Postcard-Revelations / Michal Ben-Naftali

On Mowgli, a series of paintings by Ben Bejerano(Ben-Ron)

“It seems he looked at everything that was inside of him, and from here this whole series of suns and more suns in the sunlight.”

— Gauguin

 

This is the place I find difficult to leave.  You do not believe you will ever be able to say goodbye, have the strength to leave.  You are fixed firmly, fearful, to the car that takes you far away, like a boy grasping his childhood blanket or standing close to a parent.  You feel that this cannot be taken from you.  What cannot be taken?  Tell me.  You cannot tell.  You know it will not come back, not like this, not in this state; not in this time dimension.  What won’t come back?  Tell me.  The same silence, the silence you collected there, like one accumulates property, like matter.  The same silence that stands from now on between you and things, the same nothing, the same barrier, the same something that lurks and surrounds you, intimate and transparent like an invisible rift.  You know; it stifles your grasp and compresses it and shadows it at the same time.

At first glance the “Something” became a postcard, a pretty object revealing a painted landscape, written for all to see.  Ben-Ron presents a series of postcard landscapes, revelations, enlarged and detached, focused and laconic, readable and encoded.  The painted code is that of a postcard, and what looks like a wounded intimacy, like an overly explicit declaration of love, too familiar, too exhilarating, too harmonious, revealed as a compressed concoction of details belonging to different domains of experience and subject to a surreal law of physics, levelling fluid matter.  The sweetening ethics of the postcard, the innocence or purity supposedly camouflage all catastrophe, neutralise all trauma and refine the disaster zones, these collapse when the postcard becomes total as though it were an experience of life-art.  Postcard-monster.  The beautiful becomes a kind of defiance, a glorification that does not hide its flaws.

Scattered miniature characters, sunken into themselves, their heads buried in the sand, or looking aside, turning to some far-away somewhere, with their back to us [“Assault on a Sunny Day” 2006].  No connection between them.  Men, women, children, without distinction, faceless.  One of the paintings called “Refugees” [2007], but all them subject to family-lessness, desocialization; wandering helpless, slow wondering movement, inertia from neglect.  The external is external is external, it is the portrait of the world as homeless.  And he who conducts the scene, large and absurd, animal, devil’s creation, or a state of nature taking place all of the time to move people from their place, casting his shadow on them, invoking his laws, and prescribing a rhythmic ceremony, it is he alone that makes the face expressive, human. The drama is humanely modified, but the face does not lose its widowhood.  Its tangibility is gleaned from the composition, the story and all that happens on the surface.  Aesthetics of the landscape have always presented a space of subjective hallucination.  Yet here, it does not accompany the portrait as though it were a symbolic space tied to a drawn image and reflecting it.  Here it is the portrait itself.

Existential questions arise in all their power in the gap between one hygiene and another, moving from one house to the next, from town to town, exile to exile.  Thus we discover the historicity of hygiene and the cracks it presents or covers for, as the unstable basis on which it leans.  This externality I do not recognise, despite the concreteness of the candid story.  And not because the details of chaos are foreign.  The language of involvement are foreign.  As though the distinct language of involvement is saying: beauty is beauty, ugliness is ugliness, good is good, bad is bad, cruel and pointed tautologies oppose their glory, against a culture of oppositions, differentiations, and distancing.  They proudly cross a threshold of familiarity, and at this exact moment, when there is no language for the mixture, when the kitsch is transformed from a scorned aesthetic to an ontology, they become foreign.  You lose touch.  It is always possible to try and recreate the story, it is a narrative painting of sorts.  But similarly, when the border between the impure and the holy is crossed, the story is not enough.  It is not enough to ease the discomfort.

Ben-Ron increases the act of hybridization among different species.  He begins by creating a colourful mixture of periods and artistic sensitivities – figurative realism, impressionistic colour gestures, naïve drawing, surrealist foundations that feed from the baroque and the romantic, Dadaist energy.  Every painting-revelation combines a plethora of heterogeneous elements, connected through different structures of causality: magnification through diminution, mimetic relations, randomality of ‘accidents’ or ‘assaults’, fateful determinism.  The thin grass that accumulates through frantic brush-strokes, climbs to the skies and dissolves like a stream pouring into the ocean which merges fragments of experience into a unified and harmonic chain.  There is no point of origin or aftermath, no earlier or later, no single centre that focuses the gaze, but a multiplicity of centres organised in an associative plane, responding to a unique syntax.  The series creates a context of its own both to the sensual perception and to the creation of meaning, and the lack of correspondence between the world outside the series and the world it creates weakens the historical-political claim for true meaning.  The names Ben-Ron selected for his paintings strengthens this impression, names that transform the existing meaning of words.  “Refugees”, “Victim”, “Accident”, “Assault” – where are they? What do they mean?  What are they other than the internal echoes of the elements replicating in different orders of magnitude, up to complex bonds between the human and the animal, the animal and the cosmic?  So, for instance, in “Assault on a Sunny Day”: everything standing tensely, the dog, the two-legged birds, people, the electric pole; like a row of flagpoles, vertical objects, the boy’s arms raised to the sky, the arms of the men and woman hanging down.  Everyone watching what is happening on the other side of the painting: that is where the drama is.  The drama is in the horizon.  The hidden grid of the postcard builds the vertical and horizontal coordinates of the human condition.  Thus, what is called “Assault” or “Accident”, “Refugee” or “Victim” or whatnot, is represented in the language of the image, a language that is not our common language, a language whose semantic values culminate in a systematic lexis of coherence.  However, the meanings are not embodied only in the relations within each painterly unit.  They exist also, even primarily, in the links between the Revelations.

 

But what surrounds me is not only the language you created in order to bequeath.  A tight-knit mantle of colour, sensual, commanding the painting like a contemplative space.  The colour becomes a causal force of its own, a force that makes the multiple areas of experience a single continuous space.  Primary colour, pure, as though working against clear definitions.  Abstract colour, autonomous, that does not fulfil each mimetic role.  It is rather the same non-figurative moment, that gesture of de-figuration, that makes the Revelation intimate.  The yellow of the sunflowers is enhanced; it begins with a soft rhythmic brush-stroke, and is followed by demanding excess; dry brittle yellow or whitish-yellow ascending like haze [“Refugees” 2007]; watery yellow diluting what is solid, or the glaring brightness in the illuminated light.  It is the source of light and the origin of the light that is taken.  It changes the physical light into the metaphysical sublime, like a burst of vitality, and it fogs the scenery into an all-encompassing shroud.  This is the concealed light of the Revelation, as though we have turned it inside out.  As though we truly read it.

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