Court Painting: the Works of Oren Ben Moreh
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.” 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.
 Barry Schwabsky, “Painting in the Interrogative Mode,” in Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, London: Phaidon, 2002, 8.