The enigmatic drawings of surgeon-cum-artist David Amir

Amir's work as an orthopedic surgeon at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital and his doctorate in electrophonic research clearly influence his art.

 Artist David Amir (photo credit: COURTESY DAVID AMIR)
Artist David Amir
(photo credit: COURTESY DAVID AMIR)
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

David Amir’s artistic output, collated in a recent book published by Magen Halutz, offers a unique glimpse into an alternative world and quite an original array of drawings. This world is on display at a solo exhibition at the Jerusalem Theater Gallery.

What makes Amir’s works even more fascinating is that he is an orthopedic surgeon at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem and also holds a doctorate in medicine, specializing in electrophonic research. This clearly marks a seminal influence on his work. Such research investigates the repair of bone on a cellular level, of plasmatic forces and inner structures deep within the flesh. One could thus see in his oeuvre an entry into this otherwise hidden world. He is able to give expression to this through meticulous design principles and the hypnotic repetition of dots and lines. 

To accentuate this style, Amir plays with infinite permutations of such dots and lines and molds them into an uncanny pattern that attracts the eye and forms a picture. This is developed through his largely monochromatic style, the harsh symbiosis between black and white articulating polarities and disjunctions, as well as uniform surfaces and heightened connections.

Moreover, one can see in this black-white overture a sense of the dynamic play of forces, of the duality between sickness and health and the healing that might come from patterns that demonstrate the potential health of the cell or that of a plant or even the healing and transformative process through the very act of drawing and mark-making. 

 The artwork of David Amir (credit: COURTESY DAVID AMIR) The artwork of David Amir (credit: COURTESY DAVID AMIR)

"Take a line for a walk"

When I asked the artist about this highly original style, he explains that it is not a worked-out design that he follows but rather a process that invites spontaneity, where a seeming mistake can yield new life and, like Paul Klee was wont to say, becomes a mechanism to “take a line for a walk.”

And indeed, Amir does just that, and in the ensuing creative process creates higher level patterns, fractals with minimalist means. He also cites Pollock’s wild expression as an influence in that he too allowed stringy lines to take a life of their own and suggest new formations, visual clues as to the inexorable potential formal unity amidst variety and order amidst apparent chaos. 

It is this openness that allows the artist to find a clarity of vision through the process of working and often once an image, a symbol or some sort of formation is instantiated on paper. If he likes the result, he may repeat it in further iterations. Yet it is to his credit that such innovative mark-making does not become bland and repetitive but creates surfaces of uncanny movement and fluidity.

One could easily connect such a visual experience with the “life of the cell,” at once immobile and functional, as well as flowing, living, breathing. Peering into the electron microscope, what is there to see? Has the artist not given us a glimpse of this fascinating world beyond the fleshy eye? Indeed, he has and, in so doing, conjures a vision of the dialectic oscillation between the exact sciences and that of art whose language is one of proportion, form, light, space, line, and color. In that dialectic, one is shown a world only barely amenable to the senses. 

Although some of his works are more realist and representational and show excellent draftsmanship, he is most at home in the world of the abstract. And that would make sense, for deep below the surface there are but mathematical relationships and codlings, which I believe emerges in his stringy lines and love of dots and dabs, a space of non-verbal, purely visual delight. It is no wonder, then, that many of his works are simply untitled. 

One may also observe the symbolic and the incantations of platonic solids, as well as that which is not visible in plant growth, such as the system of roots. These playful elegies, I surmise, hint at the idea of health itself and also its crude opposite – death and decay – the black-white duality develops such themes. He works simply with ink on Fabiano paper and. in that simplicity, is able to energize the surface and sustain a body of work that spans decades. 

He says his inspiration artistically comes from many sources: the work of Klimt and especially Schiele, as well as Miro and even the works of Bruegel. One can understand this, for they are all masters of line – line as more than simply a descriptive or decorative tool, but as embodying feelings and as a structural element that weaves a narrative as the image sometimes recedes, sometimes pushes itself into the space of the viewer, akin to the dynamic movement of organic life, of pulsating forces and fields.

Sometimes one notes a sort of earthy sediment, and then from there one sees the growth of plants. Or are they simply cartographic mapping structures, macro elements yet patiently rendered on small scale and thus reverting back to the micro dimension? 

This is Amir’s fifth solo exhibition at the Jerusalem Theater Gallery. He has also participated in a number of group shows in Israel, as well as abroad. His vision for his exhibition, that began on January 6, 2023, is simply to invite a play of the eye and a reprieve from the usual clamor of everyday life or of politics, into a realm of aesthetic delight. This should motivate a certain joy on the part of the viewer and perhaps a love of nature without conceptual complexity. 

The exhibition runs until February 28, 2023, and promises to be a most rewarding experience.  ■