The paintings composing “Pending View” reveal a floating world, which, alongside the ephemeral installation, might gain an apocalyptic air. However, through the destabilization of the existing order, a new state emerges, one in which construction and destruction, or extinction and continuity, exist side by side. The figures seem to possess a twofold relationship with their fluid environment.
The installation stresses the paintings’ unified continuity. They hang from the ceiling, while creating an inner, circular structure in the middle of the gallery – a makeshift construction into which the viewer is welcomed to enter. There, surrounded by the large canvases, the viewer might find what he wished for – a balance, a focal point. This constellation is reminiscent of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological definition of the horizon. Husserl distinguishes between an “internal horizon” and an “external horizon”. The first includes the visible aspects of a given object – in this case, the inner sides of the canvases – the carriers of the image. The latter refers to the invisible aspects of the object – the outer sides of the canvases.
Through this installation, a shared horizon is formed: a mountain, a rope and a water body join together into a new panoramic landscape. Thus, the exhibition as a whole is an experiment in horizontality – the horizon might be missing in the works themselves, but is formed from their joint presentation. For the viewer, it is a paradoxical horizon – a round horizon, encircling him all around
A freedom, which is both terrifying and liberating, is the one taken by Maiberg in this series. The horizon allows fluidity and flexibility not just in terms of color and matter, but as a possible subjective movement in space. In this manner, the viewer, like the figures, finds himself hanging between above and below, here and there, past and future. The unreachable circular horizon allows a new and different linear perspective – a time pending
Keren Goldberg, from “free fall ” the exhibition catalogue
About Oren Ben Moreh’s New Paintings
The figures, furniture, and rooms are all treated the same: between flatness and hints of three-dimensionality. They are a part of the color surfaces (blues and reds are dominant in the new series, but there is also and mostly a lot of brown, the color of the mixture, the color that blurs the differences). The figures relinquish tangibility, plasticity, and volume, at times oozing and slipping, like in a dream, some would say like in the subconscious. But also like in Dali’s 1930 painting Paranoiac Woman-Horse (Invisible Sleeping Woman, Lion, Horse). And even his famous melting clocks come to mind. At times, the objects – coffee cups, a bowl of fruit, different artifacts in arrangements that allude to or quote still life paintings – are the only ones that preserve their solidness.
This is for instance how the author, philosopher, art critic, and cinema theoretician, Jean-Louis Schefer, writes in the essay “What Are Red Things,” printed in the book The Enigmatic Body:
Red is the last protected substance, and is in fact a mythical material. A subject of admiration and fear (from the red of regal robes, to the slippers of the byzantine virgin, to blood-soaked rags). This color is in itself the subject of legends – like that on the circularity of life-giving blood; the only human substance that can dye materials and from which Heliogabalus created his flags: “red, the flag of all women.”
The essay was written for an art magazine in 1990, as an invitation to discuss monochrome in contemporary art. In it, Schefer in fact turned to Uccello’s paintings in order to declare unequivocally that red was a feminine color or the color of the woman. He continues:
…red is almost always the color of the arbitrary – and in two senses of the word: the color of power and protection […] but an arbitrary color in that its use is encoded (or as linguists would prefer, relatively reasoned) without a signified. Meaning, without a reference to the natural and without legitimization as part of it: red things do not exist [emphasis in the original].
The last sentence of course resonates Lacan’s statement “the woman does not exist and does not signify anything.” During an early visit to Ben Moreh’s studio, before Bardot’s three portraits appeared, I searched (partly due to the title of the movie) for the woman in her paintings.
Among all the compliments she gives Vadim’s movie, she has one reservation. The next paragraph seems to describe Oren Ben Moreh’s paintings:
Nevertheless, there is one thing for which I blame him [Vadim], and that is for having gone so far as to de-humanize it. The human factor has lost some of its importance in many spheres. Technical progress has relegated it to a subordinate and at times insignificant positions. The implements that man uses – his dwellings, his clothes, etc. – tend towards functional rationalization. He himself is regarded by politicians, brain-trusters, publicity agents, military men and even educators, but the entire “organization world,” as an object to be manipulated. In France, there is a literary school that reflects this tendency. The “young novel” – as it calls itself – is bent on creating a universe as devoid as possible from human meanings, a universe reduced to shiftings of volumes and surfaces, of light and shade, to the place of space and time; the characters and their relationships are left in the background or even dropped entirely.
I would say that in Oren Ben Moreh’s paintings – the same universe that deals with “shiftings of volumes and surfaces, of light and shade, to the place of space and time; the characters and their relationships are left in the background or even dropped entirely,” in fact tells a different story. Not one of “rationality” and “functionality” nor necessarily one of de-humanization. We could also think in this context about Edward Hopper, a painter who has influenced Ben Moreh.
Memories from the Future
About Michael Halak Solo Exhibition
Michael Halak was born in Fassuta Village in the Galilee. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Fine Art Department at the University of Haifa, and a certificate of studies from the Florence Academy of Art 2005. Halak received the 2016 Ministry of Culture and Sport Prize, the 2012 Rappaport Prize for Young Artist from Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the 2010 Young Artist Prize from the Ministry of Culture and Sport.
Michael Halak’s exhibition, Memories of the Future, features five new small-scale paintings, “memory boxes” of sorts, larges scale work comprised of nine paintings of cut cardboard boxes, and a large-scale portrait of a girl.
The paintings of memory boxes, painted in an impressive realistic technique, interweave objects, toys, still life, landscape views, portraits, and at times text. At first glance, the collection of objects seems random. A more careful look reveals that the virtuously painted items serve as a lure aimed to trap the viewer’s gaze, directing it towards the artist’s biography and the past as a decisive moment in his art, one that is inseparable from the present and the future. The illusion of reality that takes shape on the canvas is seductively beautiful, yet fraught and fragmented, engendering confusion and unease.
The duality of the past and the present is particularly prominent in the reflection of the artist in a glass ball, his figure documenting reality (the artist in the studio next to his assistant), tying him to the past through the connection to the collection of childhood items.
The paintings of cut cardboard boxes symbolize a state of passage and transience, a precarious situation that may collapse with one gust of wind. This experience has been accompanying Halak for years, as well as the connection between man and the place, presence and absence, belonging and alienation, identity and the lack of identity, testament and silencing.
The cropped painting of a girl is seductive in its beauty and at the same time evokes feelings of disintegration, fragmentation, and disruption, held together by pieces of tape that prevent it from falling apart. In this painting too, the skillful painting creates vitality, the composition, the gaze turned towards the viewer, even the emphasis on the earring – bring to mind Vermeer’s renowned painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. Halak paints the background in yellow-ocher – the colors of the girl’s dress in Vermeer’s painting – in an unknown space. The reference to such a prominent painting from the history of art strives to expand the image beyond the local to the universal.
Halak’s painting holds biographical, universal, and historical layers. His paintings are imbued with the tension that accompanies him in his life and art, demonstrating the dichotomy and split between distinct yet inseparable worlds.