“Painting celebrates no other enigma but that of visibility.”
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Eye and Mind
In his new exhibition Joshua Borkovsky exhibits new paintings from the Leda and the Swan (Homage to Tintoretto) cycle and paintings from the Vera Icon cycle.
Borkovsky’s work predominantly features phantasmagoric imagery, such as the silhouettes of sailing ships and the cartographic images in his paintings of the early 1990s. In later years, this preoccupation yielded crystal chandeliers reflected in mirrors, anamorphic photographs of gardens and the recent paintings of the Echo & Narcissus cycle.
Borkovsky’s art demands the viewer’s active presence and concentrated observation, leading him, paradoxically, to question seeing and to doubt the truth in what is reflected.
The same is true of the paintings on view in the present show. The paintings from the Leda and the Swan cycle (oil on canvas) and the paintings from the Vera Icon cycle (Tempera on gesso on wood) continue the characteristic abstraction, concentration and reduction in Borkovsky’s work. It is a painting that in the words of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the French philosopher and thinker, “comes from the eye and addresses itself to the eye”. But it is also a painting that enables, confirms and simultaneously doubts seeing; the viewer is not certain what he sees, what its meaning is, and what the “true” image is. Echoic of Rashomon, the viewer remains uncertain – what is seen, what was really there, what the “true” image, the Vera Icon, is and if it is possible at all. The doubt that is eminent to these paintings and their creation becomes the viewer’s doubt, every viewer at any time.
* Vera Icon – “true image”: a concept, originally from Latin and Greek, that deals with the questions of the possibility and veracity of representation –of the divine representation in particular and any representation in general. This concept exists since the beginning of Christianity signifying the true presence of Christ through images known by their Greek name as acheiropoietos – not made by hand. One example is St. Veronica’s Vernicle (by erroneous etymological connection the name Veronica was associated with Vera Icon).
The exhibition Folding Time will present for the first time the still life film trilogy titled ‘Pomegranate’ 2006, ‘Big Bang’ 2006 and ‘Falling bird’ 2008 alongside the photographic works from a series titled Blow-Up 2007.
In this body of work, Gersht explores relationships between photography, film and technology, revisiting fundamental philosophical conundrums concerning optical perception, conception of time and the relationships between the photographic image and objective reality.
All three films were shot with high definition, high speed camera technology and are based on old masters still life compositions. Whereas such paintings attempted to preserve motionless moments frozen in time, Gersht’s compositions are obstructed by fast and violent interventions. In ‘Pomegranate’, a film that references Juan Sanchez Cotan’s 17th century still life and Harold Edgerton’s high speed stroboscopic photography, a high velocity bullet flies across the frame in slow motion and obliterates a suspended pomegranate, bursts it into open and wheels it slowly in the air like a smashed violated mouth spraying seeds.
The peaceful image transforms into bloodshed. In ‘Big Bang’, a Dutch flowers still life painting suddenly explodes to the intensive sound of war sirens. The explosion disrupts the scene, which subsequently transforms into a silent, slow moving cosmic downpour of colorful flowers, particles and dust. In ‘Falling Bird’, a film based on Chardin’s still life, a hanging pheasant is suddenly unlashed of its string, free falling toward a mirror like black surface, collapsing into its own reflection, on impact the bird penetrate the liquid surface and in doing so triggers an epic chain reaction, reminiscent of a geological disaster.
In relation to the film trilogy Gersht developed a group of large-scale photographs entitled Blow Up. These depict elaborate floral arrangements, based upon a 19th Century still-life painting by Henri Fantin-Latour, captured in the moment of exploding. Gersht´s compositions are literally frozen in motion, a process dependent on the ability of the advanced technology of photography to freeze-frame action, something inconceivable to the Old Masters. This visual occurrence, that is too fast for the human eye to process and can only be perceived with the aid of photography, is what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconsciousness’ in his seminal essay ‘A Short History of Photography’.
Gersht´s films and photographs allude to the inherent shadow of death and decay hanging over old master still life and vanitas paintings. However, technology has aided Gersht in creating contemporary versions, bringing the concerns of still life masters into a contemporary context. By basing his films and photographs upon paintings within the long-established art historical tradition, Gersht draws attention to the painterly nature of his work which closely resembles these iconic masterpieces. Yet they are distanced due to the instantaneous digital process which translate every second in reality to a minute on film in the case of the moving image pieces and in the photographs, captures each shattering still life at a speed of 1/3200 of a second and stores the information immaterially as data on a hardrive until each is transcoded into a film or fabricated as a C-Type print, returning the image to the world of two-dimensional artworks.
Throughout this exhibition peacefully balanced compositions become victims of brutal terror, revealing an uneasy beauty in destruction. This tension that exists between violence and beauty, destruction and creation is enhanced by the fruitful collision of the age-old need to capture “reality” and the potential of photography to question what that actually means. The authority of photography in relation to objective truth has been shattered, but new possibilities to experience reality in a more complex and challenging manner have arisen.
Who resurrects who out of obscurity: my work resurrects the tree or vice versa?
On my studio wall hung a photograph of a tree for quite some time. I had taken this photograph while traveling in Brazil a few years back. As you can see, the grand tree has been there for ages. The tree is dry, and looks like it is constantly turning around its axis; out of its trunk, branches are spiraling outwards (and inwards) as they flash their green leaves.
In this tree, located all alone on its own on the sandy shore—almost as if it were shipwrecked long ago, drifted onto this obscure and deserted coast—I find the duality of the monumental and the central against the peripheral and the neglected. For the tree is larger in size than a person, its presence, while it bends sideways, is both commanding and authoritative, and it is clearly acknowledged and recognized against the vast and sandy landscape; obviously immobile, the tree is charged with powerful motion. But, it is also easy to consider how distant, remote and concealed from the human eye the tree is; it is natural, secretive and hidden: spiraling back-downwards, forever concealing, and recollecting its ever expanding existence back to its root.
It is further easy to detect the latent energy with which each and every one of its elements is endowed; all of them aiming to burst out free, flashing before the eye as if they were omens, forecasting a powerful storm yet to unleash its devastating powers. Once more, on the other hand, the grand power and motion are held back; the motion is fixed, frozen as if it is contained within the frame of a single moment in time—encapsulating perhaps an ancient memory, the lesson and wisdom of forgotten storms of the past.
What I look for in my exhibition is a similar duality. Perhaps my exhibition is but this lonely tree off the shores of Brazil
Footprints of a figure
Traces of habitat
Nati Shamia Opher exhibits a complex installation. Its space might be an inside or a refined outside inhabited by different objects that merge between in and out, landscape and furniture, object and body.
An image of a dismantled tree with a tree house on its branches is spread unpicked on the gallery floor.
The tree parts are wrapped with felt, as though reunited; its joints are reconstructed by the hands of a specialist into a branched nervous system; its branches create a new weave that grows and takes over the gallery floor.
Near the tree a puddle carpet lies on the floor: its parts are a multiplied imitation of puddles that often appear on asphalt during winter. The carpet is a source of water – an imaginary infrastructure for a possible existence, for life.
The third object is a shadow of a mountain: a structure of light colored felt pockets stretching towards the ceiling like cells of a beehive – a potential layout for collecting and storage.
A possible place for being and, perhaps, for a safe existence of the body.
Nati Shamia Opher
In the exhibition “What of the Night”, I present paintings of a lake in the forest during a moon lit enchanted night, filled with lovers,demons and floating fairies.
The landscape itself is freely based on the works of Nicholas Poussin. Through the epic painting of Poussin, full of talent gorged with the technical abilities of a master, I try to release a fairy-like act, made with little devious picturesque tricks. Using these elements, down to almost the lowest level of the ability to paint, I ask to stay loyal to the event of youth; through the moment I discovered the great painting, the art