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Featuring: Daniel Enkaoua, Sapir Gal, Mark Glezin, Amir Tomashov, Reuven Zahavi

Litvak Contemporary

Photography @Youval Hai

Exhibition overview:

“May words which are like the wind be stopped? or what is troubling you to make answer to them?”

(Job 16: 3)

The notion of “words that are like the wind” is taken from the Book of Job. In the biblical story, Job complains to his friends that their words of comfort and support following the disasters that befell him are meaningless and hollow – empty and pointless words that fail to offer any real relief and solace. The verse echoes our current crisis, and the question of the role of art in this time. Are words of “wind,” of spirit and beauty really insignificant and trivial at a time like this? Against this, we can point out that the human soul actually longs for moments of exultation and delight precisely in such dark moments. This exhibition is situated in the space that stretches between these two notions.

The exhibition features work by five painters, mostly still lifes, alongside a few paintings of vegetation and portraits. The works explore the beauty embodied in life as well as in death, touching on vacuity of life alongside existential questions. The enticing beauty of the paintings invites reflections on this tension between fascination and repulsion, and between admiration and indifference. Although the exhibition is an artistic resonance of the collective state of grief and anxiety in which the State of Israel finds itself, it does not directly express the devastation, pain or horrors of the war. On the contrary, the works wish to touch on the anguish, pain, and death through spectacular beauty, impeccable aesthetics, and the use of symbolic language. Through this prism, the artistic experience opens a window to an inner world and to the depths of human existence, which is teeming with contradictions and conflicts.

The still life paintings capture the essence of the symbolist expression, formulated through the careful arrangement of the objects on the canvas, while taking into account factors such as balance, color, and light and shadow. In the tradition of still life paintings, the objects carry a symbolic meaning that reflects themes like death, extravagance, and wealth, transience and the passage of time by focusing on the spectacular beauty of the banal. The paintings in the exhibition depict toys, dried flowers, skulls, fruits and vegetables, grass, shoots, and bare roots. These works correspond with the tradition of Vanitas and Memento Mori (“remember you must die”) paintings, in which the skull and wilted flowers symbolize the transient nature of life.

A couple of the paintings in the exhibition are portraits of children. These are the children of the artists, a subject that exemplifies the vitality and charm of youth, and presents the timeless nature of existential questions. Unlike the still lifes that focus on inanimate objects, the children’s portraits capture the essence of human life in its purest form. The objects of childhood portrayed in the still life paintings serve as emblems of innocence and nostalgia. The intersection of these two genres invites reflections on the relationship between innocence, vulnerability, and the passage of time as well as contemplation on the human experience.

The visit to the exhibition summons reflections on the winding path, which splits and unites as it flows between the beautiful and the morbid, and between eternity and life’s transience. The “words of the wind” in the exhibition illuminate the interplay between still life, Memento Mori, and childhood. Through the diverse works, we are reminded of the fragility of life, the innocence of youth, and the inevitable death. Alongside these, the exhibition questions: does the seductive beauty of the works also hold the power to heal and revive? At a time like this, is beauty allowed or is it an excessive luxury? 

Shrouded with tense stillness, Mark Glezin’s paintings juxtapose tradition with our time. For him, life shifts between order and chaos, and the authentic representation of life in painting comes about through the interplay of these two contradictory extremes. His painting consists of opposites that balance one another, and offer contemporary references of Old Masters and traditional still life paintings, alongside toys, elements and compositions that echo the present day.

Reuven Zahavi presents paintings of wild weeds and grass sprouting in different soils – some emerge from the cracks in generic asphalt pavements and others from the charred soil of Mount Eitan (in the wake of the 2021 wildfires in the Jerusalem mountains). The paintings show tension between realism and abstract fields of color. In the exhibition, Zahavi’s paintings are charged with the symbolic prism of still life, which imbues the wild weeds with double meaning. On the one hand, they represent low, disruptive and wild form of live. On the other hand, they represent the bursting life force, the first buds of life after the earth has been scorched, life that emerges and spreads despite everything, anywhere it can. Next to them, a still life painting depicts a charred branch and a sooty beer bottle taken from the wildfire area. Left behind, these salvaged objects are painted with fineness and compassion that reveal fragility and pain.

Sapir Gal’s oil paintings depict objects and portraits, often treated similarly. The images in the works recur in different variations through which Gal touches on social customs, rituals, material transformation and language. Her labor-intensive painting style works simultaneously on flattening and depth, seductiveness and repulsion. She examines the decay and waning of the organic body against synthetic materials like cleaning and laundry supplies, printed clothes, and food coloring. The worlds of fashion, media, social platforms are the source of the images she explores, which use her in the formulation of the painting’s seductive narrative.

Daniel Enakoua’s still life paintings and portraits unfold an isolated world, which derives its meaning from the relationship between the few objects depicted in them and the background. Enkaoua’s treatment of still life and portraits is similar: Both seem to be engulfed in contemplative serenity, withdrawn and contained within their own energy, introducing the viewer into a blurred and enigmatic world dominated by color and small brushstrokes. In this world, the relations between the inside and the outside are reversed – the external is internal, the internal is external. Devoid of time and place, the painting emphasizes the transience of the passing moment.

Amir Tomashov’s drawings depict intertwined trees and building blocks, weaving together construction and destruction. Growth and rooting take on new meanings in this exhibition, associated with the circle of life in the urban space. The combination of building blocks and roots in still life paintings lends itself to the examination of the relationship between human activity and the natural world. These elements conjure questions about permanence versus temporality, growth and decay and the complex connection between humanity and the environment. Through his painstaking drawing process, often carried out on almost raw wood, and by placing the seemingly disparate elements together, Tomasov foregrounds the complexity of existence and the layers of meaning held in the ordinary objects of everyday life.

Dates: Feb. 8 2024 - April 2024

Venue: Litvak Contemporary

Installation images: Youval Hai

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