Sometimes it’s too easy to lose focus on what we do and why we do it. One way of refocusing for me is to revisit great art I have seen. Usually I can’t actually revisit, but re-reading contemporaneous notes and sketches and catalogues works just as well to conjure up the experience in my mind. So I have decided to make time to regularly reflect on great art which has had an important impact on me, and post my reflections on a weekly basis as part of this blog.
I’m starting with a sculptural installation I visited a year ago in Tel Aviv which I couldn’t get out of my head for days. It was one of those works you want to tell everyone you meet to go and see, because you want to be able to share the experience with people you know for long after. Luckily I visited with my daughter, and another good friend got to see it, so I am able to indulge in happy reminiscence of the experience.
The work was part of an exhibition, Human Nature by Zadok Ben David. Blackfield comprised a huge field of sand planted with 20,000 metal and painted cutouts of defined, specified flowers. It was breathtaking enough to enter the space and catch a glimpse of the panorama of black silhouetted cutouts, but as you worked your way around the perimeter, the whole field was suddenly transformed in a breathtaking manner into a meadow of brilliant colour. From ashes to life.
Some works of art prompt awe for their beauty. Others for their technical skill and meticulous workmanship. Sometimes you are just consumed by the question of “how?” Blackfield triggered every imaginable response. At first sight, it presented for me an oddly baroque quality of grandeur, rich pattern and movement and dramatic tonal contrasts. Others were reminded of the precision and beauty of Northern Renaissance botanical drawings. In fact, the hand painted colours are not scientifically accurate; moreover, some plants are odd crossbreeds; others are purely imaginary. Many grow in different places and climates, but in this field they all flourish together.
The careful layout of the ‘field’ prompted the visitor to walk the perimeter, and this was when the explosion of colour occurred through shifting perspectives of the 2D cutouts, black on one side and brightly painted on the other. Having walked around once, I was consumed by a need to move around again, crouching down, nose almost to the ground, to see from yet another perspective. I carried on walking around, bobbing up and down, moved, awed, blown over by its complete magnificence.
As an investigation of the human condition, and what it is to be human, Blackfield assumes a hugely significant place in my personal gallery of the greats.