Bat Kol

Matan Ben-Tolila / Bat Kol

Opening: 11/1/2018   Closing: 15/3/2018

Bat Kol, installation view, noga gallery, 2018
Bat Kol, installation view, noga gallery, 2018
Bat Kol, installation view, noga gallery, 2018
Bat Kol, installation view, noga gallery, 2018
Bat Kol, installation view, noga gallery, 2018
Matan Ben-Tolila, Confrontation #2, oil on canvas, 165x180 cm, 2017
Matan Ben-Tolila, Floating, oil on canvas, 148x177 cm, 2017
Matan Ben-Tolila, Confrontation #1, oil on canvas, 195x155 cm, 2017
Matan Ben-Tolila, Look, oil on canvas, 160x100 cm, 2017
Matan Ben-Tolila, Kite #1, oil on canvas, 200x280 cm, 2017
Matan Ben-Tolila, Signs, oil on canvas, 160x145 cm, 2017

Bat Kol | Matan Ben Tolila


Standing in his studio, he lays a blank canvas down on the floor. It is the end of the day, soon he will go home to his family. He pours diluted paint and turpentine on the canvas, allowing the mixture to spread across it. In a couple of days, he will return to the studio and discover the stain that was created and its boundaries, from which he will build a place – a cave, a lake, a mountain.

The stain is a piece of information or a message without clear guidelines, like a divine voice (Bath ḳōl) of sorts, which appears before the painter and asks him to give it shape and essence. It is the one that prescribes where the entrance to the cave will be, the direction of the light, the dark areas, the water reservoir, and at some stage, after the place has been created and materialized on the canvas, also how it will be populated.

In the seven preceding years, the painter Matan Ben Tolila followed a different work method. He would go to the studio and create preparatory sketches, stretch a canvas and transfer the grid onto it, choose a color palette and create the predetermined image. His works featured imaginary landscapes and delineated structures, bold and phosphoric hues against the emptiness of the blank canvas, and they were created by an aware and meticulous painter, an artist who feels responsible for the vibrancy of his works and does not compromise its relation to the painting’s past, present, and future.  But over time, the advance planning that gave him control over the work process and confidence in the finish point, has run its course, and was replaced by a desire to exist in painting’s other places, those that search for not knowing, wondering, and hesitating.

As a painter, he always felt that he has a responsibility to be clear, unequivocal, impeccable and known, to instill confidence in the images and the words, and now he created a series of works of an abstract origin. The painted expanses and the presence that belongs in them emerge from the paint that spread across the canvas, and he understands the painting while working, as he lays down paint on the canvas. As part of the new practice, he parted ways with the other artist who shared the studio, emptied it of previous works and started working on the new series without preparatory sketches and grid. Each painting starts with the arbitrary action of the paint and turpentine stain. And when he allowed himself to follow the unfathomable stain, he was engulfed by sweet sense of disorientation.

Upon first encountering the new series of works, I find myself in a world I recognize from Matan’s previous series of painting. Like in the series Moonwalks (2013) or The Young Mariner (2015), I am facing melting mountains and fantastic landscapes in phosphoric and pastel colors. However, as I spend more time in their presence, I realize that this time I am entering this world from a different place. The landscapes that were always there, as settings to be filled by a certain presence, have now moved center stage, becoming the main event.

In this series, I feel that the line Matan walks is finer than ever. The fantastical worlds, full of colors, textures, and figures whose faces and eyes are hidden from the viewer, demand precision– any deviation may push the painting further away from its meaning. More than these, it is dangerous, certainly for the more organized and methodical among us, to lose control, to summon unknown voices into our room, and hand our brushes over to disorientation. But, just like the figures’ hidden eyes, the paintings in this series wish to say that there is more than meets the eye. Disorientation asks of us to trust the other order it holds, listen to the divine voice (Bath ḳōl), and let it guide us. If in Matan’s previous series I could hold on to the image of the transient house, the structure that promises stability but does not deliver it, in this series there are no walls or roof, no structure to give us shelter. The closest things to an anchor are a kite, a billboard, or fence fragments. The unnatural, saccharine colors offer me no comfort, but rather trigger unease, bringing to mind acids and corrosive compounds. The figures in the paintings do not belong to the caves and unfolding landscapes – how did they get there? Are they abandoned in a world which, in the absence of order or grid, allowed itself to expand, grow, and take over the space of the painting?

Two main figures in the painting are the painter’s best friend, a free spirit who found his death at a young age several years ago, and Matan himself. The encounter between the two, which could not take physical shape in our world, can take place in the expanses born from the expanding shapes. For the first time, the painter brings his figure into this world. More than a self-portrait, I see a man who tries to situate himself in the spaces that exist inside him, in an attempt to fathom them. As though until now the landscapes created by his own brush were foreign to him just as they are to the viewer, and only now he dares to be present.

Picasso suggested that “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” It seems that in the new decisions he has made, Matan transformed the action that is so known and familiar to him from years of painting into a new action. Surrounded by his largescale works, the eye and mind trace a line between the flying kite, the figures in the cave, and the floating man, and in an instant, they all exist in a shared space, which is different and other from our world. A place like this, whose realness is only possible in Matan’s painting, recounts a story through which I can part with the quotidian and give myself to the new action, to the echo that reverberates from the mountains, that fills the caves, that dives into the water.  I can sail and float in a place I do not know but does not threaten me, wander through disorientation, without losing touch with reality, wash the dust of everyday life off my soul.


Gil Cohen

Gil Cohen has initiated, curated, and produced art and culture projects since 2007. She is a graduate student in the interdisciplinary program of the Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University, where she explores the connection between objects and memory.

Moon Walks

Matan Ben Tolila / Moon Walks

Opening: 24/01/2013   Closing: 08/03/2013

Moon Walks, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Moon Walks, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Moon Walks, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Moon Walks, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Moon Walks, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Windmill, oil on canvas, 190x140cm, 2012
Blue gate, oil on canvas, 115x95cm, 2012
Two moons of autumn, oil on canvas, 150x105cm, 2012
6 boxes, oil on canvas, 135x200cm, 2012
Ribbons in the wind, oil on canvas, 45x51cm each, 2012

Noga Gallery is happy to show the first solo exhibition of Matan Ben-Tolila.


Matan Ben-Tolila paints mental landscapes, as though they were exterior landscapes. He tantalizes our eyes with familiar and tangible objects, yet places for us un miss able tracks of illusion and riddle, a labyrinth, as though explicitly telling us: The image before you is in my mind and in your mind only.


A landscape stretching out, not a single soul appears. An empty space, with no possibility to place anything within it. An open and lit house – no one comes or goes, its entrances and exits are blocked. A mountain in the distance, no trail leads to it. Distant sceneries fading and collapsing into themselves. The meticulously drawn structures hold no substance, their walls do not connect to one another, and their spaces contain nothing. There is no door to enter through. There is no window to look out from.


For a moment he deceives us with colorfulness, in clean and clear lines, we are swiftly invited inside, to sit in the “Gazebo” and restfully ponder. Yet it then becomes apparent to us that the path leading up to it is blocked by a white unpainted area, an empty canvas that the artist’s hand chose to leave untouched. A momentary illusion will cause us believe that the billowing sheet in “Two Moons of Autumn” – on it are painted what seem to be perhaps moons, perhaps eyeballs – is an invitation to an exotic journey, a hedonistic search after a perfect beauty. But these two moons lead us to the ironic haiku song:


Press your eyeballs And there you have two moons of autumn [1]


If you search for beauty, search for it within yourself. Do not turn your gaze outside, to the scenery surrounding you, but press your eyes and materialize the beauty within you. Will you be willing to pay the price of pain that is entailed in pressing the eyeball? Is the search for beauty, color and magic not doomed to be a painful and agonizing process that compels us to close our eyes to the true reality that surrounds us?


In the painting “Blue Gate” we are left wondering in front of a childish playground, its simple colors and shapes show a fleeting illusion of childhood, an illusion that quickly fades while facing the two eyeballs, looking at us silently like two full moons. The metal gate threatens to turn into a guillotine before our very eyes, while they linger for another glance.


The moon, its beauty illuminating the night, does not shine its light from within itself, but is irradiated by the light of the sun. In itself it is opaque and impenetrable.


The paintings in the exhibition are full of light and color, a colorful palette, an almost “Pantone” color scale, colors hinting at the industrial and artificial. A palette that deliberately veers as far as possible from natural coloring. These colors are the making of the artist, painting a world where all the outlines and joints are his making. A creation entailing toiling preciseness, meticulous thoroughness, as though a carpenter or an expert metal worker – the making of a master craftsman.


Moon walking, the iconic treading of the astronaut walking on the moon, touching the ground, and leaping back off of it, their weight is no longer weight, their step is no longer a step. Moon walking, as Michael Jackson’s dance moves, is a deceiving walk, steps that repeat themselves with a misleading ease, where feet graze the ground, hover over it, hardly touching.


The act of painting wishes to assimilate the moon walk. To be laid on the canvas as though not painted but projected on it, as though it’s light and colors do not come from within itself, but from the gazing vision of the painter. The gaze will disappear and with it the sights, the colors and the structures.


And we, the viewers, standing between the painter’s eye and the image projected on the canvas, can only leave but a shadow of our figure; and just like it, will fade with the disappearance of the last rays of light and the disappearance of the gaze.


Tzila Hayun – creator and curator of interdisciplinary culture programs.

Matan Ben-Tolila was born in 1978, Kibbutz- Yavne.  Graduated his studies in the Bezalel Art Academy in 2006, and the Bezalel MFA program in 2010.


Ben-Tolila has exhibited in many group exhibitions, among them “Shesh-Besh” in the Petah-Tikva museum, curated by Hadas Maor. In the Lincoln center in New-York, Mani House in Tel Aviv, and more. He was twice awarded the Excellency award by the America Israel Culture Foundation, and was awarded the Presser award for Excellency in painting by the Bezalel Academy.