Paper Work | Liat Livni and Sally Krysztal-Kramberg

The Heder Gallery, Tel-Aviv, September - October 2010

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The Figure of the Artist as Antihero

A large scale work on paper by Liat Livni (b. 1979) generates a magical image of an imaginary seaside fishermen village and a lighthouse towering over a sinking ship. That piece is made of 40 layers of white paper glued one on top of another, and of an internal light fixture, exposing the material’s transparency. The lighthouse is quoted in Livni’s piece as a monument of heroic and nostalgic past. Its traditional role (up to the invention of modern navigation apparatuses) was to help ships approaching the coast at night time to safely find their way into harbor.

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In this piece Livni depicts the failing, disappointing lighthouse, facing a large ship sinking into the abyss. The light in Livni’s work is a seemingly romantic light, echoing the lighthouse’s salvaging light. Yet it is also what exposes that light as a broken reed.

The image of the lighthouse intrigues Livni beyond its historic and formalist aspect. For her it also functions as metaphor for a wishful notion of the artist’s role as the person illuminating the way, like the figure of the philosopher or the prophet. The analogy conveys a heroic, fantastic and grandiose perception of the artist’s figure as a source of emanating light or a savior. In light of this, the failure portrayed in her piece gains tragic and touching significance.

In the course of her work on the image Livni explored the long history of lighthouses. The figure of the lighthouse keepers appearing in texts and historical documents of the 18th and 19th centuries intrigued her, while she was particularly fascinated with the rare figures of women appointed to these roles, sometimes as replacements of a deceased spouse or father. These women’s occupational choice was unusual and demanded great courage due to the remote locations of lighthouses and the dangers involved in steadfastly executing the role: the lighthouse keeper was expected to go into stormy sea in order to offer help to survivors of sinking ships.

The paper cutouts of Sally Krysztal Kramberg (b. 1970) are self portraits in the shape of three familiar “types” from the commedia dell’arte.  With these images  Krysztal Kramberg addresses her internal conflicts and displays her multiplicity, while she raises questions concerning the artist’s status, whims, vulnerability, wretchedness and eternal yearning for love. What does the folksy 16th century commedia dell’arte clown have to do with the contemporary artist? And what does the artist’s professional facade (in the shape of the clown wishing to entertain) have to do with the degree of authenticity evident in his art? In this series of works, much like in her previous pieces, Krysztal Kramber draws on artistic traditions with history and legacy in European culture. In this case the inspiration for the techniques (as well as the narrative context) came from the traditions of the commedia dell’arte, the circus and the art of paper cutouts. It is fascinating to observe how the process of creating the paper cutouts generates an opposite process, in which the very act of cutting and removing material is what bestows the figures with their concrete personality attributes, essential for their identification. Thus, although they are displayed as silhouettes, it is easy to discern the fine details creating the stereotypes of the clowns’ characters. Contrary to the delicacy required for working with paper, the action of cutting with a knife is an act of violent nature. Thus the work on a self-portrait turns into a painful, complex and emotional process. “Eventually, I have before me an intricate cutout, in which I almost disappear. So I found myself trapped inside a delicate ethereal paper image”.

The works of Sally Krysztal Kramberg and Liat Livni create an affinity between the loneliness of the lighthouse keeper and the loneliness of the clown, while they hint at the feelings of the artist himself in his professional choice. In their meticulous, reserved practices, both indirectly broach the notion of the artist’s mission, pointing at the social role he undertakes…

נייר עבודה | סלי קירסטל-קרמברג וליאת לבני, דמותו של האמן כאנטי גיבור, גלריה החדר, ספטמבר - אוקטובר 2010