In the course of the past year, Adi Bar has shifted the emphasis in her work from the drawings of crows, which had intensely populated the works on paper shown in her Bezalel graduation project and in her previous exhibition (2010), to numerous portraits of dogs surrounded by other, mostly dead animals: cats, rats, pigeons, and one insect lying prone on its back, lifeless. These drawings portray a canine and animalistic world, subjected to the absolute rule of the cruel law of nature, in which human presence is hinted at by the glint of a collar, a piece of a leash or a flowery bed pillow. These dogs are sleeping snuggly on their domestic rug, or holding between their teeth a dripping chunk of meat. Situated by their very nature ‘between two worlds’, they move between domestic and friendly doggishness and rapacious animality; between taming and obedience and cruel wildness. It is the dog’s double essence – close to man but preserving animalistic urges – which unforgettably places it next to the figure of melancholy in Albrecht Dürer’s 1514 allegorical engraving. Dürer’s emaciated dog, twisted and self-entangled, expresses the shadowy origins of the melancholic and reflexive mood, which drifts far from the positive nucleus of rational practicality.
Bar’s dogs contain a double code, mixing the human and the animal into one single essence. Like in a dark screenplay, the secret of this code is seemingly hidden from view: Bar draws the dogs with a mixture of blood taken from her body and the red ink of ordinary ballpoint pens. The blood plasma gives these drawings their characteristic brown-reddish hue, and prevents the red from becoming too bright. Bar uses a brush to paint with the blood and then, to depict the details of the fur or the feathers, sketches over the drawing with ordinary pens. Her virtuoso drawing, which recalls the 16th-century German master’s animal drawings, produces an alert, hair-on-end vitality, requiring her maximal immersion in the process, to the point of experiencing “a loss of self within the drawing”, as she puts it.
The exhibition’s title – Bloodhounds – refers not only to the combination of image and technique, but also to the name of an ancient, more than two thousand-year-old dog breed, which has been adopted, mainly in England, by the police and by surveillance bodies, because of its excellent sense of smell which enables the quick location of injured and bleeding birds and the identification of human tracks, even hours after they have vanished from the area. Bloodhounds are known as friendly dogs whose genetics have preserved, with an undimmed intensity, a primeval animal instinct. The emotional charge born by such a connection touches on anxieties linked to the act of blood-letting or to an exposed potential for infection. Mixing the blood within the painting arouses an archaic fear of a werewolf, doomed to uncontrollable entity shifts, and in certain hours of moonlight, even liable to lose control of the borderline between the two. Painting with her own blood, Bar has crossed a red, bloody line which usually separates the painter from his work and keeps a certain distance between the two. In a decisive and daring painterly move, she has complicated the drawing, enhanced it and fuelled it with an organic and volatile charge of life, illness and death.