The creation of visual art – painting, sculpture, or installation – is positioned in a space that then positions itself within the work, each area having its own unique characteristics which also reflect the spatial dimension. If we examine these relationships a challenging, complex cogitative space is revealed to us.
Keren Anavy created a spatial challenge where the three parts of the gallery became one great canvas in which her work was embedded.
The exhibition is predominantly composed of wood cuttings, paper cuttings, sketches on transparencies, and oil on linen. Anavy wants to draw into the current artistic discourse questions relating to the shape of image and the ability of the painting’s language to create an image from within a previous sketch and painting, which goes awry through various techniques and materials, such as laser cutting, painting on transparencies and more.
“Most of the new forms are not created from zero but from a slow distortion of a previous form. The vessel adapts itself, very gradually; it absorbs light changes, and the innovation derives from the integrated effect of those changes, becoming revealed most often only at the very end, once the form has been fully realized…”
Similar to this statement, Anavy’s images undergo transformation and deformation. The changes create new images that recall a little of their former selves. They are representative in form and conceptually in universal contexts, linking nature and culture. The integration of ideas in the three gallery spaces constitutes a total environment, describing to the observer an abstract narrative on the relationship of painting, sketch and structure of the metaphorical space. The structuring procedure of the space is gradual. It begins with the concrete, in which Anavy worked at the start of her artistic journey, and continues into the current metaphysical abstraction.
The first space was structured from photographs taken by Anavy while wandering in nature. The Israel landscape works provided inspiration for sketches in black ink and purple on transparencies, and then attached to the five windows of the room. The green window shades are shut and serve as a green field for the transparent landscape sketches. On the transparency, a withering thorny thicket is seen alongside varicolored flowers. The contrast between the empty walls and the natural vistas attached to the glass of the windows creates a surreal atmosphere, where the familiar and identifiable is observed alongside the invented; a kind of threatening and harassing graft. On one hand, the space catches the eye; on the other, it is oppressive and intimidating.
“…if the shapes of nature catch the eye, that is because, for the most, they have no use, they do not respond to any criterion of sensory efficacy. They are splendid and rich in their morphosis and alter, it seems, as though through some inner strength characterized by pure passion to be, to become, a force which in truth is difficult to comprehend… a force that is no less than onerous certainty…”
In the second space, outside invades inside: in other words, images are handled, like stones and diamonds, materials Anavy had worked with in the past, alter and are presented this time on the boundary between concrete and abstract. Dissembling and reassembling these parts creates a new associative sensation. In one niche two wood cuttings are observed – floating in spaces – which, together, become a kind of outstanding relief, casting its shadow on the wall and creating a temporal sketch. Anavy’s paper and wood cuttings are formed from ink sketches and oil paintings, which correspond with the remnants of earlier works, such as stained glass, arabesques and the mashrabiya (ornamentation generally of wood on facades of edifices) so typical of Islamic architecture. Anavy links the space with the eastern and western elements at the heart of the Mediterranean, creating an intercultural dialogue.
On the walls we find large paintings and sketches of rocks and diamonds, representations of images through which we can understand new creation, hung in the space alongside the original and including statements and conclusions concerning the area’s landscape, location and time. An important and characteristic element in Anavy’s work is disassembly and reassembly, which can be tied into one of the linguistic concepts of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who used the concept of deconstruction. In his view, this is unraveling or undoing of philosophical and literary texts as a tool to penetrate the texts’ fabric towards structuring new insights, based on and led by the extant context.
The exhibition’s center is the third space, which Anavy calls “my cathedral.” The room is composed only of white paper cuttings, which float like a screen above each of the room’s windows and serve as virtual stained glass, so different from the colorful vitrages at the entrance to this space. The shapes were inspired by a series of woodcuts which the artist calls “the series of whole pieces,” from which the paper cuttings derive. The images in the paper cuttings recall small marine creatures, plant roots, and black and white paper cuttings from remnants of her earlier tiger paintings. The overall appearance is of a broad ranging kaleidoscope offering infinite creations (some of which are even realistic), a spectrum of changing shapes and images on each and every paper cutting.
Alongside the hanging cuttings floats the work titled “Southern Rose”, a round, iron construction wrapped in paper cuttings. Their images deriving from disassembly of models of a diamond and the rose window. But Anavy has connected them to each other, forming a long strip which wraps the entire structure and creates a sparkling white three dimensional warp, which completes “my cathedral”, Keren Anavy’s virtual cathedral.
The diamond is a greatly desired natural treasure, an image whose form has held Anavy’s attention for a long time, sketched and painted as though wearing and stripping its form a new repeatedly. Anavy’s involvement with charged, familiar and fretted images, usually composed from a model with an inherent regularity, turns her studio into a kind of experimental laboratory where she dismantles, explores, penetrates into the depths of the image and alters it beyond recognition, as she has done with the image of the kefiya, the tiger, egg cartons and more.
The rose window is a window circled by stone which includes vitrage: taken together they form a rose. Depending on the time of day, the rose creates effects of light rays, soft and colorful, penetrating and infusing a sacred atmosphere. Rose window paintings became familiar throughout Europe in cathedrals as Gothic architecture spread. The rose window contains elements of adornment known as ‘rose’ because of its round shape, which includes clovers and leaves. The round rose window found within the square is of symbolic meaning in Christianity. The circle represents the infinite eternal divine cosmos, while the square represents the perfect act of divine creation. As far as concept and shape, the rose window was also linked to the annals of art. Anavy makes use of this connection and weaves the mystical rose window into the diamond. Integrating these contradictory elements changes their shape and creates a virtual spatial structure, “my cathedral”: as a work of her own hands, compared to the familiar cathedrals, this is a transient cathedral made of squashed paper, which is fragile and impermanent. For her, this dreamlike fantastic cathedral is like fine lace, colored white, hangs by a thread and is in danger of collapse.
It would seem that the exhibition, “Southern Rose”, shows the state of graduality: the processes of creation, association and the artist’s chain of thoughts, revealing in her completed work the Sisyphean, obsessive stages she undergoes as she prepares the presentation, where each stage is pursued by another, moving forward step by step to reveal yet another creation, a new idea, developing in different directions, sometimes unplanned, experiments alongside planned steps precisely thought out, as found in each of the spaces. We can define the artist’s work as ars poetica, because of Anavy’s involvement with intra-artistic processes and the casting of the artistic installation. Three elements stand out in this space: the void and absent, which appears in many works because of the nature of the cutting, and the predominant whiteness throughout almost all the spaces. The color white indicates eternity, infinity; white is the richness of all colors comprised, and white is the subdued quietude. The outcome of these two traits emphasizes the third aspect of the exhibition: the beauty, clear in these clean hollow works, which demand repeated observation and recall the fluidity of the artist and poet, Meir Agassi, “observation is not a skimming glance; observation means disassembly of the fundamentals comprising the picture while simultaneously internally following up with reassembly into a personal vision by the observer.”
Ora Kraus, Curator and Director M. Smilanski Cultural Center Gallery, Rehovot, Israel