you go to a place which has a narrative that is very alien to you. Then again, you have a desire to connect with something tangible.”

That philosophical bifurcation is also reflected in Rotenberg’s mix of acrylic and edited air-brushed selfie images. It makes for compelling and entertaining viewing.

SHRAGA WEILL’S 1953 lithograph, 'The Flute Player,' evokes the early days of the state. (Credit: JERUSALEM ARTISTS’ HOUSE)

Rotenberg also dips into her own baggage, addressing her family’s distant Russian past – she came here at the tender age of two – through a couple of works that reference porcelain statuettes brought to Israel by her grandparents. That, in a nutshell, is a major part of the Jewish people’s history, or of the history of any people or cultural-ethnic group forced to continuously relocate. We know that was part of the reason why many Jews took up trades they could easily transfer to a new geographic, social or political setting.

The artist’s double-take on what she sees around her also comes across in a painting of Mitzpe Ramon, in which she portrays both the majestic natural beauty of the Ramon Crater, with the far less aesthetically pleasing residential buildings of the desert town lurking behind.

Elsewhere in the current exhibition, which runs through November 9, you can find some stirring, and possibly disturbing, paintings by Korin Abisdris and Matia Oren, while the lithographs and illustrations created by leading Kibbutz Ha’artzi artists in 1953 should bring a smile to viewers’ faces.

For more information: 02-625-3652 and art.org.il.


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