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(Fragment) Hating, Heating, Rolling, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Givon, Tel Aviv

The artists featured in “Dreams and Dramas”. Avner Ben-Gal 0

Introducing the artists featured in the Israeli contemporary art exhibition Dreams and Dramas

From October 7 to November 5, Riga's forthcoming ZUZEUM Art Centre is hosting the largest ever exhibition of Israeli contemporary art in the Baltics. Curated by Roy Brand, an Israeli philosopher, curator, and lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, it brings together works by fourteen distinguished Israeli artists: Porat Salomon, Dor Guez, Nir Hod, Guy Zagursky, Noa Eshkol, Avner Ben-Gal, Sagit Mezamer, Erez Israeli, Keren Yeala Golan, Marik Lechner, Daniel Kiczales, Eitan Ben-Moshe, Sigalit Landau, and Yehudit Sasportas.

The exhibition is created as a special project for Riga, initiated and sponsored by the Riga-born businessman and patron of the arts, Leon Zilber.

Today's focus is on Avner Ben-Gal.

Avner Ben-Gal lives in Tel-Aviv and studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. His paintings often use a muted palette to depict intense and desolate scenes, unearthing a universal sense of dread. Ben-Gal has had solo shows at the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado; Sadie Coles HQ London; Bortolami Gallery, New York; CFA Gallery, Berlin; Givon Gallery in Tel-Aviv, and more. He has participated in various group shows, including at the Venice Biennale in 2003.

Untitled, 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 220 x 200. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Givon, Tel Aviv

What are the main topics that you deal with in your art?

I prefer to refer to the strategy of my work rather than to its content. I paint from a sense of urgency – works that delve into marginal scenes, sex encounters, the old world versus the new, misanthropy and compassion.

My paintings reflect an anti-serial approach: I aspire to combine different painting styles so as to produce something wholesome and harmonious, yet I choose to achieve this through working with what is broken and fragmented. The feeling that “these pieces are not connected to each other” is a source of freedom for me: it enhances the number of voices,  sounds and resonances that my work can assume. It is about generating a cosmos of its own, as chaotic as it is beautiful.

I am interested in a kind of art that requires as little as possible from the outside. As an artist, I strive to develop a hermetic and private language through which a vast and complex world can emerge. This private world functions as self-nourishment for a self-sufficient body.

Hating, Heating, Rolling, 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 208.5 x 169.5. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Givon, Tel Aviv

How do you see the role of an artist today?

The role of the artist is to be like a stick in the wheels of art, breaking its smooth surface and breaching the systematic didacticism surrounding it. In my public life, like in my artistic one, this is what I do. This is the role of the artist. How can this be done through painting? Painting has to make you think and feel beyond the decorative surface. There has to be something viral, a slowly pervading force that you can only truly feel after some time. If we were to come across a totally new natural landscape, we would, of course, be in shock: our experience would be that of something total and absolute – and yet, not forced. It would still feel natural. I think that painting can hold a similar power: a painting has a certain initial effect, yet this is not what really counts. I believe in the things that remain, not in those that fade away.

Escape Ladders for Rabbit, 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 220 x 180. Courtesy of the artist

What would be the perfect or ideal world for you?

The perfect world is a world in which all humans and animals live together, with all the celestial bodies, the moon and the sun. Like Teletubbies. They coexist in harmony and economic wellbeing, with a good and healthy supply of consciousness-altering substances. I don’t think that everyone should be making art in such an ideal world. There wouldn’t be any Internet, but there would be new ways of communication: telepathy. By consent. Like the tuning of radio stations. There would be much less speaking. In fact, with telepathy taking over, speech would lose its relevance – except for the purpose of poetry.