in the garden


Oct 2005 Journal

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Art notes

It has been the summer of competitions. Dean Marsh won the 2005 BP Portrait Award for his oil painting of his girlfriend, Giuletta Coates, Turner's The Fighting Temeraire was the public's choice in a national competition launched by the BBC's Today programme, and, not to be outdone, the Ben Uri Gallery produced its own exhibition of the five finalists in its International Jewish Artist of the Year Award. On display was new work shown by the five who won the contest last year.

Interestingly, support for the Turner painting was said to represent the public's faith in the British fighting spirit; it also evokes a spirit of nostalgia and mysticism, as the ship, which took part in the Battle of Trafalgar, was en route to the breaker's yard, portrayed against a typical, striking Turner sunset. Can the same be said for the work of the Ben Uri finalists? In a sense, yes. The portraits by IJAYA's overall winner, the photographer Yaki Assayag, of The Bar Oz sisters does convey the insouciance and intense physicality of his Israeli subjects.

Turkish-born Suzy Hug Levy, who, apart from receiving the IJAYA sculpture award, has won major awards in the USA and Istanbul, reflects contemporary women's issues in the Middle East with her sculptured dresses, created out of wire, gauze, paper, glue and a hanger. These floaty, gauzy creations imply a femininity that is stunted; the waste material she uses intensifies their ephemeral texture and yet it is this very flimsiness which implies a hidden strength more demonstrably argued in Assayag's cool Israeli women in their jeans and jewellery.

Heraldic mandalas, Soviet pop culture and the Yalta conference form the bedrock of Russian Vitaly Komar's Three Weekend Series. Using mixed media on paper, he is interested in the merging of three faiths aspiring to peaceful co-existence, a term popular during the Cold War. This rather narrative, if convoluted imagery in which the artist is represented as ET, is mainly inspired by the Yalta conference, but has a deeper, more personal significance. In the post-war triumvirate of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, Komar sees himself with his parents as a six-year-old. The family trio with his father in military uniform soon broke up. His parents - his mother was Jewish and his father Christian - divorced, because of religious incompatability.

The Jerusalem-born British sculptor Dalya Moss emphasises the sculptural process in her two delicate, semi-abstract sculptures which resemble gratinated bronze shells. They have no particular resonance with me, but they explore her interest in both natural and architectural forms.

Returning to the theme of the Jewish woman, Israeli Noam Edry's short film of a Chassidic wedding, Mitzvah Tanz is imaginative and fascinating. As the modest bride, totally veiled and swathed, sways to the rhythm of the men in fur hats and gaiters, Noam herself performs a subtle, seductive belly dance, as a comment on female submission and self-consciousness. There is something moving about the sensitive dance of both women which I found quite riveting. In a way it shares the rhythmic fatalism of Ravel's Bolero.
Gloria Tessler

previous article:Mein erster Schultag
next article:Tip of a bigger iceberg (review)