Janco Dada Museum, 2008
director Raya Sommer
curator Elinor Eshet
Alejandra Okret’s fantasy of an exotic East is unveiled in her new exhibit “Japana”. The show expresses the artist’s personal response to silk – an object of eternal fascination throughout the Far East and Europe. The sensuous feel of the fabric, its scent, transparency, bold vivid colors, and the mysterious secret of its creation are evoked in the work of the artist.
Okret works with tracing paper, reminiscent of silk in its transparency. She explores the texture of the paper as a material that recalls the evanescent mists, always eluding one’s grasp. Transparency emerges in these works as both presence and absence – dependent on the light projected upon them, yet existing in its absence. The tracing paper yields to the artist’s hands, allowing her to shape it to her will. At times, when the artist wets the paper and applies paint, it can take on the appearance of a bas relief. Okret engages in an ongoing dialogue with the paper – it lives and breathes, responds to her touch, and changes its form.
The multi-cultural ethnic mosaic which includes Persia, China, India, Japan, Uzbekistan and Italy, is characterized by motifs taken from nature. Nature and flowers were a common theme in the art and poetry of the Far East, and in particular in Japanese art. “There is nothing you can see that is not a flower”, wrote the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō*.
Okret’s work reflects an almost obsessive desire to explore and achieve precision in its ornamentation. Painting becomes a meditative process; Okert repeats the decorative patterns as one would repeat a mantra. Sometimes she employs a template as in “Persian Silk”, while at other times she prefers to copy the patterns freely, observing the way her hand recreates the pattern, as in “Florentine Silk”.
An interesting dynamic exists between the desire for precision and the artist’s loose free line – always controlled, yet moving freely. Okret’s work describes a process through which she arrives at an understanding of the essence of the line. At that moment she is able to transgress the boundaries she has set for herself, and release it.
The delicate washes of color in the works engage in dialogue with the line. Line and color harmonize and complete one another; each supporting the other. The artist does not privilege one over the other, at times the line figures more prominently; at times it is the color. The sharp lines that scratch and tear at the paper exist on the same plane as the nuances of color. The brush strokes are varied: narrow, delicate linear work adjacent to broad brushstrokes, calculated lines and bold, decisive brushstrokes.
Alejandra Okret plays with recreating the colors and experience of silk, as one sees in “White Silk and Berries” where bright stains of color appear next to opaque colors. Silk is dyed in the intoxicating colors of spices such as turmeric and sumac – vibrant and daring. A transparent water-based liquid evaporates on the surface of the fabric. Okret evokes the sensation of the fixing and drying process in the long rolls of tracing paper that hang to the floor, recalling the delicate flowing silk fabric.
The dialogue in Okret’s work is expressed not only in terms of color and line. In the piece “Blue Blue Gold Silk” she attaches patches to the tracing paper “fabric”, miniature paintings made of torn pieces of tracing paper, re-examining the relationship between line and color. In almost every work the artist engages the viewer with a dominant element that functions as a guide: an accented expression of color, or the square Japanese seal that she employs as her signature.
Okret’s works present the Silk Road as a dream of an exotic sensual world. However, the artist’s use of tracing paper – a fragile and brittle medium unlike the flexible silk – suggests the transience of the silk dream: a dream that has faded and disappeared. We embark on the sensual journey of the silk fantasy, but soon discover its frailty: it is not real; it is elusive and vanishes even as we gaze.