Shapely art

The ‘Pinpoint’ exhibition is a study in contrasts.

Sheffy Bleier’s visually arresting photographs at The ‘Pinpoint’ Exhibition (photo credit: PR)
Sheffy Bleier’s visually arresting photographs at The ‘Pinpoint’ Exhibition
(photo credit: PR)
 If you are of an ambivalent nature, you may find yourself in your element at the “Pinpoint” exhibition at the Feinberg Projects Contemporary Art Gallery in Tel Aviv.
The show comprises works by two artists with contrasting esthetic and conceptual approaches.
While 42-year-old Hilla Ben-Ari contributes intriguing apparently rigid video works, 50-year-old Sheffy Bleier uses subtly crafted and visually arresting photographs to convey her take on femininity and the shape of the human body.
One of the more striking items is a yin and yang video clip of a seemingly statuesque limb.
“There is something very static about this foot; it is almost an object,” says Ben-Ari. “It looks a bit like a statue.”
Indeed it does. However, after a few seconds of observation, you begin to notice a fly buzzing around the nether appendage, and you also start to take in a sense of spent energy. As it happens, the limb in question went through the mill and back before the photograph was taken, and it shows.
For Ben-Ari, bipolarity is the name of the game.
“All my works relate to movement but from the point of view of stagnation,” she says somewhat enigmatically.
“The subject projects a feeling of potentiality, but that is also halted. There is a kind of duality.”
The foot certainly has those properties. The limb in the video belongs to an athlete who had just completed an ultra-marathon race of 160 km.
“This is a video clip that looks like a still photograph, and you feel that there has been tremendous effort invested in order to stop [the movement],” says Ben-Ari.
The twofold baggage plot thickens.
“There is a lot of strength in the foot, but you can also see that it is vulnerable, too. I think the fly adds to that aspect,” she notes.
The expended power is evident in every fiber of the foot, with its protruding veins and blackened nails, which Ben- Ari says drop off the runner’s toes before fresh ones grow back. The tension in the limb is not only the result of the extreme experience it has just undergone. The artist enhanced the spent look by introducing some metal objects beneath the heel, forcing the foot into an unnatural position.
“That sort of simulates a woman’s foot in a high-heeled shoe,” explains Ben-Ari, “which, of course, is a strong contrast with the image of an ultra-marathon runner. The foot is forced to hold an unnatural, almost dainty, position, while it is clear that there are powerful forces in operation here.”
In addition to the eye-catching esthetics on offer, “Pinpoint” is also designed to impart some sociopolitical inferences. The aforementioned foot, says Ben-Ari, is a case in point.
“It is obvious that there are forces in motion here which, I think, is a metaphor for the way one should stand in some sort of cultural context.”
Could that also infer that we should live the moment? “I think it is more about making an effort to meet the expectations of some framework,” proffers curator Yham Hameiri. “Your body is often not your own. It becomes public property.”
Hameiri, who is pregnant, is palpably aware of the thin line between the physical private and public domains. She feels that the boundary is frequently overstepped, especially in her condition.
“Everyone in the street wants to feel my stomach,” she says. “I am public property. I have a soldier in my belly. I have become a Zionist project,” she adds with more than a touch of sarcasm.
The exhibition blurb talks about addressing “the friction between space and social discipline and order.”
I posit that sociocultural ethics may also come into play here. If we were, for example, to set an image of a queue in England against one of a line in Israel, it would not take an anthropologist to discern the positional contrasts.
“If I were a pregnant woman in Europe, I wouldn’t be related to with such familiarity, Hameiri continues.
“Here, I am part of the Jewish-Zionist continuum of perpetuating the nation. In Israel, there are no real boundaries between the private and public domains.”
The name of the exhibition, “Pinpoint,” also addresses the twilight zone between the genders.
“With men, it is often a matter of black or white,” says New Yorktrained gallery owner Ori Feinberg.
“With women, there is a sort of fluidity, whereby there is no black and white.”
That echoes the concept devised almost four decades ago by now 85-year-old Belgian-born French feminist, philosopher, psychoanalyst and cultural theorist Luce Iragaray. In her 1977 tome The Sex Which Is Not One, Iragaray posits that any attempt to define feminine differentness necessarily confines women within the masculine system of representation.
Bleier prefers to look inwards for her take on physicality, in a literal sense.
The 50-year-old artist really came to grips with the inner workings of corporeal beings before producing the works for “Pinpoint.”
“Between 2002 and 2010, I engaged in sculpting the interior organs of cows,” she explains. “That eventually culminated in a solo exhibition at Tel Hai Museum. “ Bleier drew inspiration from all sorts of anatomical parts and shapes, including some very close to home.
“There were intestines and udders and a womb, and this is the womb with Yonatan.”
The latter was based on Bleier’s own organ when she was pregnant with her youngest child.
The artist wanted to familiarize herself with the raw material in its most basic form. “This led me to a slaughterhouse and the examination of all sorts of internal organs,” she says. “That’s very different from seeing meat all neatly packaged at your local supermarket.”
It took some time for Bleier to take her newfound understanding of bodily shapes a step forward, but she eventually took a brave step into the unknown.
“The idea brewed for eight years,” she continues. “Every day I’d go to my studio and I’d play around with plasticine, and I’d make one or two models. After a while, I began putting them on a black Perspex base and examined the way the forms looked in the reflection.
That the initiative bore fruit is evident from the outsized prints in “Pinpoint.” Bleier’s images seem to feed off some middle ground between body organs and some exotic submarine form of life.
Once fired by her developing sensibility, Bleier dove in at the deep end.
“I realized that teaching and the other stuff I was busy with, like promoting and selling my artwork, was getting in the way. So I mortgaged my home and devoted myself completely to this project,” she recounts.
The venture gathered momentum, and Bleier gained an ever-deepening understanding of the substances, textures, colors and perspectives entailed in bringing her anatomy-based ideas to full physical and visual fruition.
“I call this work ‘a non-physical reality’ because, from my viewpoint, I think my works come from the opposite direction compared with Hilla’s,” Bleier observes. “I am an artist who does not work with references to culture or art or some historical source. I engage in exploring the world of emotions and its correlation with the sphere of thought – how our thinking impacts on our physical body.”
Now, there’s food for thought.
“Pinpoint” is on display until October 24. For more information: 077-345- 02115 and