HAYAH SHEPS-AVTALION: MOONLIGHT
“We are creatures who, quite literally, dance with the sun and the moon. Our life revolves around light and darkness.”
In the exhibition Moonlight, the artist Hayah Sheps-Avtalion presents abstract photographs that originate in long stays at Light installations in Israeli and international museums and exhibitions. Through long exposures and deliberate body movements – like a slow dance with the camera – she captures manifestations of light that escape the naked eye, and creates images that are disconnected from their original context.
The series of works unfolds Sheps-Avtalion’s photographic language, with which she draws our attention to light, the act of observing, and the pictorial potential of photography. The image captured by the camera is the result of the artist’s dynamic observation of another artist’s work, which she wishes to pass on to the viewers, and with that, set in motion an ongoing dialogue while also helping to conserve the energy of light.
The roots of Sheps-Avtalion’s work can be traced to two 20th century art schools. The first is the New Vision movement, where artists like László Moholy-Nagy established the use of light as a decisive factor in building composition and discussing material, physical, and formal aspects of photography. The second is Abstract Expressionism and action painters, particularly Jackson Pollock who emphasized body gesture as a significant part of the artwork.
Light has a unique duality, as it is both a particle and a wave. Thanks to this quality, light has countless manifestations and behaviors, and it has been an inexhaustible subject of scientific, artistic, philosophical, mystical, and spiritual investigations. This is also felt while walking through the exhibition, as the abstract images bring to mind different physical phenomena associated with light – waves, reflections, and refractions. The images dissolve the photographed subject to the point of complete openness as metaphors for constant change.
The artist reveals the image creating mechanism: the flicker of light caught in the camera and echoes its source, the materials that reflected it, the device in which it underwent transformation, and finally, the prominent texture of the paper on which it was printed. The combination of the ray of light, the camera, and the artist’s body movement, produces spaces and places, body parts and fantastical landscapes, nebulous abstract images that no longer offer the comfort of automatic identification. The indeterminate nature of the images draws the viewer to look, linger, and imbue them with content from his inner world and imagination – another link in the chain of creation.
The celestial body that shines in the darkness of night adds another material and spiritual layer. The moon is not a direct light source but a secondary light source that reflects light from the sun. In this context, the exhibition title echoes the source of light in the works, which in fact emanates from other artworks. For Sheps-Avtalion, the moonlight energy is the element that bridges complete darkness with illumination, and as such, carries a symbolical meaning of a glimmer in the dark.
The moon constantly changes before our eyes: it can be generous and bright, full, and perfect. On other days it appears in its faint and slender crescent form. With that it points to cyclical processes and the passing time, serving as a metaphor for psychological and mental, personal and collective states. The works, which were created before October 7th, can also be seen as a lyrical expression of the collective state in the aftermath of the trauma and the ensuing war. When night falls, the darkness is heavy, and the contrast between light and dark intensifies. Only the intangible, melancholy moonlight shines like hope in the darkness.
 Mor Kadishzon, “Postface” in the Hebrew edition of Gaston Bachelard, The Flame of a Candle, p. 120.
Dates: JANUARY 18 - FEBRUARY 7, 2024
Venue: Artspace, Tel Aviv