Lantana (1), 2006, oil on canvas, 135X135 cm
Tova Lotan - Lantana
Tova Lotan is drawing fences in Tel Aviv. Her works depict urban night views and make us focus our gaze on the Lantana bush - a maze of green foliage screens and colorful bloom - spreading before our eyes in a series of oil paintings in various sizes, from large panoramic views to small objects, known as 'dark boxes'.
Lantana hedges has a narrative as well as a psychological value; they're part of our daily lives, of the old neighborhood we grew up on. They separate public from private, inside from outside. The Lantana bush, often referred to as the 'Urban Sabra cactus' ('Prickly Pear'), is a common plant. It is a prickly survivor, but unlike the Sabra cactus, it's entangled; gathering darkness. Its ravishing blooms are full of color, yet crumble at the lightest touch of a hand, gone forever.
Lotan's paintings follow the intense and colorful embroidery of this bush in great detail, but this polychromatic opulence does not create a warm, relaxed, impressionist feeling. On the contrary - the thicket images reflecting from the gallery walls create a distressing tension. The viewer's eye bump into a compulsive inventory of the fences' components, sending us on an inside logic quest, attempting to overcome the intimidating chaos. The dark boxes isolate the foundation stones, the primary components of the entire maze. Allegedly they supply the code with which the viewer attempts, in vain, to crack the grid, find his way and overcome the anxiety of the maze.
The gaze follows the lines of growth, drawn from the flecks of color to
the enclaves of darkness. As the eye adjust to the darkness we discover the
substance in the gaps between the words, in the silence, in the void.
Darkness erases segments of the painting, disrupting its wholeness - but while doing so it enables a potential of an unproved reality. In some of the works the canvas is even perforated, exposing an actual dark space.
The image of darkness opens a channel of fantasy and desire before the viewer's eyes.
However, it creates defamiliarization, proving once again the artificiality of painting, bringing the narrative back to its place - merely a decoration hanging on the wall, a colorful backdrop to life. Perhaps like the Lantana bush, scattered on the streets.