Barbarian in the Garden

Nogah Engler / Barbarian in the Garden

Opening: 22/3/2018   Closing: 12/5/2018

Barbarian in the Garden, 2018, installation view, Noga Gallery
Barbarian in the Garden, 2018, installation view, Noga Gallery
Barbarian in the Garden, 2018, installation view, Noga Gallery
Barbarian in the Garden, 2018, installation view, Noga Gallery
Nogah Engler, Gap, oil on canvas, 30x40 cm, 2018
Nogah Engler, 2018, Leaning 1, oil on canvas, 40x55 cm, 2018
Nogah Engler, 2018, embroidered in marble 2, oil on canvas, 40x50cm
Nogah Engler, Feast, 30x55 cm, 2018

Text: Hava Aldouby

 

Nogah Engler has chosen to borrow the title that Polish poet and essayist, Zbigniew Herbert, gave to his first, euphoric, journey to Western Europe in 1958. According to its author, Barbarian in the Garden is “a collection of sketches, travel notes … along the trails of cities, museums, ruins.” In his first excursion beyond the Iron Curtain, Herbert pursues and documents the cornerstones of canonical European art with eager diligence. Recounted through the longing eyes of the man of the periphery who finds himself in (yet not necessarily invited into) the Garden – the heart of hegemonic culture he was raised on, his sensual, tactile descriptions lead the reader deep into the experience. Like an outsider who enters the Garden for the first time, armed with historical and critical knowledge acquired from afar, he takes pleasure in the flavors and sights. At the same time, Herbert’s Europe is inscribed with the memory of a dark history. While the poet harks back to the distant Middle Ages, dryly detailing the cruelty of the Inquisition, a more immediate historical memory reverberates through his words – the atrocities of 1940s Europe. Undoubtedly the descriptions of the catholic church burning heretics at the stake in 13th century France, will also resonate with the contemporary reader, echoing current events in the Middle East.

In the exhibition Barbarian in the Garden, Nogah Engler wanders through canonical European culture via imagined scenes based, among other sources, on photographs she has taken in her travels. She steps into lofty opera houses, sneaks a glance at the awe-inspiring museum halls, dominated by centuries long silence. With the care of a foreigner allowed into the Garden, her brush caresses the surface of ancient vases, lingers on the “oil on canvas” texture of Old Master paintings, records with longing meticulousness the stone reliefs and rich tapestry that adorn the vaulted halls. Like Herbert, she goes into elaborate and fine detail, charts the foreign and coveted territory inch by inch, yearning to appropriate it, to “know” it in the biblical sense. In Leaning #1, a figure leans over a porcelain swan, wistfully. The light regal swans contrast with the dark silhouette of the hunched, observing, woman, who has no name or identity. In Leaning #2 the same figure, this time in negative, is an absent/present apparition.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the Garden itself threatens to dissipate, like the celluloid negative of a grand history. Engler documents the crumbling margins and the dwindling time with an air of angst. In Embroidered in Marble (Herbert’s term for Orvieto Cathedral), a stream of sand or dust pours in through a wide crack in the ceiling, threatening to bury the refined furniture and drown the lofty space. The aura that surrounds the Garden has not yet faded, but in Engler’s paintings, the ground is shaking. The painting Embroidered in Marble brings to mind Federico Fellini’s apocalyptic film, Orchestra Rehearsal (1978), filmed in the wake of a political terrorist attack in Italy. At the end of the film, the conductor struggles to create music in the midst of chaos. The ceiling of the hall and the surrounding walls are cracked with the blows of a huge demolition ball, and a cascade of dust and debris threatens to bury the musicians and their instruments.

Engler’s works echo the words with which Herbert concludes his day in Siena: “…before reaching the gate I turn to look again at the Campo. Everything is as it should be: the walls of the Town Hall wedging sharply into the night, its tower as beautiful as yesterday. One can go to bed. Explosions mushroom above the earth, but maybe we shall still manage to make a couple of rotations around the sun – with this cathedral, this palace, this painting.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Zbigniew Herbert, Barbarian in the Garden.

Fragile Land

Ori Gersht / Fragile Land

Opening: 30/08/2018   Closing: 26/10/2018

Fragile Land, Installation View, Noga Gallery, 2018
Fragile Land, Installation View, Noga Gallery, 2018
Fragile Land, Installation View, Noga Gallery, 2018
Fragile Land, Installation View, Noga Gallery, 2018
Fragile Land, Installation View, Noga Gallery, 2018
Cyclamen, P06, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 65x85cm
Cyclamen, P03, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 31x25cm
Cyclamen, D01, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 100x80cm
Cyclamen, D02, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 85x85cm
Lilium Candidum ,D01, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 120x100cm
Lilium Candidum ,P01, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 80x64cm
Lilium Candidum ,P01, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 80x64cm
Iris Atropurpurea, P04, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 40x30cm
Iris Atropurpurea, D01, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 120x100cm
New Orders 03, Untitled 02, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 26x34 cm
New Orders 03, Untitled 03, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 26x34 cm
New Orders 03, Untitled 04, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 26x34 cm
Evertime 07, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 60x71 cm
Evertime 09, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 60x90 cm
Evertime 05, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 30x68 cm
Evertime 06, 2018 , Archival Pigment Print, 45x53 cm

Fragile Land
Where the Wild Things Grow

 

Botany is one of the loudest trumpets of modern nationalism and as such, it is no surprise that the connection between Zionism and the wild flowers of Israel was established in an attempt to tighten the bond between the Jewish settlers and the land of the fathers. Furthermore, the act of giving the plants Hebrew names by Effraim and Hanna Reuveni in the 1920’s was aimed at establishing an irrefutable proof of identity and belonging, as if from these plants the people and the language were sprouting. The flowers help to establish a feeling of belonging, as if uprooting the flowers help to root the people to their native land. The wild flowers establish ties between the people and the habitat, fusing together the botanical with the ideological. However, biological habitat do not overlap national borders.

 

As a child Yuli Tamir recalled  “reading ‘Our Country’s Flora’, one got the impression that Israel was a unique botanic habitat whose flora and fauna were special and whose borders were natural. One day I came across a nature book published by a Palestinian Israeli. It had the same beautiful sketches of the same flowers and trees, and yet the mere fact that it was written in Arabic made it alien. This was a clear expression of the geographical reality of two nations sharing a land, each pretending it was its sole owner.”

 

In Fragile Land, Gersht has photographed the endangered flowers of Israel. Flowers that were declared; ‘national treasures’ and therefore must be protected and respected. In each specimen he was attempting to reveal the tragic humility of the living plants that were ripped from the soil reviling the solitary and existential essence of being. His approach was inspired by the history of scientific botanical drawings, which are aiming to rise above the specifity of the model, depicting the timeless, the archetypal specimen isolated from its environmental context. However, his photographs are also inspired by the artistic quest of such Renaissance painters as Leonardo and Durer in their search for idealism and for poetic representation of the divine creations.

 

For this new body of work, Gersht simultaneously used 10X8 Polaroid’s film and a high-resolution digital camera to photograph and catalogue the endangered flowers of Israel. In his Polaroid photographs he was attempting to meltdown both, medium (film) and subject (flowers). In doing so he has destabilised the Polaroid and at the same time shot the flowers with a rifle capturing them in the critical moment of impact. This process allowed him to integrate the fragile and unstable presence of both flower and film. Unlike digital processes, each Polaroid film is unique and  Unrepeatable, therefore each event becomes a unique ghostly record for the interaction between medium and subject.

 

In contrast to the sensual and earthly natured polaroid’s, the identical images captured by the high resolution digital camera are super sharp and detailed, revealing a different reality, unfolding a contrasting parallel narrative of the same event. The comparison between the two mediums is incongruous and may allude to the role of technology in defining the perception of reality, the subjective nature of evidence and the elusive phenomenon of truth.

 

Ori Gersht was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel in 1967. He received his BA from the University of Westminster, London (UK) and his MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London (UK). He lives and works in London. He has previously been the subject of solo exhibitions the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Imperial War Museum, London (UK), The Tate Britain, London (UK), The Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art, Jerusalem (Israel), The Santa Barbara Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, The Jewish Museum, New York, The Yale Centre for British Art, Connecticut, and the Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton (UK).

 

Gersht is included in the public collections of the British Council, London (UK), Deutsche Bank, Government Art Collection, London (UK), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, the Imperial War Museum, London (UK), The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Israel), The Jewish Museum, New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, the Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Tate Britain, London (UK), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (Israel), the 21C Museum, Louisville, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (UK).