Artists exhibiting: Vered Aharonovich, Igor Skaletsky, Julie Filipenko and Costa Magarakis
Can art serve as an amulet? Can it protect those coming in contact with it? Can it shelter them from the world around them? These are but some of the questions raised by the works that feature in Other Saints, an exhibition by four artists marked by a coded, defined inner world.
Vered Aharonovitch presents allegorical self-portraits that invoke the stories of female martyrs who had their sensory and pleasure organs removed by particularly fiendish ways. The breasts of Saint Agatha were cut off after she rejected the advances of the powerful Roman Perfect, while Saint Lucia gouged both her beautiful eyes so that her suitor let her love and devote herself, body and soul, to her God. Aharonovitch places herself and her alter ego, a girl of the same age as some of Christianity’s renowned female martyrs, at the focus of her format. Put within a golden frame, as is the costume with the martyr pendants worn by believers, the artist presents us with a pair of eyes – a tool without which she cannot create. She renders the plaits of a praying wax girl figure in candles, lit for prayer in Christianity and Judaism alike; her faith shall eventually consume her.
The young figures of Julie Filipenko are painfully beautiful and by no means saints. Filipenko grew up in a very religious household, where the scriptures set the law and morals. A pronounced outline sets right from wrong. In her paintings, this outline seeks to stretch fine and exquisite, yet unequivocal. The girls mainly interact with seemingly dead animals. This interaction produces cat ears in some of them – an animal invested in the ancient world with virtues and powers pertaining to the living and dead; a pet with its origins in a family of deadly predators. Elaborate scrutiny of the innocuous figures, couched in softness and saccharine, raises questions of legitimate and otherwise, normal and deviant. For Filipenko, the figures represent a sentiment, just like the stone details at the entrances of European churches, where female figures stand for arts and sciences, like music and mathematics, alongside sinners and denounced values. One innocent figure kisses a skeleton, just like Luxuria – the feminine figures that stands for lust, holding the devil’s hand.
Costa Magarakis’ works comprise the “profane” materials he finds in Tel Aviv, where he works, and Bat Yam, his home. A conservator-restorer by profession, Magarakis turns the found materials into molds, whereby they are re-born as sleek sculptures. Greek by origin, Maragakis was raised on the mythological tales that feature shoes of magical powers: Hermes, messenger of the Gods in winged sandals, or Jason, coming to claim the throne in a single sandal, as foreseen by the Delphi oracle. An object painstakingly treated by an artist climbs up the social ladder to acquire artistic halo. In Magarakis’ case, the shoes dramatize little myths. They transform into fantastic vehicles, bizarre lab or a mask. They become an amulet, in a culture where baby shoes are still tied alongside the car’s exhaust pipe and rabbit legs are attached to key rings for good luck.
Igor Skaletsky defies this artistic halo by appropriating renowned masterpieces and welding them together with fashion images and icons – heroes of the culture of consumerism and entertainment. Christian iconography blends with pagan ritual symbols. Eastern traditions permeate pallid European figures; a horse-headed knight holds his sweetheart behind a table laden with assorted still life: pears and grapes alongside a baseball helmet. The Lamb of God in the hands of a red cloaked figure, alongside a Henna paste. A hijab-donning female saint brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade, like a scepter. Violence meets sanctity, magnificence is born out of the intimidating, the daily anxieties disseminated by the global media dovetailing with glorious fantasies. Artists and saints, works of art and amulets, undergo a similar process of canonization. In order to be included in Mass, the church service that mediates faith, the history of the saint-to-be is probed pretty much like that of the artist who wishes to have their works on display in the museum and be inducted into history art books. The present exhibition features the human and holly side by side - the saints who sacrificed their lives for their faith were ordinary people who turned into archetypes and models to emulate. The presenting artist seeks the recognition of viewers and critics, wondering whether they too shall become a saint and be written down in the Golden Legend or whether their name shall be forgotten; what they shall sacrifice along the way, driven by wholehearted faith in their art.