One Eye Closed / Stockholm, Moscow, Montreal
By Uzi Tzur
"Silent Mess", curator Sandra Weil, Inga Gallery, Tel Aviv
This beautiful and intelligent show deals with the purity of the female sex, femininity that comes from the energies and complexities of refinement. The female artists are not from here, or they are from here but now live and work in other cities, and this otherness enchants their works. Ester Schneider was born in Moscow and lives and works here, but it is a here that is European and distant. In her portraits, she merges the Christian divine spirit with a Jewish sense of exile. Schneider has hung her paintings wisely, exposed and with no frame, she constructs a kind of altar to her inner world. In her works, one needs to closely examine the brush work that weaves with black ink threads the free, almost chaotic patches of color. Separated from the rest is a gloomy vertical painting of a Dostoyevskian figure; enveloped in the folds of his miter is the bluish light of holiness; the sensual face is Schneider's own, with her large dark eyes that glow in many of her paintings. It is as if she glued a black beard onto her face, emphasizing her thick Frida Kahlo-like eyebrows that meet in the middle.
Revealed behind a ruche curtain partially raised to the light is the scapegoat of Pagan rituals, with psychedelic rainbow colored horns – a work that contains wonderful contrasts between organized geometric components and deceptions. The portrait of Saint Pervoslavi is surrounded by a gold halo, his pure heart is displayed like a white mask with precise circles cut into it. The Kabala torch is a colorful geometric form that multiplies itself, as in Ardon's stained glass windows, but with Schneider, the darkness creeps into the colorful light.
To come: Schneider as an enigmatic and delicate Pushkin in a Cubist game of shapes and surrounded by sweet diamonds. Another self portrait is a combined face and mask, a sort of collage drawing-painting that contains the David Hockney-like graphic and illustratory qualities. From her head swing two peacock feathers, a green tear dripping from each one – another poetic, comic and beautiful connection. There is
also a flat and voluminous drawing in combed ink, along a length of pared birch wood, with drips of paint in the field in the background. Schneider's painting is symbolic both in spirit and in execution.
Schneider's lone birch tree converses with Zohar Kfir's snowy woods. Kfir was born here but lives and works in Montreal. She exhibits a home movie that she found thrown out in New York. The abandoned raw material is a treasure in itself: domesticity that is very aware of itself and of aesthetic values. But Kfir intervenes in the dreams and memories of others, she appropriates them for herself and her art by amplifying the dream and memory within them. She changes the photographed frame and creates close-ups, intensifies the color, plays with the speed and adds external sound, for example, texts by Gertrude Stein and Samuel Becket. Tree trunks on the snow block the field of vision; a man in rich brown clothing strides across the ice desert; distant people walk at the edge of a settlement and anonymous children play in a yard. To come: a peek into a home interior and again, a view of the forest and a close-up of bearded man smoking, followed by a close-up of a baby's face. Between the photographed image and the one projected on the eye's retina appear and disappear a range of random visual disturbances sewn into the elusive stitches of the language of dream and memory.
The sense of dream or legend is present in the delicate watercolors by Maria Luostarinen who was born, lives and works in Stockholm. In the text that accompanies the exhibition the curator Sandra Weil writes that Luostarinen is influenced by Nordic artists and intellectuals, including the painter Carl Larsson, whose Art Nouveau style watercolors memorialize the ideal of the day-to-day Swedish family life. Luostarinen moves away from the mundane towards the illustration of fairy tales and Northern folklore, combined with figures and toys from her childhood. On the whole, she leaves the subjects of her paintings on the snow white of the paper, which becomes a dreamlike material itself.
On a long sheet of paper, like an illustrated scroll, a mustachioed circus muscle man wanders on bended knee before a saintly ghost – all executed with wonderfully detailed brushstrokes. In another scroll a pale doll in a dress whose checks have melted away holds the string of a black balloon hiding the face of a clown. At the other end of the scroll long nosed arrogant youths in tight black jeans verbally abuse a young boy. Women whose upper bodies have become shadows run through a maelstrom of large lilies towards spinning dogs, and at the far end – the shadow of a cardinal. A man in a plaid jacket and sunglasses inflates and releases into the air male and female balloons. And between them, hangs a chandelier from a Nordic church.
And to come: what could perhaps be a self portrait, beautiful and calculated, of a mermaid whose nose develops into a fragile branch upon which dance shadows of little people. They also dance along the length of the branch that grows from her breasts; her ears are dark flowers dripping back honey. A black monkey in a checked shirt is tied to a large anchor along which walks a proud peacock. A red-haired lady
wielding a knife looks with longing at the feet of a black dog – Luostarinen’s watercolors are rare in their perceptive beauty.
It is fascinating and exciting to discover the juncture between place and time in the works of these three artists who do not know each other. They seep into each other and solidify into a kind of translucent and frosty layer. The exhibition opens and closes with the display window that opens onto the southern street, an independent creation installed by the curator Weil, she traps the chilly and distant wind of the exhibition: remnants of a sooty brick wall, like a burnt European house; a ruin built by Ester Schneider in black ink strokes, the ruins of memories from another place that flame for a moment then go cold forever. Above, at the vanishing point, hangs a single old photograph of a man walking away from us down a snowy path in the heart of a pine forest. It is the father, the personal and mythological father turning his back on us.