Silvia Conta: What group of works is presented in this exhibition? What trajectory informs the works in the gallery space?
Lihi Turjeman: For the exhibition at Quartz Studio, I created a painting installation defined by attraction to the archaic, a desire marking a break with the culture of the present. One of the ‘protagonists’ of this installation is the basic clay pot. We humans have been making them since the dawn of civilization. They are tools, vessels intended for a clear function, but at the same time they are full of mythology and, in this case, they are fictitious. Earthen Pots (2020) and Holding Pattern (2020) depict a multitude of empty clay amphorae gathered together on a black backdrop. Some of the pots are boldly painted, starkly distinguished against the canvas, while others are darker, obscured, or else yet to be defined. The pots, arranged in a way that recalls choreographed human bodies, hint at the possibilities of another kind of gaze. A central piece in the show is inspired by a 4,000-year-old “pensive” figurine (from the Canaanite period/bronze age) that was discovered atop a pottery vessel buried in the earth of Israel/Palestine. This ungendered “thinker” sculpture design is unusual. It was discovered in the grave of a Canaanite warrior. History shows that warriors were often buried with figurines, which functioned as spiritual guides to the dead, along with other pottery objects, such as weapons and animal bones. Turjeman created a larger version of that guiding figurine, its eyes open wide and empty, as it is seeking to unearth a present moment that has yet to be (re)visited. The black canvases are another dominant entity in the show. The black ready-made surface is the only point of spatial reference, but it is also a negation that is also in the title of this project, Unearth. Is the negation a negation of place, a negation of nature, a negation of matter? I am not interested in the existential presence of the object in the world but in what the object contains; not the material content but the abstract one. The surface color creates spaces within the object, and these are the spaces that create depth and refer to what ‘lies within the object’, as things are hidden within words. The notion of archeology here, for me, is not one that deals with lifeless historical objects, but one that moves in space and happens to pop up / appear as a container. It exists within the vase or its ‘image’, a movement that is abstracted from its materiality. This is how I use archeology to move away from it, seeking hidden knowledge, touching those places in our present that we cannot experience or grasp.
SC: What group of works is presented in this exhibition? What trajectory informs the works in the gallery space?
LT: Driven by personal motivations that often mirror that of humanity, I create from a specific locality, be it cultural, historic, geographic, or mythologic. Working with various materials, pigments, plaster, ‘chemistry’, I invent my own technology. While each cycle of work is centered around a physical and imagined space, with all of its forms and meanings. I reimagine the limits of representation, while continually folding complex narratives into her paintings. My affinity with the past is key to understanding my works. One of my most prominent projects was my four-year stay in an old house that was set to be demolished on Brenner Street in Tel Aviv. The works I created in this intense period became a milestone in her work, distilling a powerful essence that she went on to further develop. By scraping, peeling and treating layers of the old plaster of the house, the local history was revealed through which I merged into the house, into its layers. The history of an old house in Tel Aviv fit with her dimensions as if I had dug into my recent past, in the years of my nuclear family’s life. This drew me to continue searching, even if only ideologically, in the strata of people and culture and to discover the fascinating connection between a human being and a place. In the way that I paint, I occupies territories using canvases and covering floors and walls of exhibition spaces, deriving a political reference to land. I’m concerned with borders, physical, personal or universal, relations and forces. Defining a territorial relationship is necessarily a political action.