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Daniel Enkaoua: Mokum

Installation photography: Youval Hai

Safe Place
(text from the exhibition catalogue) 

Mokum (“safe place” in Yiddish) is Daniel Enkaoua’s second solo exhibition at Litvak Contemporary. Throughout his career, the painter demonstrates the meaning of persistence through the lengthy observation of his subjects, sometimes over years. At the heart of this perseverance stands the aspiration to arrive at the essence held in the subject of his painting. The paintings’  blurriness, so it seems, is a response to these attempts to reach absolute closeness, as though we are looking through a glazed screen or clear water but never directly at the thing itself. Like in his previous paintings, here too the figures are painted on an infinite background that sets them beyond any specific context, time, or place.


The figures and objects were all created in the studio, which is the indistinct background from which they come forth. The studio is a microcosm of the artist who is disconnected from the world, and at the same time the place where the experiences of the world undergo processing through which they are reflected back outside. The subjects of the paintings are carefully set in different areas of the studio, drawing sub-distinctions between different corners of the room, between the east-facing wall and the west-facing wall. The relationship between the figure and its specific placement is embodied in its position and lighting, as a reflection of an internal state of mind. At times the subject almost completely blends into the background, and other time it is distinct, appearing in all of its glory against the empty backdrop. With that, Enkaoua echoes God’s question to the first man (Genesis 3): “Where art thou?”, which according to some commentators refers to Adam’s inner, spiritual state, rather than to his physical place in the world. 

Enkaoua’s painting does not wish to answer this question, but rather to reverberate the enigma held in it, as an attempt to come closer alongside a masterful ability to capture the picture as a whole. The back-and-forth motion, like a painterly “dolly shot,” unravels the relationship between inside and outside – the external view is the internal view, the mood of the painting is not the figure’s but rather stems from the relationship between the painter, the figure, and the studio.


Enkaoua usually includes landscape paintings in his exhibitions. He paints the landscapes over several years, returning to the site of the painting year after year, season after season, to capture the precise light, so that the painting becomes a representation not only of the place but of the passage of time. His landscape paintings are horizontal, sublime, and offer a sense of the infinite. In this exhibition, the external landscape is absent, and in its place there is a small and dense painting of the studio titled Mur, “Wall” in French. This is indeed a painting of the studio’s wall and the encounter between the wall and the floor, and metaphorically, the meeting point between spirit and matter.


In 1855, Gustav Courbet painted his famous The Painter’s Studio: a rich, figurative and allegorical painting full of symbols and meanings. Some 170 years later, Enkaoua presents in Mokum the studio in a small scale, deep and dense painting, which seems abstract when viewed up close, but is concrete and real when viewed from a distance. Enkaoua’s studio is depicted bare, without perspective or vanishing point that can help the observing eye. The view has been replaced by a wall, yet the meeting of heaven and earth – embodied in the horizon line, remains. The equivalence between the infinite landscape and the bare studio wall echoes the sublime qualities that permeate the space, held in the encounter between heaven and earth, spirit and matter, man and world. The studio is the Mokum, the safe place.

Dates: March 28 - May 24, 2023

Venue: Litvak Contemporary

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