The art of love

Love, wrenching emotion and neediness were all inspirational themes for the gallery show.

'Anger' by Ayala Netzer (photo credit: PR)
'Anger' by Ayala Netzer
(photo credit: PR)
Just over half a century ago a certain Jackie DeShannon sang, simply and succinctly, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” It was a hit for her back in 1965, reaching No. 7 on the US Billboard charts, and topping the pop charts in Canada.
It is also a sentiment that comes across loud and clear in the “Please don’t leave me” exhibition currently in progress at the Office Gallery in downtown Tel Aviv. The exhibition notes talk of the emotional morass of interpersonal relations in this day and age. Emotions such as neediness and dependency, helplessness and weakness, and social concepts like separation- individuation also get a mention.
As curators Lilac Abramsky-Arazi and Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar state uncomplicatedly: “The art in this exhibition was created out of dependency. And neediness. And a torn heart.”
Powerful emotional baggage notwithstanding, the sense you get from the layout is of gentle prodding rather than exposed nerve ends. Shai Pardo’s mixed-media work The Road or his Untitled drawing, for example, clearly convey a feeling of alienation but with some delicacy. Sharon Rashbam Prop’s threeparter, Near, also tends to the softer side of the emotional spectrum, although, it must be said, Ayala Netzer’s digital painting on archive paper, Anger, gives off more of an energetic vibe.
“We act in different ways, to find and create connections between psychological materials and art,” say the curators.
“We work with themes that activate us and interest us. ‘Please don’t leave me’ relates to one of the forces that motivates us as individuals – love – and the dependency and neediness that come with it.”
Abramsky-Arazi says she dug deep in preparing the exhibition.
“These specific works had something that moved me profoundly – the yearning and need that silently scream out from them. The works gave me a sense of sadness and loneliness, and longing for connection.”
Clearly these are not snapshots.
“We need to spend time with these works,” Abramsky-Arazi continues, “to get to that place inside us. These works don’t immediately arouse emotion and drama, they don’t all kick you in the stomach and then make you insensitive.”
A “softly, softly” approach was preferred.
“The works I wanted [in the exhibition], which were very clear to me, were those that appear more tranquil and subtle. They come to you slowly, offer the possibility of opening up, and of feeling, and then being with that.”
That, naturally, is a subjective take.
“I knew there would be some who would relate to the exhibition as something delicate, or even too delicate. I think it very much depends on the observer’s attitude, and it was important to me to impart a message and not to fall prey to the expected.”
Ben-Shahar expounds on the non-sensationalist theme.
“Despite the fact that we, of course, understand the effect of something that evokes a ‘wow’ response, or hits or tears you, we wanted to show a different avenue, a more gradual approach. Gradualness, tenderness and delicacy have almost no place in today’s world. Maybe our senses are becoming dimmed because we are constantly exposed to powerful and invasive stimuli. We wanted to show there is a different way.”
As you make your way around the display space, you get the feeling that you are working your way along a continuum, that the curators cooked up a sequence that leads the visitor in along a specific predesignated path.
Abramsky-Arazi does not entirely deny the premeditation charge.
“A story evolved inside me. I think there may be a certain rhythm there, that draws us inside,” she muses.
“At the beginning it is as if we are looking in from the outside and we gradually find ourselves inside. The start is more inferred and becomes more explicit, then opens up and then tapers off again.
We devised a tale that allows emotional construction, a pathway that makes it possible to experience more and more of the feelings, and different expressions of ‘Please don’t leave me’ inside us.”
The idea of presenting works of art based on the theme of relationships suggests something of a possibly contradictory moot point. For her part, Abramsky- Arazi has no problem with the fact that artists work on their lonesome, and how this might be at odds with the conceptual core of what she and Ben-Shahar have laid out for us.
“At the end of the day we are all alone,” she notes. “We either want or don’t want a relationship, we are needy or hurting, love, are devoted to someone, give our heart to someone or want to share our life with them. But at the end of the day, we are on our own, with ourselves, and with our understanding of our relationships.
Ultimately, we are alone with this heart of ours.”
Ben-Shahar takes the sunny side of the interpretational street.
“I feel that this chance of an encounter, and the moments in which we manage to bridge this infinite gap between two people, that is the greatest magic the world has to offer. So, on the one hand, creating works of art generates yearning and impossibility, but on the other hand, it, in itself, creates something new, facilitates connections and sometimes also creates an encounter itself.”
There is much to ruminate over in the exhibition, particularly Abramsky- Arazi’s pieces in the show, both abstract, Hurting and Recover Love. Yonatan Levy’s equally formless Get a Better Mirror and Untitled 2011 leave the viewer with food for thought, while Reuma Zoher Chayot’s figurative Childhood Dreams hints at some deep-seated emotional baggage.
So, is the inevitable bottom line – as the Fab Four put it – that all we need is love? The curators are not so sure about that.
“If you link the question with the exhibition text, then love is not exactly what we all need. We don’t necessarily choose to be hurt the way we have been. So it is more a question of how you approach love and dependency. We don’t choose to be hurt by a loved one, or to be abandoned by a parent, or to grow in a [kibbutz communal] children’s house. After all, and in spite of it all, [ultimately it is about] how much you allow love, or your relationship, to control you, to touch you, and how much you allow yourself to be motivated by it.”
If there is any message the curators want us to take away from “Please don’t leave me,” it is about taking a leap of faith which, basically, is also the secret of any creative pursuit.
“If we allow love and neediness to exist inside us, and to give them space, we can live a fuller life.”
Easier said than done, but amen to that.
“Please don’t leave me” closes on August 25. For more information: