'sTand still' celebrates the people of the beach

A new exhibition, sTand still, is a traveling one-artist show forever intertwined with the beaches of Israel.

sTand still outdoor exhibit (photo credit: SIGALIT AHARONI)
sTand still outdoor exhibit
(photo credit: SIGALIT AHARONI)
The coronavirus era was perceived by many as an isolating time period, yet the free time that came with it also left individuals to their own thoughts, imaginations and projects. During Israel’s winter lockdown, Jaffa-based self-taught artist Sigalit Aharoni – who parted with her 30-year career in the finance sector of hi-tech six years ago to pursue art full-time – found herself coming to the beach everyday as a way to get out of the house, collect her thoughts, go for a swim and photograph and draw fellow beach-goers.
“I photographed people in all types of moments, intimate moments, sometimes without them knowing,” said Aharoni. “Many photographs were captured from afar so that I could procure the outline of people’s poses. I used a very minimalist palette with four colors: green, black, brown and white.” 
Over the course of two months, she realized she had become so intensely involved in the project that she had produced an oil painting collection of 30 beach-goers, all engaged in different poses and activities. Now that she had artistically stumbled into an entire beach bum collection, she yearned to share it with others, yet she had no idea how she wanted to present it. 
Aharoni explained her inner contemplation: “I was tired of galleries, the general idea of walking around from wall to wall. Maybe because we were so closed off during corona, I became captivated by the idea of space. It suddenly hit me during an ocean dip during the winter, I should feature the paintings here on the beach.” 
And so sTand still was born, a travelling one-artist show featuring 20 images out of the 30 in the collection, forever intertwined with the beaches of Israel. The logistics behind the exhibit are not easy, but Aharoni has made them work, taking on preliminary tours of the beaches, speaking with beach supervisors and city municipalities to attain permission necessary for the exhibit, and moving the artwork in her car onto the next beach destination. To prevent heat damage from the sun, Aharoni scanned the images and printed them out on canvases, so the images featured on the beach are not her original pieces.
“At first, I thought the sand and the sun at the beach were going to provide for a very crisp, clean background,” said Aharoni. “But then I realized that the change in the weather and the height of the waves, the people that are playing matkot, or working out and doing yoga – all these attributes make for a décor that changes all the time. Every beach has its own people and scenery. Passersby don’t only observe the images, but rather, they also become an interactive part of the exhibit.” 
AHARONI HAS already set up camp in Tel Aviv’s Givat Aliya, Jaffe and Manta Ray beaches, as well as Acre’s Argaman Beach. Throughout the different exhibits, kayaks, gondolas and even a dragon boat have made an appearance in the ocean behind the canvases, unintentionally merging and becoming a moving part of the exhibit. In some of the photographs captured by the exhibit, toddlers and dogs alike wander around the canvases, fitness enthusiasts work out in between them, and couples reside alongside them. The different scenery of each beach essentially enriches and adds to the artwork. 
Aharoni added another recent observation of hers: “Another thing I came to recognize is that if you present the art in a gallery, you have to attract the people. The beach grants me a big audience. I reach people who just happen to be there because they’re on their daily walk.” 
The faces of the beach people featured in sTand still aren’t intricate and detailed, which is intentional and common in Aharoni’s artwork as it “invites curiosity but does not give anything away,” according to the artist’s statement on her website. 
Aharoni elaborated on this deliberate style decision: “The distance allows people to identify themselves with the art. When I was in Acre, a man came up to me and said, ‘You see that woman you drew there? It’s my sister.’ So I’m not picky with the details. The art is meant to be public domain.”
The beach gallery also happens to be a celebration of public spaces after the pandemic, even though this wasn’t Aharoni’s original intention. The exhibit confirms that art and culture can still thrive in public spaces, and doesn’t have to solely exist within the walls of a traditional gallery. 
“In corona times, the public space in Tel Aviv found its true place,” explained Aharoni. “People sat on benches and boxes, and the municipality spread chairs across the city because we couldn’t sit in restaurants. The public space – which we didn’t utilize properly beforehand – received the stage it deserved.” 
Aharoni concluded with what her exhibit is meant to evoke: “There isn’t a grand statement being made here. It’s pure enjoyment. It’s great to produce art that isn’t particularly against anything and doesn’t arouse feelings of anger. It’s simply about smiles and enjoyment.” 
In light of Israel’s current security situation, the exhibit event that was meant to be hosted at sunset on Tel Aviv’s Jerusalem Beach on May 13, was canceled. All other exhibits are postponed until further notice.
Find out more about sTand still and Aharoni’s work in general at sigalitaharoni.com