Monologue, 1995-6, oil on canvas, 115X158 cm
Emotion accumulated in Silence
“To extend the Being, to transform it into a vertical (supra-temporal) one, the ordinary must be internalized…. the subjectless must become the unique”.
The beholder of Yossi Mark’s works feels as someone unable to escape his own self. The works- restrained and meticulously done, consisting of the immaculately clean grayish space and a single monumental image, usually occupying the center of the composition, like an exacting icon- are magnetizing. Mark is creating a sacred contemplative space for the beholder, some kind of a temple.
The painting, seemingly, is from here and now. Images of young women conscious of their bodies’ maturity, strong youth, life overflowing with vitality; the seemingly banal appearance of the bathroom. The contemporary signs are recognizable everywhere but then a heavy silence penetrates the painting. Stillness. Seclusion. Serenity. The state of solitude and contemplation depicted in the painted image, gains strength against the emptiness surrounding it. Mark frees the space from details. The primordial space, the framed piece of the infinite- it possesses almost ethereal quality. The poetics of the empty and the raw intensify the metaphysical quality of the painting. The visual energies are concentrated in the essential, in the image, which is frequently found in a meditative state of mind, detached from persistent noise. It is purifying solitude creating a conscious state of inner attentiveness. This is the soul’s journey to the understanding of the self, of the surrounding, the Time, the way of life…
The painting is static. But its static character is only physical. The mental concentration creates motion and movement; thrilling alertness, procrastination, slowly reaching deep levels of consciousness. Mark seeks after being of wholeness lost in the extroverted and madness ridden contemporary culture. “There”, there is a meeting place- refined, essential, ancient, archetypal, and archaic. The referential connection to the regions of the past is not an unintentional return; it is born neither of nostalgic nor of romantic strategies. It is a purposeful and definitive action born out of conviction that precisely those components, so vital and valid, are loaded with primordially human weight.
The commonplace exists. It serves as a point of origin. The image, like the space around it, is free from superfluous elements. Everything is measured, is asking not to overburden the eye. The images exercise heavy physical presence that is not extroverted. The sensuality is not enticing. It is joyless, latent- a possibility only. The clothes are accidentally thrown over the body only as a covering for the flesh; the assumed posture is rigid and restrained. The physical tension exists but is light and only hinted at: stiffness of the nape, wrinkled fabric, disheveled hair, dynamism of the sheets in the bed, stains of red in the bath. Charged existence assumes silent activity. A state of mind rather then activity. The threshold of movement.
This painting is an outcome of prolonged, slow observation; it uses the surface of reality but is not captured in it. The painting aspires to laconism, compresses the Visible, asks to give full attention to what surrounds us, the immediate and the nearest: the light falling on the image, the juncture of the wall and the floor, the reflected image of the clothes-hanger in the mirror, the shadow cast by the washing tube.
The neutralization of the image from the majority of personal, local, and cultural aspects and taking it out of the indifferent amorphous sequence of everyday existence, detach the image, charge it as an icon. The image, its expression and construction in the space make an existential statement. “…the highest densities of meaning lie in the immediate, in the most obviously ‘at hand’.” This is not just a women washing herself, a pregnant woman, a sleeping figure, a youth looking through the window. It is an attempt to sanctify the profane. Ethical and aesthetic activity creates a shift, new relationship between signifier and signified, between classical, archaic, religious formations and those human entities having sculptural presence- monolithic and semi-stoic. An enigmatic encounter, sonorous and purified as in the advent, which transcends place and time.
Schumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Fayyum, Byzantium. Rich cultural space, which is firmly imprinted on the human consciousness. The latent radiation of the past, its anchored presence in the present- lamination of the work in such a sophisticated way allows of a longed-for touch upon fundamental human experiences. Everything is so very distant and yet so very close, as if it has always been there. The atmosphere is saturated with humanity, the deep sorrow, the perished metaphysical light, the beauty, complete tranquility. Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Antonello de Messina, Caravaggio….
The intimate and introspective dialogue pours out of the image and into the surroundings and from there flows into the beholder. The synchronous dialogue: inside outside and inside again- into the beholder’s consciousness. The eye contact is established, the dynamics of “reflecting back”- a meeting of gazes between the beholder and the work of art. The image is a reservoir of feeling and thought, for everything that is impossible to embrace. The silence becomes active. The empty evokes a medieval echo. “Now I behold you as a mirror, in an icon, in a riddle, life eternal…. the secret places of my soul… to behold is to give life”.
The monumentalisation of silence, the severity and the restraint of the image and the background, impose and dictate a focused mood, moderato, accumulating. The power of the painting is in its being an echo chamber of the silence chords- thin, distant clusters of secrets.
Emotion accumulated in silence.
Drorit Gur-Arie is the Chief Curator and Director of the Petach Tikva Museum of Art.