Matan Ben-Tolila Cat Steps

Matan Ben-Tolila / Cat Steps

Opening: 05/03/2021   Closing: 05/05/2021    Curator: Yonatan Ullman

Cat steps, 2020, Oil on canvas, 170x106cm
Self Portrait, 2020, Oil on canvas, 170x140cm
Omer, 2020, Oil on canvas, 150x150cm
Passing Plane, 2020, Oil on canvas, 180x140cm
צולל (דיפטיך) 65+95 סמ כל אחד 2021
The distances will always follow us, 2020, Oil on canvas, 124x200cm
Heart Rock, 2020, Oil on canvas, 44x41cm

Cat Steps / Matan Ban-Tolila – press releae

In another place / Yonatan Ullman
Far away from here lies an endless, wonderful, enchanted, mysterious, dark space.
I am drawn there every time anew.
It’s addictive.
When I am there, here does not exist.
When I am here, I think about returning there.

There is freedom there.
Freedom to wander.

Tigers roam free.

A cave.
A vortex.
A portal.
A passage.

I peek through the gap in my camouflage net.
On the other side an unmanned plane is revealed.
Sometimes I imagine I was it.
Drifting.
Somewhere.
Above and beyond.
Cruising.
Absolute silence.
I’m upside-down.
The canopy is like coordinates.
Directing.
Centering.
Orienting.
Anything is possible.
I send a signal to my home base – can anyone hear me?
Where to now?
Deeper.
Further.
Surprising, thrilling, stunning.
Beyond knowledge or understanding.
Careful!
Not too far.
You may never return.
But, the temptation is so great.
How much beauty lies here.

Then… I am back here.

At night, I gaze beyond the window.
I can hear our world – full of life, vitality, motion.
Banal althea flowers, which I passed by thousands of times while driving,
become a phenomena.
Dancing with the moon that drifts through the dark skies.
Growing slowly.
Ever closer to each other.
Striving for contact.
How much beauty is in them.

 

 

 

Eti Jacobi | A Monkey with A Yellow Fever

Eti Jacobi / A Monkey with Yellow Fever

Opening: 28/05/2021  Closing 29/07/2021

Eti Jacobi, Exhibition View, Noga Gallery, 2021
Eti Jacobi, Exhibition View, Noga Gallery, 2021
Eti Jacobi, Exhibition View, Noga Gallery, 2021
Eti Jacobi, Untitled #1, 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 60x70cm
Eti Jacobi, Untitled #2, 2019, Acrylic on plywood, 60x60cm
Eti Jacobi, Untitled #3, 2019, Acrylic on plywood, 60x60cm
Eti Jacobi, Untitled #4, 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 40x40cm
Eti Jacobi, Untitled #5, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 40x40cm

There are numerous episodes, myths, legends, anecdotes and stories that involve the medium of painting: in his Natural History, Pliny describes a painting by the famous Zeuxis in which some grapes were so successfully represented that birds flew up to it; in his The Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari, wrote that Paolo Uccello – who had this name because he loved animals and would often paint them – was once so offended by Donatello that he refused to come out of his room but sat working at his drawings, and whenever his wife called him to come to bed he would answer “What a wonderful thing perspective is!”

However no story is more appropriate to this occasion than the one told in The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac. This is not the time to tell the full story, and notwithstanding the differences between the cases, the comparison to Eti Jacobi – her practice, her works, her devotion, her obsessions – is fitting. Her modus operandi, her untiring desire to unlock the mystery of painting, a quest that has been keeping her busy for more than forty years, is a model for what art could be, and should aspire to be.

Through the juxtaposition of works that appear to be different – a neophyte would say “abstract” versus “figurative” works, but such distinctions have little place in Jacobi’s complex universe – but which are in fact created with the same mind (and body) set, the artist is challenging our own mind and our own body; yes the full body, because speaking only about the eyes would be in fact misleading since Jacobi’s large paintings need our full attention. 

In other words, through this strategy of juxtaposition, which she has employed before, Jacobi is demanding full attention, full devotion and commitment. What appears to be shapeless is in fact the opposite. What seems to depict figures, eventually turns into pure color – or lack thereof, if we consider the strong presence of black in this exhibition. 

A malady, just as the title suggests, is what Jacobi ‘suffers’ from and constantly endures. It does not matter if a work takes six months or six minutes to be completed. The position from which the artist creates actually happens to be same, due to the fact that there is in each case an equal craving to possess all the unknown rules for the making of the perfect painting and there is an equivalent force which is directed to the understanding of how to push the limits of color applied on a surface. Thus, through such ‘simple’ actions, Jacobi reveals to us, paradoxically, how painting is still the most difficult language created by humankind.

 In the company of Poussin (just like the protagonist of Balzac’s story), Caravaggio (whose whispers can be heard in Jacobi’s dark still lives) and the unique light that every day touches this land and enters her studio, the artist creates a world in which she sets the rules in order to challenge them, “warms up” (this is how she often defines her drawing practice) in order to create art that has nothing to do with today, yesterday or tomorrow’s currencies. Like painting itself, despite how the times try to convince us otherwise, Jacobi’s practice is a constant siege, which goal is to conquer immortality. 

—Nicola Trezzi

Anat Betzer | “That is the Bunch of Live Flowers!”

Anat Betzer | “That is the Bunch of Live Flowers!”

Opening: 07/10/2021   Closing: 27/11/2021

Untitled #1,2021, Oil on canvas, 70X50 cm
Untitled #2,2021, Oil on canvas, 100X70 cm
Untitled #3,2021, Oil on canvas, 100X70 cm
Untitled #5,2021, Oil on canvas, 100X70 cm
Untitled #16,2021, Oil on canvas, 50X30 cm

“That is the Bunch of Live Flowers!”[1]

Anat Betzer at Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art

 

In her new exhibition, Anat Betzer continues her in-depth exploration of painting and its realistic manifestations. The show is centered on women’s heads painted from the back—a delicate erotic image that transforms into a black hole of sorts, floating in a bright sky, detached from the body. Fauna and flora, both framing and framed, hover in a world which is empty yet ornate, fragmented, terrifying, but full of humor.

 

The images are acutely depicted in great detail, cut-cropped and placed in the middle of the canvas like a feverish vortex in the heart of the desert of nothingness; a wound (hole) or a scar (hill) left as a sign of something that once existed or as a seductive hint of a hidden face. The images leap out towards us or look at us. They are as sensual as the onset of the thicket, where something tried to take an orderly shape but became disheveled and underwent a near-surrealistic metamorphosis. Hair pulled-back becomes a rococo ornament; a braid is assimilated in a feather, like a montage concatenation of dreams. And the painting—its quintessential or latent axis signifies the center, the target composition kept in our consciousness, facing us like a mirror.

 

In other paintings the image falls to the bottom of the canvas and even beyond it. It is cut exactly along the line of the painted eye, leaving the focal point as an absent-present—an unexplained cut that confronts us with a cognitive dissonance: an occurrence of which we get only the “tail”; an event whose essence is external, taking place outside (as the cruel beheading performed by the artist on the chicken images in the exhibition), and its “plot” is derived from the assimilated habits of our perceptions, of the self-evident imprinted in us by observation of life.

 

In his book And It Came to Pass, Hayyim Nahman Bialik recounts the legend of King Solomon and the bee, featuring three main characters: King Solomon, the wisest of all men, the bee, and the Queen of Sheba. Having been stung in the nose by a small bee, and once his anger subsided, the Queen of Sheba comes to visit King Solomon. As part of the teasing verbal exchange between the two, the queen proposes to the king the challenge of the living flowers: a bunch of artificial flowers (“the work of men’s hands”) versus a bunch of live flowers (“the work of nature”). His embarrassment at the inability to distinguish between the two by their appearance is solved for him by the (cheeky) little bee, who identifies the bunch of live flowers. Nature is wiser than man, even the wisest of men.

 

In the exhibition “That is the Bunch of Live Flowers!” Betzer looks directly at the politically, socially, and ecologically chaotic reality, addressing the question of representation in a unique complex manner. She delves into center and margins, back and forth, a gaze at and a reciprocated gaze, inviting the viewers to look at themselves, at their reflection, to peek at the world and at the woman.

 

The Covid-19 year, which has led many of us to realms of anxiety, helplessness, and loss of meaning, is conspicuously present in this new series of paintings. Their small scale, relative minimalism, modesty, silence, and sense of solitude (not to say isolation)—in addition to Betzer’s constant desire to find and create beauty, to cling to the flimsy, familiar and hackneyed image, reexamine it and reaffirm its power—yield a powerful statement about a moment of radical existence. It is a statement underlain by despair and profound concern alongside passion and great vitality.

 

[1] A quote from the legend of “King Solomon and the Bee,” in: Hayyim Nahman Bialik, And it Came to Pass: Legends and Stories about King David and King Solomon, trans. Herbert Danby (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1938), p. 92.