Maya Israel | "Remains to Be Seen"
Artist Maya Israel investigates in her works representations of reality and the human body. Her paintings attempt to describe the body's' various phenomena, those aspects we cannot see, which evade every iconic image or facial expression, but simultaneously force their very humane existence into consciousness. The vision and the view of the various representations of the "other", in an attempt to understand "the self," reiterate throughout her works.
In the graduation exhibition of her MFA studies at Bezalel, Maya Israel exhibited large paintings of her family and close friends (Impersonation 2008). These paintings, such as Anna's Face, 2008 (exhibited on the second floor), concretize our very desire for reciprocity, to feel that we have been sensed, not just to show ourselves, but more importantly – to be seen. Beyond the transitory aesthetic pleasure, the beautiful and attractive faces which gaze back at us express the very failure of that which the eye cannot catch - the gaze of the other. The eye's pupil remains an empty black hole, which does not return that which we crave the most. Yet Maya Israel does not settle for the acknowledgement of failure, but continues to search.
This series of artworks in her current exhibition marks the peak of a process. While her previous work investigated the distance required from the human image which exceeds its limits, the deconstruction in her current work no longer needs the image per say. The absence, the blurry emptiness which glares back at the spectator from most of her paintings, stands as a "trace" of the concrete image which no longer exists. Precisely this residue is placed at the core of her investigation, as the lack of a figure in the pictorial space creates the very backdrop to her work, stemming out if this very deconstruction. In this sense the influence of philosophers Emanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion is apparent. In his book In Excess Marion claims that that which can be seen must first be given, to give itself to the viewer, therefore the scope of observation must be expanded to incorporate the phenomena which cannot be seen with the phenomena that can, those with a clear represented object, and those devoid. Therefore all phenomena are tied to the very possibility of their ability to give themselves to us. This giving, as an original phenomenological principle which incorporates that which has the possibility to give but is unknown to the world, is the criteria for the object's relationship with the world, regardless of its positioning in it. Marion suggests that there is a surplus in the idol, or in a painting, which cannot be reduced into a singular sight, as its appearance encapsulates several invisible layers which also captivate the spectator. The idol controls the "I"/ "self" as it determines what we can bear, that which we will see and that which we will miss, thus our sight's capacity is subjected to it.. The image of the boy which reappears in the works, [Sea, Sand, Figure (2009), Interior (2009), Embodiment (2009)] reiterates the return to those missing layers, which we failed to notice at first glance; to the invisibile.
The shift from realistic painting to expressionistic style in this new series of works, which borders on the abstract, is characterized in her bright choice of colors and rough brush strokes. In the work such as Days and Seas (2009) and The Grass Picker (2009) the saturated colorfulness distances itself from the mimetic palette, in an attempt to captivate the spectator in an intoxicating visual experience. Like the title of the exhibition Remains to be Seen, we are left with an expectation and wonderment, caught by our curiosity about that which decomposed, and what remains. It does not only incorporate the whole within the work, but builds it from the deconstructed remnants.
Natalie Helena Smith