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Lucid Contexture, 2007

James Gray Gallery,Santa Monica,CA USA

Essay: Paul Kaniel

Some time ago, while referring to the polyvalent images in Dorit Feldman’s works, I quoted the statement made by the great surrealist painter René Magritte: Ceci n’est pas une pipe (‘This is not a pipe’) – the caption of a painting showing precisely a pipe. Having spent some wonderful hours with the Belgian master playing chess and chatting about life and art, I am tempted to draw a parallel between the different ways in which he and Dorit Feldman handle incongruity. The incongruous juxtaposition of images is a constant element, ever present in the works of both artists (this statement by no means purports to equate the rank or quality of their art).
It seems to me that while Magritte deals with the ambiguous aspect of reality by way of disintegration, or fragmentation, Dorit Feldman on the contrary tries and succeeds to integrate it into a kind of meta-reality. Magritte highlights one single paradox at a time, one single twist of Reason, one challenge to the visible as the ultimate truth (“Don’t believe what you see”). He turns each painted image into a rich and mysterious metaphor about the unreliability of both our senses and our reason. He does not care to supply any answers or solutions to the incongruity and paradoxes of the physical and psychological laws governing the environment and destiny of human beings.
Dorit, on the contrary, never employs single, isolated metaphoric images. In a process similar to a nuclear reaction, she makes her metaphors unfold from each other, in a chain which finally leads to a crystallized, dense, charged, integrated, composite, ambiguous image, or, if you will, a statement. To this apparent enigmatic incongruity, however, she offers answers and is willing to provide solutions to her “puzzles.” These can best be comprehended by following the path of deconstruction, so cherished by Jacques Derrida, who, I presume, would have enjoyed Dorit Feldman’s creations. A good example of analysis and commentary by deconstruction is furnished by the artist’s comments in her “book-object” entitled ‘Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment’ (Psalms 104:2) (p. 37): “A sculptural cutout of a tree shape, made of wood, on the book’s leather cover, leads the viewer’s eye into the depth of fine mochin (intellectual faculties) branches cyclically connected to their root. Leafing through the book generates the union of opposites at the root. According to the Language of Branches, one may trace the secret of emanation. The opening page features the back view of a figure, representing the body and its corporeal elements – water and earth. Looking toward a cascade of light, it illustrates the evolution of a cathartic process. The scorching of the branches’ shadows on the ground, while the tree itself is absent, leads to the picture of the roots’ emergence in a golden, illuminated scheme. Those delving into the occult can see horizons beyond the horizon. The clarification of the roots’ branching reveals past and future (cause and effect) in the present time, as an allegory.”
This quotation supports my view that Dorit Feldman is an inventive, multi-disciplinary conceptual and neo-structuralist artist, whose main field of research centers on the secret bonds between our physical and metaphysical spheres, between the visible and the hidden; she is also concerned with the affinities that different mystical esoteric traditions and beliefs have developed amongst themselves, and also the ways in which they relate to contemporary science.
This is quite an ambitious project. It requires, in addition to the sheer creative gift, a broad spectrum of theoretical knowledge as well as the ability to use modern sophisticated technological means in order to achieve such staggering very-mixed-media results. Much faith and determination is needed too. Fortunately, Dorit Feldman is well endowed with all of these qualities.

Paul Kaniel
Writer, former curator at the Israel Museum

Levels of Ambiguity


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