Deep Feelings

Oren Ben Moreh / Deep Feelings

Opening: 04/05/2017   Closing: 09/06/2017

Deep Feelings, Installation view, Noga Gallery, 2017
Deep Feelings, Installation view, Noga Gallery, 2017
Deep Feelings, Installation view, Noga Gallery, 2017
Deep Feelings, Installation view, Noga Gallery, 2017
juliette #1, Oil on canvas, 65x50cm
breakfast, Oil on canvas,100x150cm
The red room,Oil on canvas, 70x100cm
Untiteld, Oil on canvas, 50x65 cm
before dark, Oil on canvas, 100x150 cm

Deep Feelings

About Oren Ben Moreh’s New Paintings


Naomi Siman-Tov


  1. Painting from movies: Oren Ben Moreh’s raw materials or subjects of observation are movies. She watches movies and then paints from them (although, not all the movies that she watches become painting). She photographs frames from the movie, capturing fleeting moments with her smartphone – a relatively low quality camera, and then paints from the photos.
  2. House interior as a backdrop: in her latest series of paintings from the last two years, Deep Feelings, she paints predominately with oils, sometimes dry pastels, places, the inside of houses, or interior architecture. Different rooms – a dining room, bedroom, passages between rooms, staircases, openings and doors, a fireplace, floral wallpaper; as well as furniture – a table with a bowl of fruit, bread, ceramic pitcher and glasses; chairs; beds; chests of drawers; pictures on the wall and ornaments on a shelf. Bourgeoise and European looking rooms. Chandeliers and standing lamps sometimes cast a dramatic light on the room. The general atmosphere is that of a telenovela set design.
  3. And God Created Woman: the new paintings are based on frames from Roger Vadim’s 1956 movie. The movie that invented Brigitte Bardot as a sex goddess and made her an international star. Oren Ben Moreh paints these cinematic scenes in a way that does not quite allow us to identify the actors, as famous as they are, or the actual movie. Although at one point in the exhibition, Bardot and her honey-colored tresses do make an appearance in the portraits.
  4. The bride and her bachelors: the plot of the movie – which is indeed reminiscent of a telenovela – has an elusive presence in the exhibition. The figures, one woman and several (probably three) men, change places and maybe roles. Inside the closed rooms, they are trapped in frames within frames: flanked by the doorframe; blending into the wall behind them; belonging to a chair or an extension of a written letter; residing in the gaps between a chest of drawers and a desk, and between a color field and the frame that cuts the painting; engulfed by the space of the opening but also shaped from it – like a butterfly born from the cocoon, antennae and wings hatching from a shapeless mass; in one painting, a female figure emerges from the bed linen, the bed and her body forming a landscape; the room is not the backdrop for the figures, but rather the men and woman emanate from the interior setting and are a part of it.
  5. Untitled (Breakfast): a painting that evokes Matisse’s Red Room, not just because of the use of color. In Oren Ben Moreh’s “breakfast” – a female figure, cut from the flat red wall, wears a light blue blouse, and is depicted in an architectural composition. On the one hand, sitting on the bottom stair of a wooden staircase, she rises from the horizontal (we may even say feminine) arrangement of still life on the table at the bottom of the painting. On the other hand: the pose in which she was frozen – her arms raised to arrange her hair, forming a diamond shape – turn her into an African figurine, an ornament decorating (bourgeois European) homes, or their European Modernist versions, like Henry Moore’s sculptures of women. Above her, vertical (in contrast with the horizontal layout on the table) semi abstract phallic objects are arranged in a row.
  6. Oren Ben Moreh’s paintings do not offer a stable image to hold on to. The back of a woman’s blouse and torso dissolve into the opening, the black trousers of a man standing at the door merge to form a base, turning him into a lamp stand or a coat hanger; the brown door is an extension of the brown blazer. “You cannot distinguish a flare of light from a light fixture” wrote Matan Daube on Ben Moreh’s previous 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.

  1. The colors: blue and red, are considered primary colors. Basic colors that cannot be mixed from any other color. The blue and the red – two of the three Modernist primary colors (the third being yellow, which glimpses in the paintings occasionally) – stand out in Ben Moreh’s paintings against a brown background, which is the color of mixture, the mixture of the three primary colors. In the symbolist tradition of Modernism, red and blue are identified with the masculine and the feminine. Red, it almost goes without saying, although this was not always the case – is synonymous with the feminine, the bloody, and the fleshy; and blue with the masculine and the spiritual (a pink plastic hospital wristband for newborn girls and a light blue one for boys). Incidentally, in the history of culture, the gender identity of colors changes and alternates. Vis-à-vis the color red, I recalled David Ginton’s essay about Aryeh Aroch in HaMidrasha Magazine (issue no. 3, which I edited), in which he offered a profound and illuminating exploration of red and blue, which symbolize royalty but also the union between the sexes, when they appear together in a painting. In Ginton’s essay, I found two quotes concerning the color red, which can shed a certain light on Ben Moreh’s current series of works:

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.

  1. Brigitte Bardot: as mentioned earlier, the star of the movie does not appear in most of the paintings featured in this show. And when she is depicted in the various rooms, along with other characters, she is seen from the back or is smeared and blurry. Unidentifiable. But she does appear in the exhibition – on her own – in three bright and cinematic portrait paintings, on the backdrop of natural landscapes. The only outdoor scenery depicted in the paintings. Her wheat-colored hair blowing in the wind. When Vadim’s movie was released in the U.S. in 1957, it, and mostly Bardot, caused a sensation. The New York Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, wrote about the movie: “She [Brigitte Bardot] is undeniably a creation of superlative craftsmanship. But that’s the extent of the transcendence, for there is nothing sublime about the script of this completely single-minded little picture… and its sole hint of divine inspiration is in the resemblance of its story to that of Eve.” I thought, among other things in the wake of Crowther, who searches for the sublime that is missing from the movie (and instead finds Bardot’s round and voluptuous curves, as he described her in the same column), about the brown in Ben Moreh’s paintings, the color that does not represent spirituality, and was born from mixing. The color of the earth.
  2. Simone de Beauvoir: we cannot not mention Beauvoir here; the counter heroine, Bardot’s counterpart in philosophy. In August 1959, Esquire magazine printed Beauvoir’s article “Brigitte Bardot and The Lolita Syndrome,” which was her favorite article, so she used to say. Bardot, whose image, particularly as it was invented on screen by Vadim, is presented in the article written by (the adoring, not to mention smitten) de Beauvoir as the harbinger of the sexual revolution, a modern contemporary incarnation of (sexual) liberty, breaking taboos, and leading the hordes of young people to sexual freedom and equality.

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.

  1. Cinema is projected onto a screen. Producing illusions on a flat screen while we are sitting in the dark, motionless, passive, and receptive. The painting is projected from the canvas. Ben Moreh’s paintings, as Joshua Simon had once written about them (in a different exhibition) “love being painted” as though on their own accord, trying to recreate or reinvent the experience of passivity.


Oren Ben Moreh / Frontier

Opening: 19/12/2013   Closing: 24/01/2014

Frontier, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Frontier, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Frontier, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Frontier, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Frontier, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2013
Untitled, oil on canvas, 80x110cm, 2013
Watching, oil on canvas, 50x60cm, 2013
Ggrapvine, Oil on Canvas, 100X150cm, 2013
Arch, Oil on Canvas, 100x150cm, 2013
Cat watching a cat, Oil on Canvas, 100X150cm, 2013

Court Painting: the Works of Oren Ben Moreh
Leah Abir


Something about vegetation provides the painter with everything she needs: a thin veil through which to make things visible; a dense thicket in which to dip the strokes of oil paint time after time; a supple twig with which to frame and enclose the image; majestic foliage with which to play in monochromatic tones, a choice which means that faithfulness to realistic colors might take us as far as phosphorous, industrial, and toxic colors. One brushstroke is needed to portray the long life of a leaf, as well as the vitality inherent to its growth potential.


In paintings with no openings or sky, Oren Ben Moreh creates closed, back and front yards. She dubs them “frontiers” and imagines them as fortified fronts, but also as elaborate surfaces. There is no point in separating the works’ subject matter from the technique in which they were executed – contemporary painting is “not only a painting but also the representation of an idea about painting.”[1] Ben Moreh’s painting is imbued with the image just as it is filled with ideas about painting and of painting.


“Court painting” – we imagine decadent wealth, a class which is as self-indulgent as much as it is dependent on the elaborate depictions of that same wealth to which they could hold on and never let go. Ben Moreh paints actual courts, framing front and back entrances of houses: the area which is removed from the house just enough to populate ordered illusions of nature, magnificently broken statues, fountains, dozy cats, and unwarranted visitors who peek through the thick vegetation or hide in the dark entrances of sheds. The yard is the area through which one may invade the house or its surrounding spaces. It should be cultivated as a layer of protection, just as it should be defended against intruders. The vases, and the sculptures, and the fountains, and the cats, and the roof tiles, and the fences, and the benches, and the stone walls, and the arches, and the chairs, and the rugs, and the hammocks, and the flowers, and the leaves, and the branches, and the trees, and the shrubs, all produce impenetrable frontiers in the likeness of serene, orderly, barricaded life. A life which offers restricted entry and is blocked from view. Much like the domestic scenes portrayed in Ben Moreh’s earlier works, which were taken mostly from cinematic scenes, the yards similarly remain in the realm of the private which is open, yet does not relinquish its impenetrability.


In these paintings of cultured and populated vegetation, Ben Moreh joins numerous contemporary artists who engage directly or allegorically with yards and gardens as expanses that revert to the botanical order through private and dilettante manifestations of the ecological turn, and which are associated with the reexamination of the self-world relations put forward by post-humanist thought. In Ben Moreh’s works, the courtyards (or “frontiers”) direct us to our private spaces over which we are losing our grip, and to nature which is lost in our grip. However in her painting, as mentioned, there is no point to separate the rich and specific technique of oil painting (a technique the artist presents here for the first time in her work) – dense, layered, bold, speckled, and flattened – and the image it renders. The courtyard manifestly exists in these works as a portrayal of the existential state of painting itself – a private space that goes out to the public, fraught with a tense duality, as a space of both nesting and fantasy: an invaded area that skillfully designs its own fortifications.


[1] Barry Schwabsky, “Painting in the Interrogative Mode,” in Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, London: Phaidon, 2002, 8.


Oren Ben Moreh / Motel

Opening: 22/12/2011   Closing: 27/01/2012

Motel, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2011
Motel, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2011
Motel, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2011
Motel, Exhibition view, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2011
Stop, Pastel on Paper, 100x150cm, 2011
Firey, Pastel on Paper, 70x100cm, 2011
Drawing Room 2, Pastel on Paper, 70x100cm, 2011
Black Magic, Pastel on Paper, 70x100cm, 2011
Fountain, Pastel on Paper, 70x100cm, 2011

Have you already seen Oren Ben Moreh’s paintings? Maybe in a moment. In any case, you’ve come in, and that’s pleasing. Because these paintings, which have been revealed or will be revealed to you in a moment, draw you in to the remote regions of the human mind, to those moments that manage to elude the brain’s synapses. To moments of a partly chilling, partly welcomed quietness. In a cold and warm or warm and cold painting. But, did the painting invite you to enter? Did the painting let you gauge it in the moment of encounter? Because the paintings, seemingly, are concerned with things that anyway do not pertain to you: an elusive moment of meaningless prevarication, waiting for something whose time has already passed, things that disappear because no one sees them. Here is not home sweet home. Here is the intimacy of the other. And maybe you are familiar with the painting’s intimacy, which stems from the voyeuristic gaze into the private realm, that privacy that is concealed by and constructed from the layers of paint – what seems exposed actually demands excavation and discovery, since the painting in fact conceals more than it reveals. Maybe it is not necessarily love at first sight.


Have you asked yourself about the women appearing in the paintings? Or is that actually clear to you? Is there something feminine in the paintings? Maybe in the fact that they prevaricate and mull things over, bursting with a raging storm of yes or no? And maybe here something and nothing live under one roof, masculine in its insolence, in its charisma? Either way, like a dolled up lady, the paintings are heavily, suffocatingly made up – layers of makeup cover all the pores, making it impossible to breath, impossible to distinguish between a streak of light and a lighting fixture.


True, there are no borders in Ben Moreh’s paintings, but in spite of that, and maybe precisely because of that there is a struggle. And what a struggle! One territory in the painting features the occupied territories, so filled with paint that it peels off the paper, and on the other side – gentleness, painterly cunning that tries to create clear images. But these images too seem restrained, not to say ashamed, for having dared to raise their heads and emerge from within the painting. Like these images, the painting too has not made up its mind yet whether it wants to be revealed or to remain mysterious – the insolence of the color, the opaque glow of the pastel, stand as a counterweight against the painting’s qualms.


The inevitable result of this struggle, which is at the heart of the painting, is death. And indeed, you can think of Ben Moreh’s painting as a made-up corpse. It shows a ceaseless concern with death and the space it creates, with the lack that is highlighted by death rituals and by the consciousness of death that flickers without warning into people’s lives. Often you can ignore this concern, but not here. This is painting that resists the advertisement, the instant, the self-flattery and the information superhighways that dominate art. Honest painting, which looks death straight in the eye without wrapping it with tiresomeness and kitsch, and that doesn’t wish to shout or glorify the naturally underpowered.


Against this background, you might want to notice the small details, how much consolation they offer, the single cup that holds all the consolation (however small), painted in front of the figure’s blurry face. How material are the fire and the background, like the Cliffs of Moher struck by the ocean waves, and yet how airy and light. Flowers sent to spread joy but destined to wilt momentarily, the landscape paintings that dream of the pastoral – all everyday objects whose presence is meant to make life easier; a corporeal world, full of matter, that tries to lift the spirit. Like the paintings themselves, these objects are completely material, but they evoke all thatpersists in a human being’s spirit – not in the sublime but in the human, in the living.


If you like, you can say that these paintings reside in the twilight zone, and they do indeed wonderfully produce such a twilight zone. In fact, the paintings keep subtle balances – in color, texture, images, composition – in order to linger as long as possible in this twilight zone and emphasize its importance. You too might want to join them, lingering for a moment inside your vacillations, identifying with this sense of indecision and letting your mind wander aimlessly. To leave the safe ground of reliable knowledge.


Matan Daube