Israeli artist Ariela Wertheimer will be making her debut on the 13th of May 2017 at Venice Art Biennale with Jaffa Venice Light Boxes. Constantly looking for new materials and techniques, Ariela’s exciting new work is “an optic experience of a visual system”, which “doesn’t allow any room for indifference”.
Al suo debutto alla Biennale di Venezia 2017, l’artista multidisciplinare israeliana Ariela Wertheimer porterà la serie di ritratti Jaffa Venice Light Boxes. L’idea di autosabotaggio e intima prigionia che tiene i personaggi sospesi e immobili nella propria vita è l’ispirazione di partenza. Il largo uso del ferro come materiale compositivo e la combinazione di tecniche quali fotografia, video, pittura e illuminotecnica, fanno di questo progetto un’esperienza ottica di un sistema visivo che “non lascia spazio all’indifferenza”.
Madre di cinque figli, con una carriera medica alle spalle e dodici anni al servizio dell’esercito Israeliano, sposata a uno dei maggiori esponenti dell’industria metallurgica israeliana, Ariela è un’artista singolare e la sua vita del tutto fuori dall’ordinario. In occasione del suo debutto il 13 Maggio a Palazzo Mora, ci facciamo raccontare come la sua evoluzione artistica sia permeata dagli altri aspetti della sua vita e come la collaborazione con la Farkash Gallery abbia accompagnato Ariela a una delle più prestigiose sale espositive internazionali.
Multidisciplinary artist, living and working in the bustling city of Tel Aviv, Ariela Wertheimer uses for her Light Boxes a combination of metal, lighting, photographs, painting and print on plexiglass to create spectacular portraits. Fascinated by the expressive potential of row materials such as iron to reveal the intimate stories of her characters, Ariela Wertheimer is determined to explore the existential prison that seems to keep them stuck. An invitation to embrace the most challenging, mysterious, fragile and unpredictable aspects of our intimacy and to accept its complexity.
A complexity which is also a distinctive feature of Ariela’s life. In fact, she is not only an artist: she studied being an X-Ray technician, and in 1977 she enlisted in the Israeli Armed Forces and served for 12 years. Mother of five children – all of them currently working within the arts – Ariela has been married with businessman Eitan Wertheimer, who changed the face of Israelian industry. As a philanthropist, Ariela has volunteered for the past 14 years in the oncology department at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa.
On the occasion of Ariela’s debut solo exhibition at the Venice Art Biennale, we asked her to tell us more about the multi-faceted challenges of her life, and how she combined her artistic growth with her beliefs, her empathy for the people she met and inspired her portraits, her family environment and her crucial collaboration with the Farkash Gallery.
Your career began on a completely different path – in the medical field and then in Israeli Army service. Yet, since your childhood you have never stopped painting. What role have your work experiences played in your artistic growth? Do they offer different angles from which you can see reality and develop your art?
Ariela Wertheimer: «I began my academic studies before my military service as an X-ray technician and then this became part of my military service. During the time I served, film was still being developed manually. You can clearly see that the prints made on the plexiglass reflect the skeleton of the structures like the human skeleton. During my 60 years I have experienced people in different situations and at the same time experienced myself in different circumstances. I know now that every question has more than one answer, that there are many truths. I know that we sin in our arrogance and haughtiness, that people tell themselves their story and their version changes with time. This is my work, which is made of different layers and can be viewed from any angle and from every distance you can discover something new. Philosophically, the works reveal that each of us has a small or large prison, from past or present stories which encompasses us and holds us captive. And as the iron inside the structures is their strongest frame, this is reflected in the bars of the prison. Once we recognize our problem, we can adopt the “iron”, become stronger, and the bars will form into our strength. We live in a rapidly changing, technological world, a world that exposes us, brings us to social anxieties, and requires us to change and adapt as quickly as the changing trends. A world in which truths are confused between virtual truth, emotional truth and existential truth».
Your debut solo exhibition at the Venice Art Biennale represents a spectacular step in your artistic career. What inspired you to focus on your artistic path and go global? What responses have you had from your work, and what led you to such a prestigious cultural institution?
A.W.: «I am a mother of five children, the youngest son left home and I found that I had more free time on my hands. This was an opportunity for me, after many years, mainly for personal expression. I hosted a small exhibition in my studio and received emotionally powerful reactions from the viewers. People talked about personal empowerment and connection to the works. As a result, I received an offer to exhibit at the Farkash Gallery in Jaffa. Mr. Aharon Farkash loved the works from the moment he saw them. At his initiative and encouragement, an exhibition took place in his gallery that was a great success in terms of sales, along with the reactions he received led him to decide to push me to exhibit at the European Cultural Center in Venice. Since the works are made from special techniques they were received with interest and that’s how I found myself exhibiting in Venice».
How did you develop a partnership with The Farkash Gallery, and what vision do you share with the same?
A.W.: «Mr. Aharon Farkash came to my studio through a mutual friend. When he entered, he stood in front of the works and immediately felt a connection to them. In his words: “When I met Ariella’s works they hit me with their power. I saw my image reflected between the bars, in the air of confinement that closes in on me. That made me think that I was looking in a mirror finally reflecting reality. Bars have always been an image of the reality of incarceration. Sometimes they leave a space to crawl through, to be free and, sometimes, we choose to remain imprisoned in the trapped warmth of our souls. As I looked at the works for a long time, the rays of light from them struck me, and the feeling of discomfort began to dissipate, and I felt a complete sense of relaxation and liberation. Every meeting is an opportunity to learn or teach and, in this case, to learn about ourselves”. These things were said in September 2016. Since then, Aharon Farkash has expanded his activities in the gallery with plenty of new exhibitions, paints himself and presents his works overseas. He got married and is on the way to being a father for the second time. He too, has personally freed himself and begun a new path».
How has your family helped you achieve your artistic goals?
A.W.: «My family has fully supported me along the way. My children, each of them separately, are artists in their own rights and in their professions. They understand the need for intellectual independence and the ability to develop and express themselves. My husband who, for many years, was a very busy man, an industrialist, has recently become more of a family man and has encouraged and supported me and my wishes. All these years, along with my personal work, I protected the family unit, releasing my husband from the chores of raising children, and now it’s my time».
Your debut solo exhibition at Biennale this year is called Jaffa Venice Light Boxes and displays transparent plexiglass plates with iron on them. You explained that these works are representations of stories you heard or saw. Can you describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
A.W.: «In my work I combine my photographs of metal constructions which are printed on transparent plexiglass with LED lighting, and a painted figure in the background. As I mentioned, some of the figures are familiar to me, personally, and some are the stories I met along the way. One of the characters that influenced me appeared in a television piece, and I quoted her story, stating: “She loved him, she didn’t want to lose him. In a moment, she decided to photograph herself on the phone in a video with an erotic tone and sent it to him. So that he could love her. He sold the video to a porn site. Since then she has been hiding behind masks and colours”. The character, not only touched my heart, but it was clear that her actions were done absentmindedly out of faith and need for love. Through this work, I wanted to raise awareness of the predicament of releasing information to the world and understanding that once we do it, we don’t have any more control over it. In my works, I give expression to many issues such as coming out of the closet, battered women, sexual abuse, the relentless desire for thinness, and so forth. Through my works I show that a person has the right to decide how he or she is coping with his or her difficulty, whether to develop and grow and transform the difficulty into strength, embracing the bars, or remain in the same place. Within us is the power to allow ourselves to make a change in the space we have in our lives».
Which other artists do you admire and why?
A.W.: «Artists I love are those who express their personal truth in their works, an idea with depth and a philosophical statement, a breakthrough in thought or a fresh exploit, such as Rothko and Picasso».
As an artist, what role – if any – do you aim to have in society?
A.W.: «As an artist I would be happy to have one single person see my work, stop and choose to think about the process of our life which is so complex and challenging. The mystery, the fact that not everything is clear and predictable and obvious, that the works are made of many layers, each dealing with something else, in the heart and soul. If one person comes out with a sense of acceptance, mutual respect, joy, empowerment, then I will feel that I have been victorious».
What is your dream project?
A.W.: «My dream project…? To succeed every time in creating something new, to have the capability of renewal as an experience every step of the way. I am grateful for the opportunity that I was given to exhibit at the Biennale and from there on, I’ll go with whatever comes my way».
Jaffa Venice Light Boxes
At the Palazzo Mora in the “Personal Structures” area, hosted by the European Cultural Center
Strada Nova, 3659
30121 Venezia, Italy
From May 13, 2017 through November 26, 2017.
Jaffa Venice Light Boxes
by Ariela Wertheimer
curated by Aharon Farkash
In partnership with the Farkash Gallery