TEL AVIV - Nir Hod’s first museum exhibition opened this week at the Tel Aviv Museum where a collection of his works pays tribute to the beauty of sorrow.
Hod first entered the Israeli art scene at the beginning of the 1990’s when he immediately attracted widespread recognition due to his provocative art. What was viewed as his narcissistic personality, his glorification of beauty, and his yearning for public recognition soon turned him into a local cult hero.
His works are hung in what seems like a sterile temple with high ceilings. A single painting hangs on each wall.
Under the title, “Forever,” Hod exhibits a minimalist exhibition of nine paintings that abound with the beauty of sadness. Hod seeks to touch us while plucking at the strings of emotion by means of clinging and hurting simultaneously.
Hod’s foundations have remained the same – youthfulness, love and death. A soldier lying on his back, a soldier girl surrounded by giant flowers, a mother and child, a young girl kissing a young boy’s forehead – in each painting the eyes of the characters are closed, unclear whether they are sleeping or dead.
A beautiful child-woman lying on her side is the only character whose eyes are open, but her expression is one of sorrow. There is a painting with dead butterflies on a white sheet, and a giant bouquet of flowers, which is automatically associated with memorial services and commemoration.
Hod’s paintings lack irony and cynicism. Even defiance, a tool widely used by young and defiant artists has dissipated.
'He's an image-maker'
Tami Katz-Freiman, the curator of the exhibition and the person who has accompanied Hod’s work since 1993 says the exhibition is the peak of Hod’s career so far.
“The works were selected very carefully,” she says as she describes the process Hod goes through, calling him an “image-maker.”
“At first Hod stages a scene and photographs it with a team that
Afterwards, she says, he digitally manipulates the image and builds the composition of the painting.
In the last phase he enlarges the image and paints it on the canvas in one of two ways, either by projecting the image onto the canvass or by using the grid technique.
When the painting is completed, he goes on to the polishing and finishing touches.
Hod says this is the most spiritual part of the work.
All that is beautiful
The accurate brushstrokes and unique color pallet in Hod’s paintings evoke a somewhat ‘polished’ feel, and the sorrow is interpreted into pain submerged in beauty.
Hod creates an eternal drama in his universal work “Forever”. His handsome dead heroes breath passion as they bear a saccharine expression on their faces. It’s difficult to comprehend how such sorrow dissolves into beauty, but it works.
“My work deals with the vision of life, death and beauty," Hod says. “ In fact it glorifies emotion.”
Ynet's Yael Omer talked to Hod about his work:
What is beautiful in your eyes?
My work is built completely by awareness. I knew from the start that I would go through a cycle. I will mature eventually. Putting myself at the center evolved from an awareness that has nothing to do with ego or exposure. My art life is very different from my private life. It is impressive, larger than life, something that is destined to change. It’s convenient for me to depict myself in the images as a sort of hero I invented myself, but it’s not really me.
Were you ever hurt by this presence?
People say you have to take advantage of your talent – I believe your talent should take advantage of you, and when that happens it takes you to center stage. I don’t feel I am paying a price by putting myself at the center of my artwork.
What are your sources of inspiration?
My source of inspiration changes. Sometimes it is stronger and sometimes it evaporates, just like in life. The sources are dynamic and surprising. New York made me much more universal. My childhood in Tel Aviv is my primary source, I am still a child. The word “Forever” imbues a teenage naivety, they think they will love and live forever. In fact it’s a European word with a very deep meaning. It also has something tragic and religious. I keep creating encounters between the boy and the mature man. The boy argues over whether he can live his life this way. I think life is wonderful. Life is wonderful if you are a wonderful person.
Opens Thursday 3 March 2005 for Museum Members and Patrons
Open to the general public from 4 March
Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Sculpture Gallery