Past Exhibitions

Jonathan Goldman: L.A.N.D

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

Jonathan Goldman: L.A.N.D
In his first museum solo exhibition, Jonathan Goldman works as an alchemist. He distills his imagery, extracting its essence and infusing it with new life via a multi-disciplinary practice which prods all the senses and flows from one medium to another: from oil paintings on wood, through wall installation, to a mesmerizing installation in a dark space.
The image of floating mountains first emerged in Goldman’s paintings as a primordial landscape, both imaginary and real, in 2013. In one of these, the image of a mountain is outlined in green and turquoise hues against a white background, whereas in another—the mountain is the bare wooden surface itself, surrounded by ocean-blue color. This reversal between image and background enables the viewer to observe the mountain as if it were either present or absent, and in so doing explore his changing mode of observation.
Observation of Goldman’s paintings of floating, weightless mountains calls to mind mountain images in Chinese painting, which seem to hover in mid-air. The Chinese term for landscape painting, san-sui, literally denotes mountain and water. This painting style represents the essence of things, and does not purport to describe the visible landscape as is. The mountain, which symbolizes stability, is a complementary antithesis to the water, which stands for the principle of flux. In Chinese philosophy, the phenomenological world presents us with binary oppositions, dichotomies which engender each other, complement one another, forming a single holistic unity, Oneness. Goldman’s works repeatedly address the random nature of the line between solid and liquid, between mountain and sea, in diverse techniques: drawing, painting, and sculpture, as well as installation containing lighting elements and the sound of water, which are mutually responsive. They all come together in the space to form a single conceptual and visual whole.
Goldman recorded the cyclic movement of the sea sounds. He enlarged and printed the recording, and built thereon an undulating form reminiscent of a mountainous landscape from wooden sticks of varying lengths. A continuity is thus created between sound as a vibration in space, and form and matter as the consolidation of the same energy. The undulation continues to evolve in the viewer’s gaze as well.
I was fascinated by the sound of the sea as a documentation of the water that cuts into the ground and ceaselessly generates an arbitrary border. This is, in fact, the only physical border that sets continents apart, a constantly changing border. The work, which extends along the wall, is the soundtrack of this sound of the sea, which generates the shape of the mountain. It is made of wood, of scraps, which I find and cut with a saw at varying lengths according to the wavelength of the sound.*

The installation he created for the current show includes a laboratory in which he grows tiny floating mountains in glass jars inside green-turquoise liquid. “The sounds illuminate the mountains from within; the lighting responds to the sound of the sea, repetitious sounds of nature. The simple acts, such as dripping or knocking, are, in fact, cyclic acts which illuminate the mountains and ‘make them grow’ as it were, until one day they may become continents themselves.”
The turn of the 21st century saw many apocalyptic scenarios, whose repercussions echoed in the art world as well. Global existential concerns were introduced into the public agenda. Our global village realized the extent of its helplessness vis-à-vis the dangers lurking within and without. On the one hand, natural forces—hurricanes and typhoons, tsunamis and forest fires, and on the other hand—cutting edge technologies that led to the development of weapons of mass destruction, the dummy that rose against its maker. Goldman regards art as research grounds for relationships in reality, proposing an alternative underlain by optimism and naïveté, a natural habitat for new continents.
In many respects, the laboratory has been Goldman’s natural setting from early childhood due to his mother’s work in biological and ecological research. In his Shenkar graduation project he created an MDMA (Ecstasy) lab as an art object. During the work process he discovered the sound produced by the lab, and gave the drippings a visual dimension by means of light sensors. The laboratory is, for him, a space of experimentation and creation which enables him to take an active part in processes of transformation. In the lab he explores relationships between different objects which respond to one another in a controlled manner, much like natural biological systems.
The current installation elicits thoughts about evolution—the development of life on earth and its feasibility in the future. It is a twilight zone where the line between art and science fiction blurs.
My interest in evolution may have led me to the idea of a habitat for continents at laboratory conditions. We have a long history, teeming with traumas we have experienced on earth, and here is a scientist who ‘grows’ little mountain embryos, that will develop, hover, and become new continents. A life will emerge there, and a new evolution will begin. The question is, what kind of evolution will take place on each of them? It is a very naïve thought that stemmed from the works, which incarnated into one another. The images that inspired me were the natural habitats of algae whose turquoise hues are generated by the color of the seaweed growing in the water. You cannot ignore the fact that alga is the first life form here. It produced the oxygen which transformed the atmosphere and made life on this floating mountain possible.

The idea of the beginning of life and its evolution in water, and of the importance of a tiny organism such as an alga to the evolution of life on earth again introduces the question regarding man’s function in the ecosystem. In Goldman’s installation, the human figure is absent, and not without reason. Mankind has lived a relatively short span in the history of the planet, yet developed an impressive ability to exterminate his surroundings swiftly. Goldman’s installation contains a cyclicality which articulates the power of life to be regenerated, like an optimistic promise for a new beginning. “Other than the possibility that planet earth will explode right now, any apocalypse will mainly do harm to mankind; it may hurt the life forms around us too, but the earth and nature will make a quick recovery.”
Goldman’s work seems to address the encounter between end and beginning. It ostensibly occurs outside time, but in effect, the principle of constant change is vital to it. Intrinsic evolution takes place between the exhibited works, which spawned each other in diverse, mutually corresponding media. The pulsation of life is particularly discernible in the installation where the sounds affect the intensity of the lighting, and are affected, in turn, by the voices of the audience in the space:
One of the things missing in visual art is the dimension of time. When you create a sculpture or a painting in the studio, you perform an act on the material which concludes before the work is exhibited. There is no effect of performance, of something which constantly evolves and happens. This led me to create an installation in which what the viewer hears and sees transforms. Once you enter it, something unique happens in the present, which constantly changes, and the relationship continues to evolve.

Alongside the experience of the present moment, Goldman’s installation conveys a sense of indefinite time, required for the evolution of continents and seas.

* All the quotes were extracted from a conversation with the artist, January 2014.