Taking root

Art meets nature in Israeli sculptor Ruti Banai’s latest exhibition.

Art at Henkin Gallery of Design 370 (photo credit: courtesy PR)
Art at Henkin Gallery of Design 370
(photo credit: courtesy PR)
Last weekend, in preparation for Holon’s design week, which will take place during Passover, the Henkin Gallery of Design revealed a new exhibition by Israeli sculptor Ruti Banai. The event coincided with several other openings by local artists in a variety of areas such as lighting design, painting and photography.
Banai’s exhibition, entitled Tangled Expression, is a collection of pieces using a wide range of materials. The connecting thread among all of Banai’s works, whether they are lamps, ceramics or wall hangings, is the evolution from industrial to natural. In Banai’s capable hands, the sharpest piece of copper wire turns soft, evoking blowing leaves or the finest intertwined branches.
“I like to take something wild, raw, and bring it to a different place that will be quieter, more delicate, more moving. To give the material a different translation,” she said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Born and raised on Kibbutz Dafna, Banai’s affinity for flora and fauna has been with her since an early age. While her profession rooted her in the somewhat less green surroundings of Tel Aviv, Banai’s eye remains trained on nature.
“There is no doubt that the fact that I grew up in nature is part of my art,” she said. “Someone once told me that it makes the desire to create stronger because there is something missing in the city. For me, nature is missing for me in the city. However, there is growth in Tel Aviv if you look closely.”
The lion’s share of Banai’s professional life was spent as a graphic designer. In her work, Banai had first-hand experience with the transition from tangible to digital.
“The more I used a computer, the more I felt drawn to make something with materials,” she said.
As a hobby, Banai and her daughter would dabble with arts and crafts, exploring shapes and images.
Then, in a workshop with artist Meirav Shin Ben-Alon, lightning struck.
“I found myself in the swell of creations,” she remembered. “After that I found myself really drawn to continue to work with this technique, that I created on my own in that workshop. It was fascinating, to reach a whole world of images using only paper and wire. They were my first pieces in design or art.”
Since that momentous day in Ben-Alon’s studios, Banai has established herself as a unique voice in the artistic community.
Her pieces have been shown in galleries around the country such as the Seam Gallery in Moshav Mogadim, Gallerina in Bat Shlomo and the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
Over the years, the torn bits of paper and strands of wire were joined by masking tape, clay, light bulbs, telephone wire and rubber. Banai’s techniques stretched and adapted depending on her materials.
“Every material, because of its nature and techniques, leads to a new place. The three-dimensional nature I found with clay gave me the idea to try to create the same dimensions in paper. I love to play with how one material can inspire work in another material,” she said.
Many of Banai’s pieces begin with a photograph. On her many walks through the streets, Banai is always aware of the inner life bursting through the concrete. A selection of these pictures is currently on display as part of Tangled Expression. These are the images that propel her into the studio.
“I photograph a lot of plants. Often I see ideas of design in nature. I don’t want to photograph a flower or a tree, and I like to look at wild growth, dried plants, and sections of a tree or the shapes of branches. I see them through a design eye and then I try to give them a translation in sculpture. There are unlimited designs that are present in everything in front of me,” she explained.
Tangled Expression will be open through the month of April. The Henkin Gallery of Design is located at 109 Henkin Street in Holon.