The recent Fresh Paint art fair showcased a host of independent artists in what is titled the Artists Greenhouse. Despite, or maybe because of, the fact that Fresh Paint is the biggest art fair of the year in Israel, it is quite easy for an artists work to go unnoticed, to blend in with literally hundreds of other works. One of the artists in the “Greenhouse” who stood out for me was the work of Vered Aharonovitch, an artist who has made the transition from painter to sculptor.
Aharonovitch’ new work is peopled with intense and ‘prickly’ children, who are at one moment angry and defensive and the next, giving and submissive. The forms are striking because of the strong physical poses adopted by the characters – children with their head down, fists clenched, ready for battle. Bodies contort in unnatural and painfully protective positions. These are characters we see or have seen in the street or the school-yard. Which of us has not witnessed or taken part in a scene when a child coming under threat of attack, immediately assumes similarly defensive gestures, becomes on their guard, makes ready for the onslaught.
An awareness of the body permeates Aharonovitch’ work; and this is echoed in her pure enjoyment of the physical act of sculpting. On a visit with the artist to the foundry where her pieces are cast, Aharonovitch’ sense of ease with the materials and processes involved in casting, was plain to see. Foundry’s are workmanlike places, involving working with harsh materials and furnaces; you need a certain ‘grittiness’ for this sort of environment, and it became apparent that Aharonovitch had it in spades from the respect and warmth shown her by male co-workers almost twice her size.
Aharonovitch’ sculptures are occasionally reminiscent of strange old-world curios and what the ‘modernists’ referred to as ‘fetishes’, the African and pre-Columbian statues that made their influence felt on art in the early 20th Century. The figure “Anything To Please You” reveals a slightly twisted sense of humour, a figure contorting and offering iced-cakes for our pleasure; the figure is slightly carnivalesque and would not look out of place in an antique shop displaying weird 50’s Americana. There are figures with protective armour, horns and spiky head-dresses. The artist made it clear at her exhibit at Fresh Paint that she wanted the viewer to engage with and touch the sculptures, yet the sharp and spiky armour suggests that you should do so gently.
Despite the demand to be taken ‘seriously’ asked of us by the artist’s characters, we cannot help suppressing a small smile when viewing some of the works. Although we are aware of the apparent threat revealed by the characters’ defensive pose, we have seen this pose so many times in our life, that we recognize in it something profoundly childlike – an almost clichéd expression of anger or dissatisfaction.
Aharonovitch has spent the last two years preparing works for the Fresh Paint exhibit, she is now looking forward to getting started on new work.