Hava Gillon/Drawn in Wood
Curator: Daniela Talmor
Opening: Saturday, 12/9/15 at 12:00
Hava Gillon explores the limits of drawing as a medium of art. In the series ‘Drawn in Wood’ she goes beyond the encounter between drawing and paper, to experiment with drawing on old, castaway wooden panels.
In the midst of the second Lebanese war Gillon moved into a new studio, located in an unfamiliar environment – the ‘Arad el Yahud’ neighbourhood, part of the Wadi Salib area, in Haifa’s Lower Town. In the past this was an isolated quarter, founded during the late nineteenth century outside the walls of the Old City, as it was becoming increasingly overcrowded. The neighbourhood was populated by Jews of Lebanese and Syrian origin, and it bordered on fields that separated the new inhabitants from the Arab residents living below, on the slopes of the Wadi. The sense of strangerhood that the new studio cast on the artist, the unfamiliarity of the place, sent her on an interior journey, raising questions about the direction of her future artistic path. ‘Drawing in Wood’ was born out of this quest and sense of frustration, the challenge of struggling with the isolated studio, its neglected surroundings and half-ruined houses.
It is instructive to follow the work process the artist deploys. She first draws a photographic image on a large sheet of paper, and then transfers the image onto a wooden panel made up of second-hand plywood sheets, joined together. The choice of working on old sheets, found locally, is not to be grasped as a gesture to the movement “Want of Matter” which dominated the Israeli Art Scene in the `70s. On the contrary, the old, found plywood sheets used as the work bases contain a warm and seductive quality.
Gillon’s process of work on these bases encapsulates a great deal of ambivalence. On the one hand she is drawing on old, castaway plywood sheets having different shapes, accidentally found, and on the other hand she organises these in a joinery workshop, using an industrial process, and shapes them in a specifically chosen format. Juxtaposed with these old plywood sheets, rooted in another time, their origins and past history unknown, is the very contemporary element of photography.
Like Giacometti, so too Gillon is very occupied by the physical resemblance of the drawn image. Simultaneously she attempts to carve out a course to the essence of the image. The process she undergoes in the work is evident in the final product, which reveals the many dilemmas she encounters. In the first phase she strives for a maximally realistic representation of the drawn object. Only later, when she begins to work on the patched-up plywood sheets, does a conflictual dialogue develop between the ambition to represent a realistic image and the changes that the wooden substratum dictates. The emergent result of this dialogue differs in each work. At times the image virtually disappears within the material, at times it remains on the surface of the wood, without penetrating it at all.
The drawings on very large plywood sheets fill the whole area of the exhibition, creating a space that is itself transformed into an art installation, inviting the spectator to be enveloped by it. The works exhibited create a special atmosphere, balanced between realism and abstraction, and between real images and their wooden substratum. On the one hand they document a visible reality. On the other they express the feelings that the depicted figures arouse. A metaphysical foundation is moulded as lines and shapes are extracted from their naturalistic contexts and shifted to a new artistic reality, perhaps more ideational. The element of mystery stands as a division between the artwork and the spectator, who desires to achieve a realistic understanding, while the artist injects into the figures new articulations.
Daniella Talmor, September 2015