Jonathan Hirschfeld, Review of “Façade”, Erev Rav, 14/11/2016
translated by Nogah Davidson
The text by Gideon Ofrat that accompanies “Façade”, an exhibition by Osnat Yaheli- Sarbagili at Rosenbach Contemporary in Jerusalem, opens with a quote I said to him several years ago, that she is “the best painter in the country”. Years have passed and my opinion is firm, even if today I would not use the same rating terminology, I would still say that there are very few painters that share her ability to create such a hermetic world so precisely consolidated in terms of its dialectics and content. Sarbgili’s painting is an X-Ray of the Israeli soul, of its pains, its barrenness, its pretentions and its greatness. She achieves it with poetic intensity and painful emotional detachment. At first glance her paintings seem “realistic”, as if crafted from a tradition that glorifies the virtuoso of the eye, however a closer look reveals not only their daring Modernism, with their bitter affiliation to American Abstract (the fantastic “marble” surfaces were created with Jackson Pollock style splatters) and to Pop-Art (the vacant halls provide the paintings with a quality reminiscent of Ed Ruscha or David Hockney, a world so plastic, it returns to reality from the other direction), but also and primarily -it reveals their Israeli character. They are Israeli in their sense of improvisation and inventiveness, which is also the capacity to pose as a make-believe “America”, but doing so with a nonchalant wink, as all the reflections and shiny surfaces are not the result of painstaking effort with a 0-sized paintbrush, but of technical painting inventions and creative brilliance, working with acrylic under oil, scratched surfaces, splashes of paint and glaze materials. It is only on this foundation that she commences with her scrupulous craftsmanship to create the finished look. The result is a plastic world, vacant, shiny and sterile. Like a bank lobby or office building foyer. Marble and more marble. The world as a series of gravestones. Heidegger’s famous saying about Van Gogh’s farmer shoes (that apparently were not farmer’s shoes but the painter’s shoes, but so be it), that their sheer usefulness is what gives them life, becomes even more powerful in light of the fact that these vacant halls are indeed utilized to manage obedient masses through their exuding fake luxury. The paintings display the Nouveau riche Israeli aesthetics, the tendency to fake and copy models of luxury from imagined sources while ravaging them beyond recognition in the process. The strength of these paintings lies in their exposure. Tricks. A set of creative skills, inventions, improvisations. Crops that construct compositions originating in photography, but of the sort that “work” so well that they look like a simulacrum of a certain place: a copy with no original. And that is after the captured original was already exposed as a simulacrum in itself. Hence this is in fact a meta- space model of all the uniform places of the sort. As a polished – glass like surface, it reflects our selves like a mirror, or rather like a gleaming gravestone from which we gaze upon our own reflection.