Questions and answers for myself
Over the years, many people have asked me conceptual and technical questions about my art.
Now, on the occasion of the publication of this book, and after banging away at stone with a hammer for 17 years, I’ve tried to explain to myself what exactly I do, why I do it, and what motivates me.
I once read a quote in a book by Mordechai Omer: An artist is a person who ceaselessly seeks the secrets of his life. I believe that what I’m doing is indeed searching for my source of self.
The central subjects in my work are issues that have affected me, including matters of homeland, Bible, childhood memories and human culture. I also make use of my knowledge of engineering and space.
Every time I set out on a journey on a new subject, I find myself dragged into unintended places. This leads me to formative ideas and from there a work process that also leads me into unintended places. I always find that I’ve lifted the stone beyond the landscapes and yearnings I encountered in the past.
In our day and age it’s hard to define a subject with a one-dimensional definition. Our conceptual world is broad and built from a network of relationships, such that every subject relates to a wealth of other subjects. But if forced to simplify, I’d say that I address the relationship between human culture and three main things: social issues, the eternity of life in the infinite cosmos and the survival of nature.
These subjects mix in my various projects that have manifested themselves as exhibitions. For example, the exhibition “Temptation” arose from the temptations and stimulations in our commercialized modern world, full of ads and commercials whose entire purpose is to play on the same nerve that the snake played in Eve.
The installation in “Seeds of the Land” addresses the same matter. The image of a wheat field packed and ready for shipping creates thoughts about nature’s survival.
The exhibition “Hebron as a Paradigm” was an emotional reaction to the cruel lawlessness cropping up in the settlements amid the yearning for the early Hebron of our forefathers. “Insane Homeland” addresses similar subjects.
“The Great Conjunction” was born from thoughts about man’s life and its relationship with the cosmos. Abraham Ibn Ezra’s astrological interpretations of Bible motivated this special journey. It led to mediations on immortality in various cultures, which were expressed in the exhibition “Immortality” and in public sculptures including “Icarus,” “Phoenix” and “Let There Be Light.”
The intersection of nature and civilization and the domestication of nature are addressed in the exhibitions “Bar” and “Organic Landscapes.” These works address the disappearance of the wild and its existence within man’s habitat.
My most recent journey, which culminated in the exhibition “Going West,” began with Aztec and Mayan cultures and passed through the direct connection to nature of the Native Americans, cultures and civilizations that were wiped out by Western civilization. It ends with concerns about the fate of the earth, now also threatened by Western culture.
In order to make visual art, an artist needs material to manipulate. Without material, a creator cannot exist. The material is part of the creator; every material has its own properties, which influence the creator and his creations. After working with various materials during my early years as a sculptor, I fell in love with stone. Stone may be hard, but it spoke to me and to my internal desires. It met the internal need to overcome challenges and the physical need to expend energy, and demanded persistence and devotion to the goal.
Since stone and I met, it has been the base of all my sculptures. Since then I’ve been with stone. I press or caress, and the stone responds to say that it’s here with me, and will be with me forever.
After working a long time with stone, I began introducing additional materials as well. The unique properties of these materials are largely what enabled me to turn my sculptures into installations. They include industrial materials such as iron (mostly construction iron), irrigation tubes (an Israeli invention), glass, rubber accessories and ready-made items. I also use natural materials including earth, gravel, pebbles, salt, olive pits, branches and feathers.
The emotional process
Every creation begins with a journey, which begins with an emotional process and continues into a practical process. It starts with the exploration of a subject, spurred by curiosity and experiences. During the journey, an emotional encounter arises, which calls out to be used. Then come the thoughts about forms and symbols to express the emotion, and from there the first sketches. After that comes the work with actual stone.
The sketch is only a plan; it hashes out dimensions and an idea. The idea comes from internal feelings about a subject, while the attempt to express the idea through symbolism creates the actual statement. The statement needs to express reality and life itself.
Every sculpture makes a statement because that was the goal, but the message isn’t just what the sculptor wanted to convey. The work needs to play on the viewer’s feelings and past, to evoke associations and to make the viewer’s primal fears and cultural history rise to the surface. While the idea needs to affect the viewer, not everything needs to be told, and therefore the idea doesn’t need to be expressed across the entire sculpture – it can peek out like the revelation of a secret. Therefore, many stone surfaces are or appear to have been left in their natural form; the idea is like a personality, exposed only slightly with the rest left to the imagination.
The practical process
Creating the sculptures involves a tiring, stubborn physical process. I use plans, but work intuitively. When a sculptor is exhausted he makes mistakes, and stone is sensitive and unforgiving. The stone responds immediately to what a sculptor does when he’s not fully focused; irreparable errors and fractures ensue.
Despite that, I repeatedly probe the limitations of the material. Contrary to the tendency to treat stone as a mass, I seek to create small, fragile parts. I’ve learned not to shy away from risks, and if fractures occur, then solving that problem becomes my new challenge. It forces me to take a turn on my intuitive journey until emotional fulfillment is achieved.
The work process does not demand figurative precision, which has no meaning but in aiding the eye to understand the symbolism. The work is completed by the mind of the viewer. Signs can be formed from rough cuts and breaks, the fingerprints of the work process and the tools. What’s important are aesthetics, balanced proportions and flowing lines and volumes.
Sculptures in general, and installations in particular, exist in a specific space, be it internal or external, private or public. It must be part of its environment. Indeed, it is a part, an element of the space where it stands, and it’s important to view the sculpture and the space as one unit.
Since I’m an outdoors person, I love seeing my works outdoors, particularly in natural spaces, fields, mountains and by the sea. Still, I also like seeing them in urban public spaces such as squares, gardens and open plazas next to buildings. My professional experience in planning urban transportation systems has accustomed me to thinking about the three-dimensional spaces created along urban streets and the potential for filling them with objects. The spaces and the sculptures must relate to each other.
Sculptures and installations in exhibitions must relate to the exhibition space and the relationships between the items within that space, as well as its limitations. In my exhibitions, I’ve tried to preserve these relationships in ways that contribute to the presentation.