Haran Kislev | The Road to El-Burieg

Haran Kislev, Shenkar graduate, is showing his first solo exhibition at Be’eri Gallery, in the kibbutz where he was born and raised and where he is now raising his children. He is deeply connected to the local landscape of his childhood, the trails in the fields and heavily influenced by the regional security situation.

Haran begun painting after completing his military service. His art studies included Hatahana- School for Figurative Drawing, with David Nipo and Ran Tennenbaum. His art degree at Shenkar was combined with studying at Hakolel- Studio for Contemporary Painting, with Ran Tennenbaum and Guy Avital.  Between 2012- 2016 he studied at Shenkar- College of Engineering, Design and Art, with Jonathan Gold, Prof. Larry Abramson, Gilad Efrat, Alma Itzhaky and Etti Abergel.  Haran graduated with honors from Shenkar, winning the Azrieli Foundation Award for Outstanding Students and the Irene Kreitman Excellence Award.

Although he is a young artist at the beginning of his career, Haran developed a personal artistic style: rich oil paintings with heavy impasto, thick layers of color and wide brush strokes, occasionally applying the paint straight from the paint tube.

During his studies Israel launched Operation Protective Edge (the 2014 Israel- Gaza conflict). The accumulation of tension caused by the regional security situation had a significant impact on his work. He ventured out to the border to paint. There he experienced the typical smell of the land, his childhood memories of trips to the fields, places he once found tortoises and anemones. But the familiar scenery was disturbed by the air of urgency and danger. Using pencils, gouache, charcoal, pastel and watercolors he painted agitated paintings. Patches of forests, roads, plots of land and fields, army and agriculture vehicles.

He drew with haste due to military patrols passing by. Lack of time alongside the fear of terrorists or accidently being shot by Israeli forces, made him sketch quickly.  An abstraction emerged from the swift sketching and strong expression emerged from the tense feeling and emotional alarm. He often wrote in his diary while processing the subject,  focusing his thoughts and actions. Later, in the studio, he used the sketches to paint.

Attempts to paint in new locations failed. Therefore, he focused on the series “The Road to El Bureij”. The road to El Bureij begins at the British paved Concrete Road,  passes by the Sulfur Mines, turns  right (west) and slops upwards, until you face the border. There is a consistent element of surprise following the upward sloping road to the blocked dead-end at the border. Near the road stands an old x shaped fig tree and a hedgerow of prickly pear cactuses that once served as a fence. The landscape is shared on both sides of the border.

Later, he will bring his grandmother Hasida, one of the elders of Kibbutz Be’eri. He sat her on a chair in that exact place and painted her. In his last paintings the figure and landscape share colors to the point where the figure disappears. The more faded the figure of his grandmother, the longer the name of the painting: “Grandmother, Irish Bridge and Military Patrol on the Road to El Bureij”. In his last painting “Earth and Mud” the point of view shifts as the sky disappears, the brown paint transforms into a sculpted mass, simulating the muddy brown earth of the disputed territory.

The term “border” in Haran’s work refers simultaneously to a specific place and a passageway between here and there, ours and theirs, then and now, calm and tense, safety and danger. The border charges the landscape as El Bureij, the refugee camp across the border, haunts the artist.

His work is Influenced by Frank Auerbach and The School of London as well as Chaim Soutine and the Jewish School of Paris. In particular, Frank Auerbach’s series “To the Studio” and his devoted persistency, repeatedly painting one road.

It is exciting to see such a young artist inspired by abstract expressionism, working with oil paint and  heavy brush strokes, between figurative and abstract, combining old school and contemporary,  searching for his way and a place in the field of contemporary art.

ד"ר זיוה ילין


More images from the exhibition