Tag Iconoclastic

Art quote:: Neal Fox (from Le Gun) on why he celebrates Burroughs, Bacon & Co.

How would you describe the impact these strong personalities have had on your life; did you ever inject bug powder or “sit in your house for days on end staring at the roses in the closet”?

No, not yet. I’ve never stared at the roses in my closet, but maybe I should! I have mainly been inspired by the strong integrity and self-belief in these iconoclasts; they did it their own way, completely untouched by present ideas, restrictions and beliefs. They broke new ground and although there is a small portion of irony in my exhibition of Stained Glass Windows, (a hint towards today’s celebrity culture) I feel that these are the people that deserve praise and honor for the impact they have had on writers, musicians and artists.

From Interview with Iconoclastic Artist Neal Fox

Born a War Painter


Mother’s Day drawing at the age of 3, Edry’s earliest recollection of overpainting

”It is pretty amazing, looking back at life, how I have always had the privilege of being supported. Sometimes I don’t believe in myself, but when there are so many people who do believe in you, it strengthens you to continue on the artist’s journey.” – Noam Edry

In 2008 I got to know a Canadian abstract painter in his mid twenties whose parents dedicated the entire basement to his artistic endeavors. The first time I entered his studio I felt as if I had stepped into a dream world. There were hundreds upon hundreds of huge high quality canvases stacked along the walls like CDs at HMV. They were all beautiful and experimental abstract paintings, strongly influenced by Gerhard Richter. Wandering around in Wonderland, I stumbled on a mountain chain of used oil paint tubes. Luckily enough, I was wearing the epic studio guest-slippers, which were already covered in a Pollock pattern, including the soles. I suspect that those canvases have multiplied themselves without leaving the house, because it doesn’t matter how well you are taken care of by your family and other supporters; in order to succeed as an artist, you need to have Edry’s almost frightening impetus and a determination to keep on going no matter what anyone says.

Edry’s childhood is a wonderful story to be told: At the age of three she was discovered by the local kibbutz artist, who worked as a handy man in her kindergarten. When the man was called in to work, he always found her in the middle of a new drawing and started calling her ‘the painter’. Eventually the very young artist was invited by the experienced artist to have private lessons.

“I remember going to his studio and being totally fascinated by the smells and the colors, thinking ‘Wow, this is what a real artist does, I want to be a real artist!’ He tried teaching me to paint with aquarelle, in a specific technique which I found very rigid. I didn’t understand why I had to paint in his way. I found it very hard, but I also enjoyed the privilege that he was giving me.”

Most kids enjoy making cards for birthdays and special occasions and they are always really sweet with glued on deformed hearts and misspelled declarations of love. I can’t recall ever having seen a child covering a Mother’s Day card in a crayon colored square grid, but I didn’t go to daycare with Edry. For Mothers Day, when she was three, the daycare provided the kids with a square sheet of paper mounted on a wooden frame. Edry started drawing circles and thought it looked really nice, but decided to add a grid and at this point there was no return. The three year old had to keep going, exploring and pushing the limits until the point where the whole white square sheet of paper was full of crayon colors. Smiling at the memory, Edry said “I think that is my earliest recollection of ruining a painting; of over-painting“.

By recommendation of the painter, Edry’s parents bought Windsor and Newton watercolors and the specified brushes for their four year old daughter. One year later it was time for the family to move to London and in their new house, a little painting cove was built inside one of the wardrobes. Whenever the five year old decided to paint with her high quality materials, she would open the door of the wardrobe, sit down and paint. On occasion the little artist would be critical of her creation and throw it in the bin, but it was always rescued by her father.

The most fundamental requirement to achieve success in any field must be to have a limitless interest, a sincere passion for the subject, unless the ultimate goal is financial gain. One of Edry’s pre-school teachers was studying psychology and one day she conducted an experiment on the children. She gave them all a lump of clay and recorded the amount of time they were playing with it. Later on, Edry’s mother was told that everyone abandoned the lump of clay within 2-5 minutes, except for her daughter, who spent half an hour battling with this lump, sculpting it and molding it with her tiny little hands.

“My parents always recognized this gift that I have and they always made sure I had the room to do it. When we lived in London in our second house, we had this wonderful dining room with wooden paneling all over, including the ceiling and a beautiful fire place. They sacrificed the whole room and made it into my studio. I painted enormous paintings inside“.

 

 

Edry’s political engagement became evident one day at the orthodox Jewish school she attended in London. It was a strictly religious school, but it was her only option as a Jewish woman in London and despite not being religious, she was fascinated by the opportunity to get an insight into her culture and identity. Early on Edry was discovered by the art teacher Hinda Golding, who gave her leave from various classes to paint massive scenery billboards for the school play. The artist struggled to find her own identity within the school uniform and uniformity of thought, and decided to shave her head at the age of 14. It was a feminist gesture provoked by the conservative policies of the school, in which the male Morning Prayer went ‘Blessed be He for not making me a woman’, and the women’s version went ‘Blessed be the Lord for making me as he made me, according to his will.’

The girls had to pray every week at a general assembly, segregated from the boys. They stood quiet and still, because they were not allowed to join the men. One day Edry had enough and told the girls ‘Ok, we are going to sing today. Take it after me, I will start and you will follow.’ As the leader of the service announced the name of the prayer she had chosen, she started singing and everyone joined in. Once the girls started singing, the rabbi didn’t know what to do. They were not allowed to hear a woman’s voice, so they had to join in.

“From having this monotonous drilling on with mumblings of speech, it became a full sing along prayer. Everyone was shocked afterwards, wondering what had just happened. I was called as the representative of the girls to speak to the Head of Jewish Studies. He asked me ‘So, what do you want?’ I found myself sitting there negotiating the terms for the entire female congregation. I couldn’t say that I wanted women to be equal members of the prayer, because it was still a conservative school, but what we did achieve was to have an all-female prayer as well, where we could sing aloud and do what we wanted to do.” 

 

 

At the age of 17 it was time to say goodbye to London and go back to Israel. From painting almost non-stop and selling works, Edry had to lock up her passion and learn how to serve the country. In order to say goodbye to London, she spent an entire month sketching a different favorite location every day. Her father would often accompany her for safety reasons and sometimes her siblings joined in as well. The series was called ‘My kind of London’. One day when Edry was sketching her own house, a person walking by took a liking to the drawing and asked her to come and sketch his house. The trend spread and the commissions started pouring in, but it was time for the family to leave the UK.

Back in Israel everything changed. After a fortnight of basic military training followed by a few weeks of specific training for her unit, Edry became depressed and didn’t understand why. “I had never been depressed before, I just felt completely lost. The meaning of life escaped me entirely. When I finally made the connection, I smuggled some art materials into my army post. It was completely forbidden. I had nothing to paint, other than four walls. I don’t remember if there was even a window. I sat there and sketched my left hand”. However interesting it is to sketch hands, the day comes when you get sick of it. Eventually, Edry gathered the courage to venture outside to sketch the surroundings of the military base, which was situated on the edge of a cliff. The military base, the netting, the atmosphere, the military camouflage and the fishermen were among her subject matters. When it leaked out that Edry was breaking the rules, the commander was very encouraging and gave her permission to use his office as a studio when he was away. Colleagues from the UN were given drawings as a gesture of good will and they still follow Edry’s career.

 

Noam Edry, Study of my Hand 2000 I and II, pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm

 

With regards to her present preoccupations, a series of commissions from Israeli art museums, Edry says “The most important thing to me is to not conform, but to stay true to who I am. What is the point of art if it doesn’t engender social change? How long can an artist be preoccupied only with the inner crevasses of the soul and not be a socially productive human being? I strive now to blur the boundaries of what is art and what is social. I wish it will have some kind of effect beyond the art institution“.

::::ContemporaryTalks.com 20 January 2012

 

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[More on Noam Edry]

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Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Powerful drawings of worldly wisdom

In Berlin artist Christian Moeller’s own words: “I create a picturesque room, by making the invisible visible. My works that appear very dramatic are always also directed to the shady sides and the mental abyss of the human existence, with all their facets: What lies in the secrecy and poses questions to me. They address subjects like destruction, pain, violence, horror and chaos. My worldly wisdom is the agitated one in which you cannot breathe.”

CT took a closer look at some of Christian Moeller’s ball pen drawings. They are all untitled and dimensions are 14,8 x 21 cm and 12 x 29,7 cm. Moeller’s visual language is dominated by vast amounts of confidently directed energy, in painting as well as in drawing. The balanced compositions dictates the eye, entices the mind and upsets the body; like a firm grip around the neck slowly choking you. That which is not spoken of – don’t worry be happy – and perhaps that which cannot be explained, is communicated and experienced via Christian Moeller’s work.

 

 

above a spiky lady, in heart patterned PJs and a massive syringe wrapped around her shoulder, is holding a box above somebody’s head. the person is either looked after or abandoned by an angel. black matter is distorting the head of the syringe lady. a bird is frozen in the air with its wings spread out and the angel’s wings are spread out as well. the pattern is repeated in the movement around the box. is the syringe lady an eros(a) delegating emotional burdens? this could be a comment on the concept of love – or a comment on the contradictions in human behavior…

 

above a giant toaster is rushing through town, spitting out burnt slices of bread. the plug is inserted in the impossible wall and two mechanical arms enter the picture. one mechanical arm is either supplying an open coffin with flowers or depriving it of the same. a black rock-shaped object seems to have flown out of the coffin and ended on the side-walk. abstract horror reality… uncanny… here, the lack of rationality in combination with the dominating mechanics paints an image of a hollow society in which the inhabitants are ruled by systems and accidents.

 

Christian Moeller, Untitled, 14,8 x 21 cm, ball pen on paper

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above pretty straight forward…

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Christian Moeller, Untitled, 14,8 x 21 cm, ball pen on paper

 

above coming together in this drawing is a gigantic girl in a heart patterned dress with syringes in her hair (and a flower), a tiny little man and the devil himself. the girl is firmly pointing in two directions and her enormous proportions suggest that she is either a goddess (of addiction and love) or incredibly full of herself. hyyyybris?

 

Christian Moeller, Berlin art, contemporary drawing

 

above an ordinary suburban spot revealed of its undercurrent energy forces… (ever wondered why you feel funny in certain locations?) subjective or objective; the dark forces of anxiety, horror and pain distorts and interferes with the space and with the viewer. this is physically penetrating and mentally disturbing, yet too strong and powerful to resist.

 

Christian Moeller, Berlin

above spiky lady has grown bigger, darker and… no, she has transformed into a monster with two tired/pleading eyes staring at the viewer. it is raining and two people are staring at the creature. the man is holding a heart balloon, possibly rallying for peace and love along with the lady behind him who is standing in a field of flowers. the monster’s right arm seems to be disintegrating in the rain. poor little monster, its body resembles a tree trunk covered in aim targets and the balloon man, who looks a bit like a nutty professor, is expecting victory.

Christian’s website:: www.christianmoeller.eu

Art quote:: The Outrageous YBAs

“Finally, on 2 October, ‘Sensation’ opened at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Members of the Catholic League attended the opening, handing out sick bags, singing hymns and praying. The following day, President Clinton let it be known that he supported his wife’s position and that, regardless of the uproar, the Institution should continue to receive funds. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush sided with Mayor Giuliani, saying ‘I don’t think we ought to be using public monies to denigrate religion.’ As a result of all the shenanigans in New York, the National Gallery in Australia decided at the height of the controversy to break off from the ‘Sensation’ tour, claiming that the events had ‘obscured discussion of the artistic merit of the works of art’.”

Gregor Muir, Lucky Kunst – The Rise and Fall of Young British Art (p.299-230)

 

Live interview – Meet Jeffrey Silverthorne

Meet Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau
::6th September 7 pm::

Introduction Brad Feuerhelm, Director of Daniel Blau Gallery London
+ Photography slide show
+ Live interview with Elinros Henriksdotter

American photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne is visiting the gallery for a comprehensive live interview with Elinros Henriksdotter from ContemporaryTalks.com in connection with his participation in “Haunting the Chapel  – Photography and Dissolution” (1 Sept – 8 Oct 2011); an exhibition of vintage, anonymous, vernacular and spirit photography.

Jeffrey Silverthorne invites his audience to hidden worlds that are fully ignored by most –because of their danger, ugliness and difficult nature. He is an anonymous spectator, who instantly steps aside from his point of view and leave us alone with our experience.

What it is like to stand next to an unidentified dead person in the morgue? Do questions bombard your mind, and if, what are the answers sought for? Maybe it is a mind-numbing experience that silences you for days. Is it possible to go so far as to imagine oneself in that position; the body cold and stiff and everyone deprived of the last goodbye?

The slide show will take you on two rapid photographic journeys; first we will visit the morgue and secondly the borderland located on the Mexican side of the Texas-Mexico border, where prostitutes in high heels are seen on and off duty in bathrooms and bedrooms. Outside awaits guarding dogs, railroad tracks, illegals and newspaper editors.

Through Silverthorne’s photography we are presented reality’s inherent complexity via simplicity. The world might stop for a few seconds and take on a new significance.

 

Please RSVP to london@danielblau.com, £5 payable on arrival

The event incl: Michael Grieve in conversation with Aaron Schuman


Noam Edry – “I Am the Terrorist”

Detail: Painting ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Oil Stain’

Noam Edry’s Graduation Show ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ had no ready-made opinions or moral lessons for the viewers to pick up on. Edry’s show was an objective and just mirror of the world as it is; entirely contradictive and bizarre with bombs falling as necks and thighs are being rubbed by educated professionals. She managed to take me somewhere; an experience strongly enforced by the performance where Edry made us, the audience, stand in a ring in the exhibition space and imagine a hole in the middle for one minute. We were focusing on that hole when all of a sudden a woman ran into the room screaming in panic, dressed in a skin colored body suit as if she was naked. The woman ran through our circle, over the hole, and dove into a sculpture on the floor; a hole. She was absolutely screaming in horror; terrifying! As if she had stepped out of the video installation ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ which was screened just next to us.

What do you think Art is capable of communicating?

Do you know why it is an unfashionable life? Because it is so lo-tech. In Israel we don’t have fashion as readily available as you do here; it is so hard to get your hands on anything like that for many reasons. It’s not such a wealthy place to come from; it’s surrounded by enemy states; so it’s unfashionable. Here it is the opposite; Israel is very fashionable in the UK. It seems to be as big as China, because everyone has something to say about Israel. It is a way of not talking about the poverty in Britain, the homeless people here. It is a way of not talking about many internal problems, like the Irish situation. It is easier to make someone else the front line. So, when I called it unfashionable it was also controversial or with a pinch of salt. Everything in the show could be interpreted in many ways. Everyone thought it was a man that had made the show, with all the phallic symbols; the penises.

So in this way art is able to both reveal the viewer’s prejudices and suggest alternative perspectives and ideas.

Painting ‘The Pussycats’

Women got enraged when they saw The Pussycats (painting), thinking that a man had made it. When they met me it all changed, because it was suddenly a feminist statement on the Machoism of society, the Machoism of the media world and the art world; it is a man’s world. You have to be a woman with balls to make it.

Then there was the question ‘Are you Palestinian?’ and the funny thing was that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at Goldsmithscame on the private view and got really annoyed. I asked them ‘What is annoying you? What are you enraged about? Is it the work?’ They couldn’t understand, they couldn’t say what, because the work showed nothing that was ‘anti’ in the way they had expected it to. They were upset that I was feeling demonized as an Israeli. ‘How dare you feel demonized as an Israeli?’ ‘I do. You are the people who demonize me in your campaigns.’ So again, after that they just didn’t come. They came with the intention to crash the show or to make a protest, but they came and saw they had nothing to crash.

It was all pretty much crashed already, wasn’t it?

Yes. Exactly, it had all undermined itself and you couldn’t tell where the artist was positioned politically. So again and again ‘Are you Palestinian? Are you Israeli?’ All these questions surprised me every time and I got them until the last day. People came to the exhibition when it was closed as well. I couldn’t close the show because people kept coming. They heard about it from all walks of life; there were activists, sociologists, politicians; it ended up being publicized on Facebook by people I didn’t even know. The Israeli advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs even promoted it, even though the Israeli Embassy could not officially associate with my show, because my message was unclear. It had all these amazing effects on people.

There is a video from ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’-series on Youtube, where you approach old ladies on the street and ask them to pose for you as the Queen. It is just an excerpt and in the end one of the ladies agrees to this and invites you to come to her house. Did she pose for you?  

In September 2010 I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. It was formed as the result of my encounter with an old lady. As my alter-ego in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I was looking for grannies on the street because I needed one to pose for me as the Queen. More accurately: I wanted to cast their ears and hands because I was making a life size effigy of the Queen. I was so used to being turned down that I was almost caught off guard when one of them agreed. This one lady said that she would love to be my model and invited me to her house; so we went there. I was still filming (in my character wanting to meet the Queen), without her really knowing it. I ended up spending an hour listening to her tell me her life story. She has got a broken hip and she has to climb all these stairs to get home; completely neglected because she lives in a rundown house. The old lady asks me why I want to meet with the Queen and I end up telling her my own life story; about leaving Israel and coming back to London where I grew up and wanting to fit in. She keeps asking “Why? And why do you need to know if the Queen loves you? And why do you need a granny; don’t you have a granny of your own?” This is a 20 minute long clip and at the end of it she tells me that she is actually Jewish; which is bizarre, since I picked her because she reminded me of the Queen. All of the grannies I approached that day turned out to be either Jewish or Irish or South African; none of them was actually English. This really shows that nobody is authentic; there is no such thing as ‘The Real Thing’. ‘The Real Thing’ isreality!

Then in one single sentence, the old lady also tells me that she has a nephew or cousin whose son was blown up in a tank in Israel and recently a 20 year old man from the other side of her family just came back in a coffin from Afghanistan.

It just sums it all up for me, because I was beginning to be too much affected by all these images in the British papers of coffins coming back from Afghanistan, with a beautiful Union Jack wrapped around them. It affected me so profoundly; I am used to mourning Israeli soldiers dying and now I am mourning the British soldiers in the exact same way.

Maybe it doesn’t matter which country I come from, maybe all that matters is that they are dying? Maybe all that matters is that I am human? Those were my thoughts when I started working on my MFA Graduation Show. I wanted to bring an army of 50 grannies and involve them in a project where they would knit a giant Union Jack throughout the show, coming and going in shifts. This is when I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. However, it was difficult, because many of them couldn’t leave the house. They weren’t so easy to work with, given that I had a short period of time and somehow it wasn’t close enough to what I needed to express. I still had to tell the story of Israel.

I returned to my painting and again I was bombarded with questions at school; ‘Don’t paint!’ ‘Why are you painting?’ ‘What are you painting?’

Did this harsh critique only come from the other students?

No, no, no. I actually told one of my teachers ‘I have an idea for a painting. I want to paint the British Monarchy fleeing from an angry mob; running from something.’ I wanted to have giant ravens hovering above them, which is the symbolism for when the monarchy will fall. The teacher just laughed and said it was a stupid idea. Two weeks later when I regained my strength, I thought ‘That’s a reason to make it; I am probably on to something now. I should do it.’ My Head of Department, Gerard Hemsworth, came around afterwards and encouraged me to proceed with the painting. Hemsworth also encouraged me to combine the paintings with my other expressions.

I went to Israel and came back after Christmas and just said ‘The hell with it now, I am painting.’ It became more and more about the Israeli landscapes and the unfinished Arabic houses; the mixture of the two, which is so unique to where I come from.

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

Simon Bedwell kept saying ‘Your work is so strong; always extreme with sharp-edged politics. You mustn’t cut any branch off the tree’, which really helped me to brush off all the negativity I had around me. It was also like a license to do what I wanted to do. From mid-January I could picture this mad exhibition with a myriad of images and this brown blob, my DATE (please read Interview Part 2 for explanation), in the middle. This giant brown cocoon of a blob was to be placed on the studio floor, with its slit for the eyes and a veil over it to make it look more like a real dried up date. It somehow looks a bit like a burka, it is difficult to identify. The ambiguity of this work is very important because it opens it up for everyone to relate and create their own interpretation. Invited artists and tutors, such as Matthew Cornford from Cornford & Cross and Abigail Reynolds, came into my studio and encouraged me to include the DATE with my other works in the final show.

I have understood from our previous conversation that your painting sort of escalated into quicker work and in the end you were attacking the walls. When did you create your videos ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ and ‘The Fundamentalist’?

I got the space only a week before the Graduation Show. At that point I knew I was going to make all the videos, which also had to have this eclectic thing about them; I used snippets from YouTube videos that had constantly brewed in my mind. I wanted to show them to people, because nobody in my surroundings believed that they existed.

My colleagues would say ‘You are lying, there are no Israeli casualties.’ When I told them of friends of mine who had died and people I had seen being buried after a terrorist attack, funerals I had attended, a friend of mine that was on a bus that exploded; nobody believed me.

And I wanted to show them; Here! It is right here on YouTube! So that happened in the space, it was like working with newspaper cuttings only it was video. I made them that same night, thinking a TV needs to be here and then there was a bucket full of cement and a dead car battery near the dust bin, so I placed the TV on that. I found a wheelbarrow in a skip, which looked like the wheelbarrows on Arab construction sites in Israel. I knew I had to have it in the show and it ended up serving as the other TV-stand. The entire show was ruled by practical purposes, never esthetical and the function became the esthetic. The middle had to remain empty, because I wanted to gather all the visitors once a day for a minute of silence. I can’t bring the hole to you; I can only make you imagine it. It will be far worse in your imagination than anything I could possibly show you. You can imagine because, like me, you see it on TV and you are bombarded with images in the press. You can almost imagine being there.

Then I said, ‘Right, I can now say my message.’ Because when I had that stage for my seminar in front of the students, somebody convinced me not to do it. But now it needs to be said. I went to the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery and I just thought the best work there was the video where she is interviewed about her abortion. I watched that video twice or three times and found it to be the most artistic work in the show. Just talking about it and taking us to where it happened to her. First I recorded myself with a video camera, but it was only me and it just wasn’t enough. I needed to tell the story to a real person and I needed them to ask me questions. It was a 60 min interview and there were bits when I really choked, like when I spoke about my two brothers in the army. They are there and they are endangered every day, but they have to do it; just like I had to be in the army.

Is it mandatory for both girls and boys to serve the Israeli Army?

Yes. For me, that’s a reality. When I tell people here that I have been to the army they raise an eye-brow and they look at me like ‘Oh, my God. How could you?’ I come from a country with constant threat of war; yes, we need to have an army.

The threat of war is not just from neighboring countries; it’s from within. It is a rocket launcher placed by Hamas on rooftops of civilian homes. London’s population is almost twice the size of the entire state of Israel. If you compare that and you think ‘Right, there is a missile launcher on the rooftop of New Cross; it is trying to fire towards East London.’ Would you do something about it?

I am sure you would. But for people, Israel first of all sounds huge because of all the noise people make about the Middle-East. It sounds huge and invincible; so powerful. But it’s just a tiny country with 7,4 million people, with a 10 km width. You could cross it in a few hours by foot. Nobody knows.

Diptych ‘Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House’

For 3-4 days, all I had at the show was the diptych Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House. It was spread out on two separate walls. But then there was nothing else and the room became Minimalist. There was the DATE and the wheelbarrow and a few other paintings that people kept telling me to take down. I was suddenly scared, I became Minimalist again. I don’t know why, but there is an encouragement in Goldsmiths to minimalize your work.

You could really tell by the other exhibitions.

So then I took my canvases off the stretchers because for the whole year that I was painting them it was obvious that they would not be shown as classic paintings, but rather as rushed paintings; nailed onto the wall. I wanted to have rusty metal and the aesthetics had to be inspired by the demolished houses, building sites, bunkers; the stuff I had experienced in Israel, both in the army and afterwards. I wanted to go to scrap yards and get them, but it turned out I didn’t need to. I found them on my way to school and as I was going about my life. I had to incorporate all this in the installation.

As I told you earlier, I gave my father a call, because at this stage I had lost myself entirely. The pressure from outside from some of my fellow artists telling me to take down the work was just too much. After this encouraging phone call I literarily stapled the paintings onto the wall. I started painting straight on the wall. ‘What do they call you here?’ I thought to myself. ‘A Zionist, right’. It resulted in a graffitied wall full of all the accusations I had come across at Goldsmiths; now they were no longer pointed at me.

Originally it had said ‘The bad guys will win’, but I didn’t want them to win and who are the bad guys? I am the bad guy here in London. The Zionists are the bad guys, but I was raised to feel that the bad guys are the terrorists. Here I am the terrorist. But the bad guys are really the apathy I experience here. British apathy is violent.

Graffiti á la Edry

It is the apathy of looking and not just not doing, reacting or intervening; it is letting all these slogans and supposedly peaceful protests, that are not so peaceful, go ahead. It is like joining that crowd of liberalists that are not liberal at all. I think they remind me more of the right wing than anything left. I come from a country where the left is very radical. The left is almost too radical because it doesn’t understand how Israel is perceived from the outside. It doesn’t understand that no matter what these radical messages and thoughts are misconstrued here. In Israel, for us it is given that Israel must exist. It is our only home. At the same time, we believe in the right of the Arab people to exist. Even co-exist with us, as Israelis or have their own state if they don’t wish to be Israeli. There are different Arabs, there are different wishes and here it is not understood like that.

I remember being 14, kind of left radical and I was reading all that propaganda stuff. I boycotted Israeli products for about a week, until I started thinking ‘What the hell does this actually mean? Israeli people are people too; they must have the agricultural right to export their products. There is a difference between a farmer and a terrorist. I can’t choose a side.’ I was vegan and felt a bit sorry for the delicious dates. It is just never that easy, is it?

Yeah, it’s like that. We can’t choose a side. I have never been a political artist; my work has been mainly about gender politics if political at all. It has been about being a woman, but never about the conflict. It wasn’t possible in Israel. Several Arabic artists in my class, who I was quite friendly with, were very dedicated to making political work, because they are the underdogs in Israel. Here I feel like the underdog, so I can feel more comfortable making it, but in Israel there was no room for me to make political work. I always thought it was short lived and it just never interested me.

So, how the hell did I end up making an ultra-political work? The key is to see my video ‘The Fundamentalist’. My teachers know me as the most political artist on the course and they even nicknamed me the ‘Zionist Terrorist’, you know lovingly, as I had been causing so much trouble, in an encouraging way. They like that. Then they watched the video where I say ‘Before I came to Goldsmiths I had never been interested in making political work, it seemed so uncool’. It kind of undermines everything I’ve done, or maybe strengthens it, because it shows how an ordinary person can be pushed into becoming radicalized and extreme. I am not just talking about me; I am talking about politics now. This is what institutions can do to you.

Some of the teachers came after the exam and said ‘Wow, we are not allowed to speak to you now. But we have so many questions. Can we take this?’ and they all wanted to take something with them from the show.

My volunteers gave them a t-shirt. Apparently Gerard Hemsworth, my Head of Department, went home and his daughter asked him ‘Dad, where did you get this mega cool t-shirt from? I want one.’ They were all deeply touched and some of them came back to my exhibition and brought other teachers that hadn’t been to the exam. They even made a point of staying for the 8pm performance, for some of them it was the second time. They told me they couldn’t stop thinking about it. That same day of my exam, which was seven days before the private view, I spoke to my tutor David Mabb on the phone and he said ‘I’ve heard all about what you did in your exam, it has been talked about.’ They thought I was all about ‘funny haha’ and tongue-in-cheek, being enraged; while there I was just saying ‘I was a kid in the army, I was never political. You made me political, by constantly silencing me.’

Just like you allowed your show to be an organic tree by allowing the branches to co-exist and spread; it reflected on the outside world.

I must say that another teacher who really inspired me was Susan Taylor. Susan is a performance and sound artist; a very special woman who was not just a teacher but also a friend. I hadn’t even seen Goldsmiths before I came to study there. I sent my application from Israel about a month after the deadline, thinking I would probably not be considered. About two weeks later I received an offer from them. I felt like it was meant to be. It was Susan who wrote to me and suggested that I could come for a tour of the campus. I never did, I just came the next September to study there.

Susan turned out to be an extraordinary woman; always always encouraging me to be who I am, to be different as I am; telling me thatall people are different. ‘Just be you’ she said. Susan also encouraged me as a woman, because she understood the struggle as a woman to make work in a very male dominated field. I think that the art world is a male dominated field, like all fields are, despite the Feminist Revolution. Even though she has now retired, she saw me this year a few months before my show and I told her what was going on and she said ‘This isn’t like you’. I was being vague because I kept getting told: ‘You’re being too specific. You need to be universal. We don’t want to hear about the Middle-East or about Israel. We want to understand; otherwise we feel alienated’. Susan said ‘Why not be specific? You always have something to say’. Curators that came over the course of the year did not discuss my art, but rather tried to guess my political persuasion. I was tired of it. Susan said ‘No, you are a very strong artist with a strong message. You have to speak up. Where is Noam, where is your voice?’ She also convinced me to duplicate that painting, because I wanted to do it. One of my teachers had said ‘I don’t want you to do it, because politically I disagree with you.’ And I said ‘I never told you where I stand politically; why do you suppose that we are on two different sides of the spectrum? Have you asked what I think?’ All I got was ‘I have had this impression from your work and if you duplicate the painting you will be insinuating that both sides suffer the same.’ And I said ‘A death is a death, suffering is suffering. And why does it matter who is suffering? I can be as upset that an Arab Palestinian child has been killed; I can be just as upset if it is an Arab. Why do you suppose I would be more upset if it is an Israeli?’ Susan is the one who convinced me to do everything I am doing. She came to my show. They all came and both Susan Taylor and Simon Bedwell stayed for the Minute’s Silence. I was very touched.

It has been such an extraordinary struggle.

Yes and it still is a struggle.

I got thinking about Tracey Emin. There was a Study Day at the Southbank Centre on the 13th of June and the discussion panel consisted of six people, but there was so much talk about Tracey as a private person. Her Tent is not about her own sexual experiences; she is communicating something universal – we all have a history of people we have slept with and next to. When we enter the Tent all those memories come back to us. Just like you, she is communicating all that crap we want to ignore and forget with works like her neon sign “People like you need to fuck people like me”, although I find that you are expressing far more complicated issues.

In my seminar, in the first performance of SAVE THE DATE, the work was hardly discussed. It was just about my political persuasion and I was also accused of being a Right Wing Artist – hilarious! Here I am rallying for Freedom of Speech and I am telling you that youare the bigoted ones, if anything. You look at me but you don’t see anything but Israel in my face. I never label people by wings, so why do you have to do it to me?

That’s where “Rehabilitating the Left” fits in. A lot of people in my exhibition said ‘Wow, I really like this. ‘Rehabilitating the Left’, yeah. The Israeli left really does need rehabilitating.’ And I happened to be there and I said, ‘Do you see any Israelis lying on the table?’

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

You don’t want to see what the Israeli left is, it is so radical. It is so different to the left in Britain, it deals with different issues; it is a different approach.  You can’t compare them, but why compare them? This constant labeling; I just find it funny. I find it very limiting.

Are you staying in London?

Yes yes. Now I am convinced I have to, because after the way in which this exhibition was received it has to be the start of a new mode of working for me. I want to make more and more of these ambitious shows. By ambitious I don’t mean bigger or more extravagant, I mean more thought-provoking and personal and with more interaction with other people. I am looking for new and exciting projects. At the same time I keep in touch on a very close level with Israel because I believe in that art scene which has some really fresh and punchy voices. I am preparing for two solo shows now. It is going to be an intensive period for me. I have also been approached by dealers and collectors, which is very encouraging.  I am so well connected now with friends and receiving many offers from curators, that it is a matter of figuring out what is worthwhile.

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[More on Noam Edry]

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Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Interview with Iconoclastic Artist Neal Fox

Today I met Iconoclastic Artist Neal Fox at Daniel Blau in Hoxton Square, where his ongoing exhibition ‘Beware of the God’ is situated. The exhibition consists of twelve 2,5 meter high Stained Glass Windows; twelve alternative apostles who aimed a firm kick towards Christianity and kicked hard. Next door, at the White Cube, the Chapman Brothers have carved away patches of skin in the face of both Jesus and Mary. The sculptures are numerous and very well made, but I doubt that “Jake or Dinos Chapman” are the sculptors. They are (probably) the messengers, which is fine, but it is more fascinating to see Neal Fox’s work next door because he is the creator – from sketch to final product. To create Stained Glass Windows is an intricate process with a thousand-year history.

Photo from www.danielblau.com – London / Neal Fox / 2 of 39 — Installation (Daytime) 12

It should have been expected: Neal Fox turned up an hour late for the interview with drowsy but sparkling eyes and invited me to a coffee in an apologetic manner. He fits perfectly into the artist stereotype – always slightly absent as if constructing intricate drawings in his mind as we speak. Neal is gifted with a great sense of humor and a sharp mind, no one else had pointed out to me with a smile on the lips that the recent rioters made sure to leave KFC in an impeccable state. Why would they demolish their favorite restaurant? This is exactly why we love Neal’s art; he looks at the world and goes ‘this is/was going on, whether we like it or not. To me it is comedy, because I want life to be fun.’ Then he adds eight more dimensions to the story to make it even more fun. Many times the world is based on his grandfather’s debauched life story, but there are also more recent characters depicted.

I understand that your grandfather, John Watson, who was a debauched Soho socialite, has had remarkable influence on your life, although he died when you were still very young. Who was Mr. Watson?

My grandfather was a bomber pilot in WW2, a writer, a TV-host and a heavy drinker. I grew up surrounded by my family’s memories of him. After WW2 he was tortured by awful dreams throughout his life, until he eventually died from his heavy whiskey sessions at a fairly early age. We can’t imagine what they all went through, back then there was no therapy for soldiers. The torturing nightmares with dead children and innocent civilians drove him to seek comfort in the bottoms of a thousand empty whiskey bottles. I read his auto-biographical book when I was 21, which is the same age that he was in at that time, up in the air, dropping bombs. It is strange to think about now, when young people are stuck in front of their PlayStation.

My grandfather also wrote American-style detective paperback books and he was the one to publish Burrough’s Naked Lunch in London. I have always been fascinated by his life and he has guided me through an imaginary world of excessive behavior; a world where I imagine them all to meet and there is always room for new characters to enter. Whenever I read a book, watch a movie or drink; it is research! My grandfather used to call it drinking research. It is all feeding my brain and my future drawings.

Who has told you the tales of your grandfather?

My grandmother, who is an amazing old lady, has told me everything about my grandfather. My grandmother is still going strong; always up for a laugh and drinking plenty of whiskey although she is 88 years old. She is in my grandfather’s Stained Glass Window at the exhibition, on the top; they are dancing. Hopefully my grandfather would have been proud to see himself there depicted like an alternative saint.

My father, who is a great painter although he is not commercially focused, has also told me endless stories and introduced me to many great authors. In fact, I am named after Neal Cassady who was Jack Kerouac’s friend and the inspiration for Dean in On the Road.

I can see the resemblance! Did your grandfather meet any of the others in person? 

I don’t know and that has always been a great source of inspiration for me; that question really fuels my imagination. Most of my work has been an investigation of the dark realm of my grandfather’s experiences, or that is at least where it all begins. Soho was very different back then and there are few places that have been left untouched. Most if it is gone now, but no-one can touch my inner world!

Installation(Daytime)1

Photo from www.danielblau.com – London / Neal Fox / 4 of 39 — Installation (Daytime) 1

I am sure you could have chosen to create the Stained Glass Windows without using as much color as you eventually did. Have you travelled somewhere recently that infused all those colors in you?

It is more likely to be related to an amazing psychedelic trip at the house of late Paulita Sedgwick, late cousin of Edie Sedgwick; one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. Paulita was a painter and her colorful, intense and magical paintings were all over the place; they came alive and served as windows to a different world. We ended up staying inside for several days, because we were too afraid to go outside. A bumper sticker on her front door said ‘Beware of the God’ and I decided to make it the title for my exhibition at Daniel Blau. Paulita was an extraordinary and generous woman, who suffered from brain cancer and tried to cure herself with magic.

I used to work mainly in black and white, but life has been more colorful since that experience. Also, working with stained glass as a medium sort of required it of me and it is still just a few but strong basic colors.

 

Jean Genet

Photo from www.danielblau.com – London / Neal Fox / 29 of 39

Jean Genet, Neal Fox, 2010-11, Leaded stained glass in steel frame

 

How would you describe the impact these strong personalities have had on your life; did you ever inject bug powder or “sit in your house for days on end staring at the roses in the closet”?

No, not yet. I’ve never stared at the roses in my closet, but maybe I should! I have mainly been inspired by the strong integrity and self-belief in these iconoclasts; they did it their own way, completely untouched by present ideas, restrictions and beliefs. They broke new ground and although there is a small portion of irony in my exhibition of Stained Glass Windows, (a hint towards today’s celebrity culture) I feel that these are the people that deserve praise and honor for the impact they have had on writers, musicians and artists.

In earlier exhibitions you have gone wild with the interiors; covering everything in patterns. I imagine that stepping inside must have been a real trip. The show you are having now at Daniel Blau is pretty straight forward in comparison. Was this your decision or did the gallery limit your expression?

Well, it is when we create shows as the Le Gun Collective that we tend to go outside the frames and all over the place, because we accelerate each other and improvise like musicians. But you are giving me ideas now!

Your big drawings suggest novel sized narratives; do you ever write stories connected to your drawings?

I write when I work on pieces, it is a part of the creative process, but I haven’t included any written narratives in my finished works so far. An image says a thousand words, as they say. The mind-map sort of drawings that I create suggest narratives, it is a crazy trip through my mind with references to pop culture; it is a mind within a mind within a mind! It all makes sense to me, but I’m not sure anyone else gets it. It could perhaps be interesting to write a novel.

That would be a mad, mad adventure. In the interview with Dazed and Confused you mention having strange dreams in the stained glass factory. Please tell me about those dreams!

I was staying in a flat above the stained glass factory, working at night all by myself in this huge space full of medieval Stained Glass Windows depicting angels and saints. I was told that there was a lady ghost haunting the factory, which kind of freaked me out. This one night when I was working on the Aleister Crowley-piece I was haunted by him in my dreams. Crowley was pissed off at me for doing this window and put a curse on me. Earlier that night when I was leaving the studio downstairs I heard a loud crash behind me; I turned back, but nothing had happened. I don’t know what that was all about.

There are many stories woven around Crowley’s persona involving ghosts, demons and curses. Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin used to live in the Boleskine House, Aleister Crowley’s old residence next to Loch Ness, and he said that the house was haunted by a decapitated head. There are also some who believe that the Loch Ness monster was created by demons summoned by Crowley during one of his seances. We don’t know what is real and what has been imagined in people’s heads, but no matter what; Crowley not the kind of person you want to piss off.

He should be proud if anything to be in there with the others, I understand that it was a delicate procedure to create the Stained Glass Windows.

Yes, I like to believe that he sees it as a compliment.

I came across James Unsworth’s Turtle Sex movie at the exhibition Parallel Connections at Wayward Gallery in June, curated by my friend John Angel. It is a truly mind-blowing piece of work and can easily be compared to your work. Have the two of you ever thought of collaborating? It would be an exponential equation.

That might be a good idea actually! We have never collaborated, but I do admire James’ work and he has been one of the contributing artists for Le Gun. We are both inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and communicate similar ideas; he goes all the way.

Since I am half Swedish I am really curious to know what “wishy washy Scandinavian” means?

Oh, sorry! I didn’t mean to insult all Scandinavians, but I just find that a lot of the art being created today is wishy washy, sort of IKEA-style. It is just made to be pretty on the wall; decorative stuff. I can’t stand it.

Can you tell me more about the Le Gun “theme park”-dream mentioned in the Crane.tv video? That would be amazing.

All journalists tend to ask ‘What are you doing next?’ and the Le Gun theme-park is our standard answer to that; a bit of a joke but not really. It is something we have been dreaming about.

(Details have been censored)

Do you think that the spirits of the dead linger around in our world on a different dimension?

I believe that all great personalities who break new ground by taking on the world in an unapologetic manner are a part of our collective memory; they break down frames of thought and extend the horizon.

After a couple of drinks it was time to leave, because of a rumor that the riots were approaching. Gallery Director Brad Feuerhelm was mildly impressed as he was forced to show an interested collector out the door.

Elinros Henriksdotter, 09.08.2011

Noam Edry – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Noam Edry Interview Series 2011 Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy 23rd July 2011


 

Your recent MFA graduation show titled ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ at Goldsmiths was incredible to experience in all its complexity. It was a perfectly organized chaos and a feast of paradoxes, which seems to apply to your work in general, correct me if I am wrong. It was unclear for the visitor where the exhibition actually started, with a coffee stand outside, a security guard at the entrance and all sorts of noise.

We kept the Coffee Stand open every single day. It was supposed to be from 12 to 3, but since I had so many Israeli and Jewish volunteers coming, it was sometimes open from 10 sharp to 7. People just stayed on because they enjoyed it so much and they believed in it. Spectators would come to the show and not realize that the Coffee Stand was a part of my show. It looked so run down, messy and minimalist, with all these people wearing my t-shirts saying ”I come from the most hated place on earth”.

Photo: Noam Edry’s father at the MFA Graduation show at Goldsmiths

People thought it was an official bar. They walked into the show with a little glass of coffee that smelled like some kind of perfume, because it had cardamom in it. Already they were taking part in the work. Then they saw people getting a massage and the massage was real, the therapist was real. I told her “It’s your thing; your platform and you can also promote yourself. You’re a real person and it might do you some good as well.” So, they became a part of the work without realizing it and people asked “What is she going to speak to me about?” And I said, “What would you speak to your therapist about?” Eventually they were having conversations about their life, where they come from, their kids, etc. After five days people were talking about sex, bowel movements, their most intimate problems, aches and pains and they would come back to consult with her. I had people coming back the following day, and the day after; “Can you just check up on my ear, my left shoulder?” It became a proper little clinic. They completely forgot they were in an art show; maybe the noise and art in the background gave them a sense of privacy. Some people sat on the chair and said “At first we were totally overwhelmed by everything, the noise level, the work, the richness of it, we couldn’t pick anything out, but as we were getting a massage we relaxed; we went into a different time zone and we suddenly zoned in on one work and decided selectively to take it in. We realized what you were doing; you brought our guard down. Then we were totally ready for your work.”

It also says something about our culture here, doesn’t it? People are able to listen to bombs exploding; to be in the middle of war scenery and just lay down for a massage.

It is really the only thing you can do, but also it is a result of being bombarded with images on a daily basis in the press. These images have no hierarchy, so it is like in the show where you have cheerleaders or the TrannyGranny (works from the show). I took the images from the morning pages, usually from the Metro and Evening Standard, the free papers that everyone reads when they have nothing else to do on their morning commute, and I manipulated them. Because I travel one hour to school every day, I read these papers and you can see bombings in Gaza or Israel doing this or that, alongside sexual content; on the same page. It is entertainment now and read on a very superficial level. Some people feel more or less about it, but it remains on a superficial level. You don’t really experience it.

I agree, and it is like you say, it has become entertainment.

Not for the people that come from there though. I want to explain that; the gap. It is all about the gap. The image I started with is one of a hole, a crater from an explosion. I found it on Google, because I search for images on the internet a lot to see what would come up on British search engines.

So it started with the image of a gap?

I actually don’t really why I initially became obsessed with these images. I think it was because I went to Israel after the Christmas break and saw it with fresh eyes, in January this year. I had a non-Jewish boyfriend then and I took him to Israel. I was hosting him, so I tried to see Israel from his perspective. I kept thinking “What does he see?” And I also realized how beautiful this unfinished scenery is, because in Israel you have loads of Arabic villages and cities and even just tin houses. There are many different sectors of the society and they all build their houses in different ways. Compared to the Jewish houses, which are all very well built and very regular, quite symmetrical, uniformed and finished, you see unfinished Arabic houses on top of each other with no network or structure. They build them themselves because a lot of them are construction workers, with access to materials and know-how. A lot of them don’t get license to build from the councils, so they just build it. They also live on top of each other; a man never leaves the house. He brings his wife to the house and as the family starts growing it gets very crowded. You see cement, unfinished houses with no roofs and you could say it is very ugly or you could say it is very beautiful. I think it is very beautiful; there is something really interesting in this lack of estheticism. I fell in love with this. It is so different to what I see here in London and I was wondering how I could bring that back. So I started looking for photographs of that. I arrived at these demolitions and I found one image which was controversial; it appeared twice on a Google image search. Once it said ”Palestinian house demolished by Israeli rockets” and on another search it said ”Israeli house hit by Arab rocket” or ”Jewish settlers’ home hit by rocket from Gaza”; something like that. It was the same image and I just thought ”Isn’t it amazing how each side wants to be the victim and each side wants it to be their tragedy?”

I took that image and I made a painting of the big crater which I then duplicated a few months later, when I realized I had to make the other side as well. When duplicated by hand it will be clumsy, it will be very human; it will never be perfect or identical. So you could always say it is not really the same on both sides; or is it?

Photo: Alicja Rogalska, All rights reserved

I was going to paint it highly realistically, but I stopped at a very early stage and people started coming into my studio saying “Oh this is so interesting, I can see this guy falling into the hole and this guy talking on his mobile phone and wow there is a child here…” They could see things in the painting; I didn’t actually need to paint it. They were imagining things that were actually more real to them than anything I could ever paint. So I left it there, unfinished. And I thought that if I’m depicting reality I need to have human presence, someone needs to stand there and stare into a hole, almost like an extension of a painting. But I couldn’t have someone standing in my gallery staring into nowhere for the entire show. It is just not possible. And then the idea of Peeping came, this event, I call it Peeping. Where I bring people for one minute of silence to stare into a hole and it becomes real to them. Some people said that when the woman came screaming, she ran straight through the hole; “It ruined everything for me”. I said that’s the beauty, it shows how amazing your imagination is! I didn’t choreograph her. I wanted it to be real, spontaneous. Also, life in Israel is very hectic. People speak on phones at awkward times; they even answer their phone at funerals. There is no limit to… I can’t describe it. But anything could be an emergency, so people always answer their phone. It is also a part of the Israeli rudeness, the upfrontness. In my exam I answered my phone; I said I would give them the real experience. The volunteers were talking to each other in Hebrew and the examiners thought they were interrupting, but we weren’t acting.

The sound I had at the entrance of the exhibition were real voices from the Israeli markets, people screaming ”Come and get it come and get it” and trying to convince people to buy their vegetables.

From there it went on to somebody’s house being bombed, not far from my house. And the voices were people screaming because of a rocket and this blended into a group of people playing accordion and singing a folk song which is a part of our culture. And all these things are random, they have no real order, they could happen at any time and intercept each other; a real reflection of what life is like there.

You did it so well. I am still not over it. I have been to tons of exhibitions in London and what I have been looking for I really found at your exhibition. It is so entirely out of the box.

I have so many ideas, I feel like this is the beginning of something. I have always done everything. I am a painter since I can remember, but from painting everything else comes. And as I mentioned before, the urgency in an unfinished painting really communicates that there is no time, we could die at any minute. The urgency and vibrancy, the multi-facetted Israeli culture which has everything; laughter, tears, hysteria, relaxation, joy; it is all there. So how do I capture it? I don’t have time, so the paintings became less and less detailed, and more and more sketchy. The charcoal was the quickest way and in the end it went from the canvases onto the walls. So it starts from painting. But around it I have video, I perform, because I am also an actress and I need to use that tool and everything has the same hierarchy for me. It is the first show where I have really managed to combine them all in a very, I think, organic way. It wasn’t forced and there is more where that came from.  I will work more with people, real people not actors. Real people that I have no control over and I tell each one of them “You have to be yourself”. With my volunteers at the Coffee Stand the original idea was to have a conversation over a cup of coffee, because there is never a conversation in politics. It is just from one side to the other, accusations towards one other; a way of silencing people. Here I wanted it to be relaxed, hospitable, and to generate conversations from what is in the coffee to the Politics of the Middle East. My volunteers kept saying “I do not represent the artist, I represent myself. I am not representing the State of Israel, I am representing myself.” It is all about individuals.

Did they get into discussions with the visitors?

Yes, we had many many discussions. Some were very casual, but there were confrontations as well. People that were very anti-Israeli accused the volunteers of lying to them. But many people walked away changed, because they realized that they had never actually spoken to an Israeli; a real one. They’d never actually been to Israel, so they heard facts they had never heard about and it stopped being about labels and slogans, and it came to be about an individual.

Photo: Anna Stephens, All rights reserved

The most exciting incident was when a man started crying after the performance; the event, the hole-incident. I think it was on Saturday or Sunday. This man had been to the exhibition for about 40 minutes, looking at all the videos and all the material as well as filming. He was about to leave when I turned everything off and started the minute’s silence and after the minute’s silence he stayed stuck in his place.

My father approached him and the man had tears in his eyes and he just said “I don’t know what to think, I feel it here, here (pointing at the heart). It feels heavy. I was actually approached by the Israel boycotters to give a donation to Gaza and I thought it would be received by the people of Gaza and then I realized that it wasn’t going to be used for humanitarian reasons, it wasn’t going to bring supplies to people who need them; I was being used. But now that I have seen your daughter’s exhibition”, he said to my father, “I realize maybe I cannot be human 2000 miles away. I can only be human to people standing right in front of me, because you have made me so moved. I see that you are human and you suffer just as much and you have your own side of the story. And now I don’t know which side to pick.” My father looked at him and said “Why pick a side? Why do you have to pick a side? Just be human, cultivate your friendships. Speaking of sides; that’s the problem.” So that was very moving. It made me feel like I’d done something meaningful and worthwhile, because that’s what it’s all about for me. To see people getting affected and moved by what I’ve done.

I have received so much feedback, people even cued up outside the show to say “We thought we were really stupid. We don’t usually understand contemporary art. Then we come to your show and we feel like we understand. We might not understand everything, but we feel like we can grasp onto something. There is a way in for us as an audience. We don’t understand so much about art, but we are affected. This is overwhelming; thank you.” I love that.

In your video Mitzvah Tantz from 2005, we see a Jewish ceremony intersected with video footage of your belly-dance followed by flashes of an Arabic belly dancer towards the end. Mitzvah Tantz means ‘mitzvah dance’ or ‘commandment dance’ and this is the tradition of the men dancing before the bride on the wedding night, after the wedding has taken place.

There is an air of you struggling towards something, your mind appears to be slightly bothered and interfering with the movement of your body as your eyes stare thoughtfully into space, possibly watching the video while you are dancing. You are lightly dressed in a plain white belly dancing outfit that is designed to evoke desire and passion and to allow the body to move freely without restriction. You have merged the wedding dress with a traditional belly dancing outfit.

How did you learn belly dancing, did you teach yourself or did you study?

Well I knew for a long time that I wanted to learn belly dancing and I don’t know what comes first; my art or my life? Because many times I combine my passions in my art and it is like an excuse to learn something or to go through an experience. I tell myself that it is for the art. For a long time I wanted to make work about belly dancing, but it took me years to feel like I was ready. Belly dancing is very provocative and very erotic. You have to be a woman, you cannot be a girl and I just didn’t feel like I was ready. And then in 2005 for my final year of the BA at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, I was determined I would do it. I studied in various studios, under several teachers, but I studied mainly in Jerusalem at a Centre for Dance called Arabesque. After I made this piece in 2005 I became a belly dancer dancing professionally. I was even on TV with it and I taught it as well. I have the funniest stories of ending up dancing on bars, almost falling over all the bottles. One night I was dancing in front of my art teachers by mistake, but they didn’t recognize me. I fell off the bar and landed straight near their table saying ‘”Hi!” They couldn’t believe their eyes! I also made my own costumes, because I didn’t have money to buy professional ones.

 Photo: Stills from Mitzvah Tanz, 2005, All rights reserved

When I became a teacher I developed a certain way of teaching combining contemporary dance with belly dancing and Tantra. It is all about freeing your pelvis; your inner woman and your passions. You really have to be freed and I used to be very tight, very in control all the time and I only let myself go when I made art. So it was very hard for me. Eventually, for the video Mitzvah Tantz, I recorded myself learning. What I show in the video is the process of learning; it is not a great amazing sexy dancer. It is a child learning to walk. It is the clumsy awkward movement; it is the body not doing what the mind wants it to do. It is the lack of control and too much control. I would take out the camera from school, position it in front of me in my room and practice, wearing provisory outfits, like a scarf wrapped around me. When I looked back at it, all those moments when my body didn’t do what I wanted it to do; I loved those specifically. I concentrated only on two movements out of the entire dictionary of dance and I repeated them throughout that whole film.

In Mitzvah Tantz, and with my painting at the time, I wanted to show the moment when a woman stops being innocent, when a woman sees that she is being looked at for the first time. The first time a woman realizes that she has a man’s gaze on her and she blushes. The first time a woman exposes herself to a man. I thought “Where is this innocence?” It is kind of lost in Western Society, because in Western Society girls as young as four wear make-up now, so where am I going to find this moment? And I looked for a Moroccan engagement ceremony, because I am also half Moroccan and half European from the other side. Traditionally the brides are young virgins and given away by their fathers to a man that they never really had that much contact with and that night they lose their innocence. However, I wasn’t able to find a recording of that, which lead me to the Hassidic Mitzvah Tantz. That is the moment when the bride is given off by her father or uncle or a male figure in their society to her fiancé. He can’t touch her; he is not even allowed to touch her hands. Only by the use of his belt of the suit is he allowed to physically connect to her. It is a moment when they are meant to contemplate, a few minutes of utter silence and then ecstasy, and they believe that the spirits of the bride’s ancestors descend upon her to bless her for her new life. I looked at it and I saw a woman more naked than me as a belly dancer. I saw a woman covered from head to toe, but more naked than I could ever be, because she is placed in the middle of all these men and it is totally unnatural to her. She comes from a society where she is secluded, where women and men are separated. She doesn’t even look at men and suddenly she has to stand as the center of attention of all these men and all she can do is rock backwards and forwards. She is not allowed to sing or to dance; she has to remain very controlled.

Eventually I thought that at the end of the day, we are very similar. I am a woman who was raised in a Western way, but we’re both Jewish and there is something universal about womanhood where we’re all kind of thrown into it. Nobody really prepares us for the encounter with the opposite sex and how we will be violated in a way, you know, penetrated. We need to expose ourselves. The first time that happens, I read it as traumatic. I wanted to show that. It was like a dialogue between me and her, which is why I placed us parallel to each other. The material that intercepts is autobiographical. A lot of it comes from my sister’s dance troupe, where she danced as a kid. They used to perform Jewish folklore and traditional dance. There are also glimpses my cousin’s religious wedding; it flashes past as she is unveiling herself. It is all about unveiling. There are only girls; there is no man in this video. For me it was about reaching a centre, equilibrium. It’s like the ancient form of ecstasy in tribal dance; the moment of ecstasy, when you reach it, is calm; you reach peace. It is an inner ecstasy. It is about “I understand now, I have had the epiphany.”
 

Between the years 2003-2004 you studied at Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, as an exchange student in conjunction with your BA Fine Art at Bezalel Academy of Art & Design Jerusalem. ENSB-A is the distinguished National School of Fine Arts in Paris where Degas, Ingres, Monet, Delacroix and many more graduated. The following year, 2005, you produced a dark series of paintings titled ‘Madonnas and She-Devils’ towards your BA graduation. I find that this series echoes what you where expressing in your first year, 2003, but in a refined and intensified manner. And in 2008 you produced some seriously skilled paintings. How did you experience your year as a student in Paris?

I got accepted to do an exchange study program from Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. They gave me a scholarship and told me I could go wherever I wanted. Originally I wanted to go to Finland, because I have many friends there. But the Academy said that officially they are not going to consider me because I am Israeli.

What?

Yeah. And I was extremely shocked, but thought “OK, it is all for the best. If I can go anywhere I will go to Paris”, because I wanted to study traditional Old Master Painting so badly. I needed the tools and I have always wanted to live in Paris. I studied painting techniques, funnily enough, with an Israeli teacher who had been teaching there for 40 years.

In Paris we have friends, so I ended up living next door to them in one of their flats. I was already speaking French, but in Paris I became really fluent. I worked there part-time as well, as a marketing assistant. It was just amazing to go to a school where I worked with pigments from artists like Louis Pasteur; that he had actually left there. I studied at the same institution where all the great artists had studied and learnt glazing techniques, mixing pigments; how to make everything from scratch; from watercolors to chalks and emulsions. It was just amazing. I learnt how to do glass painting, to make stained glass. And then I came back to Israel with one more year until my end of year exhibition, my BA Graduation Show. I came back with a kind of new set of tools which I wasn’t that proficient with yet and I spent a whole year trying to master these new techniques and to make them invisible; a tool that I could use freely to express myself, but I was constantly interrupted. . To them it was horrendous. Why would a 22 year old girl paint like this? It seemed so easy for me and they were enraged by it. I was painting young virgins, me and my sister, as these young virgins in mid- dance. I was using the folklore dancing of our Kibbutz. It spoke of the agriculture of Israel and the founding of Israeli culture, which was founded on a bit of Arabic culture mixed with European culture; it was a mishmash of everything. To them it also spoke about colonialism and about the Jewish settlement in Palestine and about the occupation. It was political and very sexual. It basically didn’t go down too well.

Were they intimidated by you?

I think so, because there were incredibly strong reactions from tutors and respected artists. I am talking of one of these artists phoning the Head of Department at midnight to scream at him “How can you let this girl do what she wants? This is abhorrent!” Another teacher came into my studio determined “to save me” from artistic suicide. They were elbowing students at my critiques, they were yelling at me and I have recorded it all. It was unbelievable; I was just standing there smiling. One teacher said “But you have painted yourself as a whore! Not as a virgin! Not as a Madonna! Do you realize how erotic these paintings are?”  And I just smiled, you know, I didn’t give all the answers away, but I was too young to deal with this kind of critique from artists who considered themselves the artists of the nation of the day. Suddenly a young girl came and stole everything, by painting so easily and proficiently. You know it wasn’t about the technique, the technique was secondary to what I was doing and it was such an eyesore to them. I had the Head of Department patting me on the back saying “Make it bigger! Make it more in their face!” There I was, caught in the middle and I was really boycotted at the end, just like I found myself being boycotted here. I wanted to study in London, but there was also an option of studying a Masters in Bezalel. They would not accept me. Years later they came to my solo show where I showed the series with the Sheepdog (painting). The same teachers came and said you are phenomenal, you are virtuoso; you are an amazing painter. They gave me warm recommendations, but I had already been accepted to Goldsmiths. Now they were shaking my hand and sending me kisses, but when I was 22 I felt crucified in that school. I was so hurt, because I had made something very exposing, real and authentic. I had put myself out there.

pigman

Photo: Noam Edry (The Pigman, 2003), All rights reserved

Before I went to Paris I was making work that was slightly more kind of punchy, funny ‘haha’, even ironic in a way. I knew how to manipulate my audience, it was easy for me. I went to Paris and I had an inner change, I really did. I discovered things about myself; it was kind of a mystical experience for me. And when I came back I couldn’t paint these baroque, grotesque things that I had made before. I couldn’t use gold anymore or talk about decadence. I had to peel the layers and talk about something a lot more simple, inner and pure. And I got Shit for that. So after finishing my BA I couldn’t paint for years. I would try painting and I felt like a four year old child, everything came out like scribbles. I didn’t want to go to any art openings and I didn’t want to see these people. So I studied acting, I turned to dance and I became an actress as well as a dance instructor. I made the film with Yosi Ohayon, an amazing script that I will talk about. One day an artist friend called me and said “I need your help, you are the only one who knows about this pigment stuff and I need to learn how to mix.” I went there, put on an apron and started mixing in his studio and mid-way I said “Yoni, I am so sorry but I really have to go now” and I ran to my studio, which was a tiny balcony in my room, where I had locked everything up.

 Photo: Noam Edry (Sheepdog, 2008), All rights reserved         

That moment I brought it all out. I started painting and I haven’t stopped ever since. It was a really tough time, but it all just poured out of me after that. I no longer had all the voices in my head of my teachers saying “Do this, do that. Don’t do this, don’t do that”.

I think that coming to Goldsmiths I was a lot stronger, I needed that strength. I got the same kind of controversy. I had people coming in to my studio every day commenting about my painting, I got ten people telling me how to finish the paintings and what to paint and what to leave out. My teachers heavily criticized me, especially the painting teachers; they wanted me to universalize my work, to make it less specific, to thin the paint. Even while setting up the show it was hell; although I worked in a secluded area. I kept getting visitors, uninvited colleagues of mine, who had to see what I was doing; telling me “Take down this painting” “Don’t paint like this” ”This one is too much.” I just had to tell them “Please, I need my space. Leave me alone. Good-bye.” At first I rolled up all the paintings and put them away. I phoned my parents in Israel and I said “I have lost myself, I think I am going mad. I don’t know what to do.” My father had to take the phone and literally yell at me “PUT YOUR PAINTINGS BACK ON THE WALL! Do what you planned! Where is Noam? You have had this show in your head for a year now! You know what to do – Do it!” But again it was a question of combating all these people and I asked my friends if they got the same kind of nosing around and they said that nobody came to their studio to interfere. How is it that I attract so much attention before the work is even born?

Because you break conventions and you do your own thing.

Yeah, so it is very hard to always be very strong, but I try to do it, and to have a lot of courage and faith. It is not that I am doing the right thing; I am doing the only thing I can do. There is no other way I can do my work. I cannot think about what will happen and who will see it and what will they think? I can only do what my heart says, because if I lie; I cannot lie. The work will not let me lie. I think it is beyond me, really; beyond me as a person and as an artist.

Photo: Dr Andrew Renton, Head of MA curating at Goldsmiths and Noam Edry, Anna Stephens, All rights reserved

_____________________________________________________________

[More on Noam Edry]

_____________________________________________________________

Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

A mind-blowing Goldsmiths’ MFA Graduate Show 2011

 

What has Noam Edry, a female Israeli artist, born in Haifa, raised in up Kibbutz and newly graduated from Goldsmiths University in London (MFA) in common with Steven Cohen, a South African Jewish homosexual performance artist? They both make ground-breaking art with an explosive expression derived from and based upon an overwhelming life experience. Their art somehow articulates the difficulty (to the verge of impossibility) to be a human being stretched between cultures, religions, ideologies and countries.

After having spent three months in an army mental asylum when he refused to bear arms in the whites only South African Defense Force, Steven Cohen dedicated the remaining 21 months to secretly studying photographic silk screen techniques at night. Ten years later after “a decade of being hungry and angry and constantly working” (1), Mr. Cohen spent several months bed-ridden in hospital due to several diseases simultaneously. At the end of it, having forcefully experienced the “unexplored palette”(2) of his body, Mr. Cohen made the decision to use his own body as canvas. In a similar manner, although the product is entirely different, does Noam Edry reveal her inside to the audience at Goldsmiths University in London at the MA Graduate show, which can now be seen in the Ben Pimlott Building and Laurie Grove Baths. By the use of documentary video mixed with contemporary sonic and visual art, Edry manages to bring reality further, into a realm of extreme realism.

The experience started at the entrance, where the hired security guard insisted on checking our bags and I, not realizing what was ahead of me, jokingly said that my bag was indeed full of bombs. In the first section we were offered a relaxing massage by a professional, a woman was laying down receiving what looked to be a very comfortable treatment. Already at this stage it was a puzzling experience and I proceeded to the “Groovy Little War Mix”; a Video installation screened on a tiny TV, a relic from only 15 years back. The soundtrack was indeed a groovy little mix and the video footage presented documented war scenes, scratching back and forth like a hardcore edited cool music video. The original sound had been mixed in with the music, which filled the big space with a surreal mixture of war and fun. My gaze wandered back to the relaxing corner next to the entrance of the room before I proceeded further into this impossible scenery, making my way through the crowd. I had to carefully watch my step to not slip on a piece of junk that had been spread across the room as a part of the installation.

 

Video peek of Noam Edry’s installation ‘Groovy little war mix’

Noam Edry works with all mediums at once; big paintings, drawings, video, sound, sculpture and performance; all continuously flowing throughout the exhibition and sort of joined together into one big installation and on top of it all we were given a performance piece by Edry that I will never forget. In a beautiful white suit, elegant high heels and wild long curly hair, Edry confidently entered the exhibition room. As she reached the middle of room, Edry informed a crowd that they were in fact standing in a hole. Pointing at 4 marks on the floor, she explained that inside the marks there was nothing but a hole. The crowd emptied the area and we were all asked to take one minute to visualize a hole, while staring at the space on the floor. We did. Just as I was about to reach the acceptance of an invisible hole, a panicked woman ran in to the room screaming her heart out, screaming and screaming and finally throwing herself down on the floor and disappearing into a sculpture, which to me at that point looked like a pile of mud or perhaps a dirty blanket, where she was hiding away from that which she was running from.

Video: Performance at the opening night

 

    

 

I walked out in silence and I can still feel my heart beat just a bit heavier. Thereason for me to draw a parallel to the performance artist Steven Cohen is to highlight how art is able to communicate life stories, tragic and heroic all at once. It can be fun, funky, bizarre, heart-tearing and amusing at the same instant. It is real life bubbling up to the surface, revealed by artists with great courage. We will certainly be seeing more of Edry, a fresh young British artist graduating from the same University as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas amongst others.

        

Event Information (3)
Location: Goldsmiths University: Ben Pimlott Building, Laurie Grove Baths
Cost: Free

Times:
 14 July 2011, 18:00 – 21:00
 15 July 2011, 10:00 – 19:00
 16 July 2011, 10:00 – 19:00
 17 July 2011, 10:00 – 16:00
 18 July 2011, 10:00 – 19:00

1. ‘Interviews’ by Gerald Matt, Director at Kunsthalle Wien, Published 2007, Interview with Steven Cohen
2. ‘Interviews’ by Gerald Matt, Director at Kunsthalle Wien, Published 2007, Interview with Steven Cohen
3. Goldsmiths University website: www.gold.ac.uk

 

__________________________________________

[More on Noam Edry]

__________________________________________

Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011