visual thoughts
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Dwek Gallery, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Yemin Moshe, Jerusalem
16th July 2010- September 2010

visual thoughts, Irena Gordon
Exhibiting artists: Alejandra Okret, Miri Or, Judy Orstav

  The exhibition presents three artists who combine the visual with the verbal and examine the relationship between them. It is not a theoretical act but an intimate practice necessary for them in the understanding of the way in which meaning is formed and how it connects to art, place and time. Their art deals with the inevitability of expression and with the paradox that lies in the need to express the world in spite of understanding the impossibility of grasping the things themselves. All three different bodies of work ask the viewer to pause a while, to listen and to let his gaze move freely from the outer to the inner and back again.

We shall not cease from exploration/  And the end of our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.
(T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets). This opening line of the last passage of Eliot's Four Quartets is the title of Judy Orstav's present series of works, and in many ways, it also retains their spirit. The series was born out of a careful contemplation of the words of the poem, their meaning, their sound and their rhythm. The works comprise a fragile syntax, a kind of hieroglyphics, made from organic materials (leaves, twigs and roots), together with folded and embossed paper. Eliot's words are written beneath the image in the artist's handwriting and thus become part of that image in the viewer's gaze. The visual sentences reflect something of the prayer-like quality of the poem. By means of detail and organic materials the images allude to the ephemeral beauty of things and echo a theme in the poem – the human experience of time. Orstav: "The images are an attempt to give visual expression to the resonance and meditative quality of the words."

 Alejandra Okret work is ars poetica par excellence. It deals with the visibility and invisibility of art and of the person who produces it. For her, observation and acknowledgment of the artist and his work is an acknowledgment of life itself. At the same time, it is a testimony to the ability to give life a form. Okret takes lyrical images of dancers, jugglers, wreaths, botanical elements, and symbolic forms like the circle, and turns them all into meditative acts. She paints them repeatedly until they are experienced as sensations, as beings, as poems. Okret examines the possibility of making art that relies on the identified, figurative image – a retinal art that passes through the eye first and then touches the soul. She thus defies Marcel Duchamp in his rejection of the validity of retinal, mimetic, art in modern times. At the same time, Okret explores the possibility of reaching beyond the image, by choosing primal shapes of creation and being, some of them taken and inspired by Kabbalistic symbols. Her writing in Spanish and English, which appear in the paintings, is both tautological and poetic. Through it she attempts to hold on to moments of being, moments of "Hinneni" ("Here I am" in Hebrew), as she writes again and again in one of the works.

In the series "Life, what a nice job", Miri Or creates a personal diary, which unravels in an expressive and naïve manner, the idea of coping with life, with moments of pain and disappointment, of yielding and forgiveness. The diary is comprised of fantastic scenes of dreams and nightmares, which are characterized by strong color and are accompanied by a stream of writing, both ironical and humorous. Each work is a small coincidental happening in which the verbal meets the visual. Here lies the heart of human existence – in the search for the possibility of the encounter between flesh and spirit, between body and soul.

Miri Or started working on this series in 2008 and presented part of it in 2009 at the Meirov Center for Art in Holon. She has continued working on it as part of her constant preoccupation with the indissoluble bond, both satisfying and frustrating, between art and life. Or questions the limits of expression and how it evolves out of disruption and stammering as opposed to fluency and expertise. The wooden, fan-like works, which carry signs of a fictitious writing together with delicate images were created in response to the Nü-Shu secretive writing system of women in China in the 3rd century A.D. "Third Day Book", the title of the fan works, was the name of the personal diary given to the bride in China by her women family members and friends as a companion to life, as a place of refuge. Or's entire work contains repetative writing about art as a need, as a refuge, as a way to continue to exist. Or: "Art is recitation for me. It enables me to breath, emotionally and spiritually. The drawing, the images, the colors – they are for me salvation itself."

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