Talia Israeli | And All The Paintings Will Not Cover

Talia Israeli opens the 2023 season at Be’eri Gallery with her exhibition, “And all the paintings will not cover”, which follows up on the one she presented at the Maya Gallery last November. She continues her engagement with the Israeli landscape, which she draws from historical sources. Israeli collects old reproductions from pre-internet local guidebooks ─ their yellowing paper printed black ─ and travel guides displaying the geography of Israel and teaching about it. These books could be found in every Israeli home when the travel culture coincided with the Zionist concepts of loving the land, knowing it by walking it, and conquering it.

The places she painted do not represent concrete places. They lack the details and become ubiquitous, a concept of a flattened, printed landscape, and, in Israel’s case, spray-painted through paper-cutting. The unique technique she developed involves the arduous, manual work of copying parts of the reproduction, cutting, and spray-painting, layer upon layer, with pencil drawing additions. This creates a flat, scenic image of mountains, roads, lakes, vegetation, and buildings, styled as a backdrop, where her method of spraying through the paper-cutting leaves a strip of halo between the sprayed surfaces, from which the surface emerges and betrays the low-tech, cumbersome, manual technique. This precisely gives the works their meaning.

Talia works on found wood panels and sometimes directly on the gallery wall. The old, used wooden surfaces are joined with the landscape, the reproduction, and the book whose pages are yellowing. Sometimes she sprays a pink background reminiscent of the original paper that has changed color, creating a refreshing diversion from the original. The flattening industrial spray, with the random textures it produces, which are hard to control, brings a new pictorial language. The anonymous landscapes become silhouettes of themselves, and the more specific they are, the more alien and distant. Using spray-paint strips away the artist’s personal touch, the color-laying style, and the pictorial virtuosity. It creates a more graphic character that is distant and almost schematic and, at the same time, magical, timeless, and touching. Perhaps because it reminds us of old-fashioned illustrations from another time. The act of spraying, preceded by the making of a cardboard cutout, creates surfaces that have a uniformity that lacks perspective and is like a theater set. The flattened landscape lacks time and story, with no characters moving around it, still and frozen. She makes do with the place, which is also “any place,” and forgoes the personal and mythologic story. She moves from figurative to abstraction and makes do with the black-white-gray monochrome through which blue and pink sometimes emerge. The spray remembers the paper-cutting through which it passed, the picturesque collage, and resonates within it, regardless of the flat outcome.

In the center of the Be’eri gallery space, there’s a niche where Talia Israeli spray-painted a site-specifically planned piece directly on its wall. She created small spray paintings directly on two additional walls of the gallery. The beauty of these paintings is in the walls’ materialism, the texture that forms on them, and their clean whiteness emerging through its parts, which have a different character than the wooden panel surface. Painting on walls isn’t something new for Israeli. She created several during her studies at Bezalel and is now returning again to the wall. A delicate relationship is established between the wood and wall paintings, between the slightly protruding object and the basic, frameless surface that appears to emerge and float out of the plaster.

In her exhibition, Talia Israeli references the Israeli landscape through the travel guides genre. She deals with pictorial questions, with the painting masquerading as an old printed reproduction. And she succeeds in taking us with her into another world, one which we have already forgotten.

Dr. Ziva Jelin

More images from the exhibition