Fertility and Vegetativeness

Belle Shafir was born in Germany, and immigrated to Israel in 1972. Following art studies, she began showing her work in one-person and group exhibitions in Israel and abroad. In the early 1990s she mainly sculpted from natural materials, and installed large-scale environmental works in which she developed a technique and a language of her own, which oscillated between the crude and the man-made, between nature and culture. In these works and in accompanying drawings and paintings Shafir scrutinized the inner structural logic of natural formations, developing her own imagery and even her own technique for treating her materials.

In the ensuing years, during the 2000s, her works grew more introspective, with the emphasis shifting to interior installations in which the physical and the imaginary are intertwined almost inseparably. Tiny units are meshed together to form intricate complexes in a manner reminiscent of molecular units comprising the depth structures of patterned systems in nature and science alike. The enclaves of life echoing in her work allude to hidden processes secretly shaping reality worlds which lie between the poles of integration and disorientation, growth and destruction, construction and desistance.

Shafir explores the traces of memory imprinted in nature vestiges as well as in cultural codes, tracing the complex affinity systems between script, language, and identity, both private and collective. In recent years, current dimensions pertaining to mutation, genetics, and cloning have begun to infiltrate her work. Shafir addresses their existential, ethical, and metaphorical meanings, delving into their implications in contexts of self-identity undergoing change.

In her exhibition at the Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Shafir presents delicately crafted weaves of hair. Like cobwebs, the ultra-thin hairs are tied to one another, extending according to their own inner logic from a focal point of growth. Their ends touch the bare white wall, clinging to it and marking a fragile existential space both corporeal and incorporeal, in-between masculine and feminine, between body and nature, on the one hand, and apparatuses of craft and production, science and art, on the other. In the midst of all these, to borrow from H.N. Bialik’s words (in his 1915 essay “Revealment and Concealment in Language”), something looms, and they appear to embody “the rising up of the void” itself. In the depths of the rational appearance of Shafir’s configurations, they “overflow and sweep us off in the irresistible multitude of their waves.”*

Belle Shafir

Fertility and Vegetativeness

Curator: Galia Bar Or

January-April 2011