Past Exhibitions

Lihi Turjeman / Afar

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

Slow Realease

The point of departure for Lihi Turjeman’s exhibition “Afar” is a large-scale drawing, observation of a familiar Israeli landscape unfolding before our eyes—the Promised Land. “Afar” (Mineged, literally: standing opposite, from afar) is also the title of a poem by Rachel (Bluwstein Sela), alluding to the biblical scene on Mt. Nebo as the pain of every person yearning for the unattainable: “Yet thou shalt see the land before thee (Heb. mineged); but thou shalt not go thither unto the land” (Deut. 32, 52). The names of the mountains are missing from the sketch intended to mark them on the observation plaque. Thus, like Moses on Mt. Nebo, the viewer cannot “know” them. They remain afar, beyond reach and touch, an unknown realm.
The border as a concept and an image is one of the axes along which the exhibition took shape. A series of small graphite drawings based on photographs of borders (Canaan) served Turjeman to explore concrete borders in Israel up close: barbed-wire fences, trenches, the Separation Wall. Among its other functions, the map is a means of territorial control and definition. The arbitrariness of the border lines on the map, regardless of the terrain in reality, has introduced an intricacy into border disputes. Turjeman’s drawings emphasize the absurdity underlying the border as a human pretension to separate territories and areas of control, while in the terrain itself the areas are not separated, even if we call them by different names.
These drawings continue with a series of five paintings (On the Fine Line), divided into a fixed grid, much like coordinates. Most of them are rendered on a near-abstract background. Turjeman’s work on these canvases begins with “action painting” under the surface as they are turned face down: work with the body and movement of liquid substances, marked by an interplay of arbitrariness and control. When the canvas dries, she turns the work over, observes it, and occasionally introduces fine hints at a familiar reality: a barbed wire fence that crosses the canvas, a golden line marking Israel’s northern border from a bird’s-eye view. The surfaces of the paintings bear stains and scratches. It is not only an arbitrary representation of borders and divided regions, but also a manifestation of the psychic traces of existence in the shadow of an ongoing dispute over land and place.
In contrast, two large-scale works from 2014, from which phosphoric green emanates, propose to get lost in endless imagined realms under a continuous process of expansion and formation. While moving, continents take form, rivers flow into oceans, the hand moves within the space. Worlds dissolve. Some are contained, whole, within themselves; others converge into space, erupting through the coordinates. The real space offers a field of action in which the viewer moves amid excerpts of maps and landscapes intermittently; maps which, in themselves, transform into a landscape, and do not obey the conventional rules of demarcation, or landscapes which spread away from the place to which they belonged, to become a metaphor.
Lihi Turjeman’s paintings shift between perspectives which draw near and away intermittently, between concrete and abstract landscape, between the local borders and a distant overview in which they dissolve and disappear. Her works remind us that it is consciousness that maps the space, creating the world anew for us at every given moment.
Shir Meller Yamaguchi