Golden Heart, 1999
Julie M. Gallery, Israel
Essay: Shoshana Zimmerman
A. Characterized by a movement toward the confluence of opposites, by a determined striving for the heart of light, for the golden heart, Dorit Feldman’s current works unceasingly inquire and probe, evoking primordial questions; ever-fresh investigations, with an inherent dynamics of a form-color-matter occurrence, whose reality is that of moving-motion within the still exhibit.
What happens when mind, wisdom, and understanding forcefully echo in one’s awareness?
What is that light whispering to us from beyond the perceptible dimension of light-fire in the here-and-now?
What is the power of the word in these other dimensions, in the eternity of creation each day anew?
What is the spark of the Hebrew letter, that lights up the very words and entities from within, like spirit incarnate?
What is a form and what is its slow or spry flux in a perpetually varying space and in a time ceaselessly sustaining it?
What is the primal, profound nature of the square and the circle, of the pentagram and the Star of David?
What does the lofty soul of color bear, and how does the warm copper gold breathe, glowing like honey atop the cold metal?
What secrets are embedded in the constituent elements of this universe, a universe where a man is doomed for movement-non-movement, standing spread-eagled, enclosed in Leonardo da Vinci’s circle, inclosing him all around in a confining, precise symmetry?
What is the secret underlying the combination of the Ten Spheres (Sefirot) in our world and their place in the chain of upper worlds?
And what are your life combinations worthy living in the light thereof, so as to remain independent and belonging at one and the same time, floating and erupting yet anchored and secure? (linked to the golden thread that flows forth on the arched tables of the covenant in your heart.)
With intensity and dedication, with rigidity – whether soft or uncompromising, scratching-etching, bounded yet streaming, both minimized and highly detailed – Dorit Feldman’s work strives for the mysteries beyond, for transforming the zar into raz, the stranger into secret, for elucidating the laws of the universe, for a “place where antipodes merge at their root,” as expressed in Bialik’s classical paradoxical phrase in his poem “Peeked and Perished”.
“Will we indeed peek and become wiser?” – the covert pondering of the creative muse emerges, blowing from boundaries-non-boundaries of matter-body-mind (chomer-ramach-moach*); “Will you join me on the creative quest?” – she asks in her concrete-universal code language of the beholders who gaze at her wise at heart.
B. Characterized by a movement toward the balancing confluence of opposites in the human and the universe, by a search for the hinted answers of the “non-being” (ayin) in the ”being” (yesh) around and within us, and by an eager striving toward the heart of knowing beyond knowledge, Dorit Feldman’s current works embrace a multi-dimensional journey in the realms of physics and metaphysics alike. Their power draws its intensities from an abounding, unique plastic figuration and from contradiction-imbued motifs. Such are, for example, the images of the DNA, the invention of the twentieth century, present here as the chains of organic and inorganic chemistry juxtaposed with the Antique symbols of alchemy, alluding to a mystic theory and a practice of metamorphosis and transmutation, in matter and man alike.
The system of polarized divisions, at times embodied in confrontations of explicit quintessential objects, constantly seeks the conflict’s resolution, or at least its momentary equilibrium in artistic practice, concurrent to its aesthetic actualization. The works are oriented toward a single core which is divided into two fundamental questions, ancient and ever-new, interwoven: “who am I and who is my Creator.”
This split-united system is reembodied in the artist’s oeuvre, reflected in various, varying layers-mirrors of contents and substances.
Within the realm of human existence (“who am I”, and, indeed, “who are we”), the polarity between “intellect” and “emotion” is reiterated from different aspects. This polarity and the aspiration for its balancing, or at least, softening, emerge as a direct key contextual motif in Dorit Feldman’s creative world. They are often accompanied by a repeated probing of the possibilities of elaborating “knowledge” into “knowing”, “awareness”, while exploring the possibilities of effectuating transition and transformation of the human spirit, of its ascent, by force of inexhaustible yearning and craving, from matter and form toward the non-matter and non-form.
This polar sphere is portrayed in the works through binary oppositions; pairs of objects that may be juxtaposed on a two-laned axis of opposition or polarity. These pairs are intertwined, while continually changing and varying, in all strata of the works.
Thus, for example, the genius, associated with measurable intelligence and intellect, is represented by references to the mind scattered throughout the works, as well as by “head” objects, in very light hues of blue and purple. Likewise, the multiplicities of diverse letters, words and texts in the works, derived from both the philosophical and the scientific literature, represent the workings of the mind.
The works’ materials – and mainly the frequent use of metals (bronze, brass, stainless-steel and iron) and of metal latticework – symbolize the analytical components of the mind, the bearers of “logic”, usually likened to “iron gloves”. Marking the admirable artificial intelligence of the electronic golem-master, computer chips and their visible impressions on the sketchy texture likewise operate along the axis of the “mind”, thickening the intellect’s presence in the works (Beyond Artificial Intelligence).
As opposed to all these and as against the “square of logic”, the “circular“ emotion is embodied in the counter lane through a blaze of inscriptions, in warm colors, stemming from a varying manipulation of metals, as well as through universal-concrete images, the most prevalent among them is the “heart”.
The heart’s ample manifestations (culminating in a modeling of the “theosophical heart”, in a work entitled Heart of the Square Circle) set it as a counter-pole for the “mind”. The sentiments of the heart are countered with the symbols of the intellect embedded in the axis of the “mind”, and the inner tendency is evinced to balance opposites by enhancing the status of “emotion” in relation to “intellect”.
The portrait of the creative-female-self too, embodies the dilemmas of division, emerging as a highly antithetical portrait (Multidimensional Self-Portrait). Thus, and by the very concealment-masking of the whole self-face, a clear highlighting of “unveiling and veiling” limitations in implied, tantamount to ”unveiling despite the veil”, or a “(partial) unveiling (of the self, made possible) thanks to the veil.”
Toward this highly meaningful work, which gently unearths the primeval strata of the split as an immanent constitutive inner experience, the current treatment echoes (in The Secret of Circles and Circumferences) in the artist’s self-portrait, modeled in a photographic work executed during 1978-1979. Here, the female portrait was made so as to voice feminist protest (the young artist, like a man, puts on phylacteries, yet it is phylacteries comprised of cups, namely, a quintessential woman-restricting representation). Attesting to the rootedness of polarization in the artist’s world and its presence there already more than twenty years ago, this work conceals great tension, nourished by the intricate inner dialectic between the elements of creation: an overt being-self versus a covert non-being-self; a female-self versus a “male”-self; a Jewish-self (phylacteries) and a non-Jewish-self (a woman putting on phylacteries); a human-self versus a floral-self (Ficus leaves) versus a birdlike-self (hawk); and a victim-self (of “womanhood-kitchen”) versus a carnivorous-self preying like a hawk.
The split components of the aesthetic objects also emerge within the engagement with metaphysical existence (“who is my Creator”). A highly antithetical being by essence, it is represented in Dorit Feldman’s various works through different means of counterposing and multiplying, as in accentuating the countering of a sphere of wisdom (chochma) by a sphere of knowledge (binah), in accordance with the arrays of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (Sefirotic Tree), and through the balance-necessitating polarization of the mercy (chesed) axis (right) vis-א-vis the law (din) axis (left) in this fundamental Kabbalistic scheme.
The laws of creation, represented by the four antithetical elements of the corporeal world – earth, fire, water, air – have continually been tackled by the artist both in the past, and mainly in her current works. Alongside these elements, the new works embed possibilities for their transmutation, or “merging at the root” (to re-cite Bialik), through the “fifth element”, to wit, the “other” element, intertwined with the essence of life and creation (in a work dubbed The Fifth Element.)
One way of speculating with regard to the Deus is tied with man’s formation as analogous to a “primordial man” or “archetypal man” (a common Kabbalistic epithet for the Divine Creator, appearing in the work entitled Covenant of the Heart), in accordance with the well-known mystic Jewish tradition. The Kabbalistic Tree with the Ten Spheres re-infuses this aspect with a linking, receptive function, between “the lower and the upper”, a construction that may lead to far-reaching conclusions concerning upper and lower worlds alike.
This probing of the human portrait and the definition of the (private and generic) “self”, which is rooted with its two Leonardian feet in the physical world (in Echo of the Square Circle), thus occurs in the current selection of works both through a rich collection of dichotomies and conflicting intrinsic relations, whose perusal is naturally aimed at actualizing aesthetic balancing steps and initiating necessitated alterations, and through allusions to the affinity to the metaphysical world, namely, in the desired human relation to the world “beyond”. Thus, indirectly, with a distinct sovereign, non-orthodox tone, an old-new Jewish atmosphere is conveyed, singular and self-confident; a new version of “know whence you came, whither you are going, and before whom you will give judgment and reckoning” (Pirkei Avot).
The definition of the “self”, in all its manifestations, thus struggles to obtain modes of equilibrium for the totality of inner conflicts. Within this struggle, the artist embodies constant striving toward the balancing “Stone of the Wise” (its explicit mention appears in The Fifth Element), in a desire to resolve the unsettling inner conflicts, inherent, first and foremost, in the duality flesh-spirit into which we are born.
C. Do Dorit Feldman’s current works succeed in furnishing distinct equilibratory solutions and insights into the human and meta-human elements?
Undoubtedly – the answer is positive; it is the crimson thread running throughout the body of works. It is the golden thread, embracing the heart’s arched tables of covenant (Covenant of the Heart – book-object), merging the yearning for the metaphysical absolute with the craving for inner equilibrium. The course of ascent from being to non-being is revealed here as the spiral, inner staircase (whose base is comprised of the chakra rings), leading to the spiritual “interior”. The metaphysical absolute emerges as a given within the physical: the divine spark indeed dwells within the sanctuary of the heart.
In its new attire, Dorit Feldman’s art now introduces ethical insights (“how will one choose his path”), adding to insights related to the metaphysical absolute (‘one’s path to oneself goes through a mind-heart equilibrium in the journey to the given “beyond” within.’)
Orientation toward the multi-dimensional fine balance is hinted at in each and every work, on the level of philosophy and on that of its embodiment, infused in the substances, colors and forms of the aesthetic object: the vision-sight of “self” and “beyond” (in Pupils for Multi-Dimensional Viewing), when the gaze is directed at once inward and outward; the perception of fire-light as an energy linking body and spirit (Fire – A Bridge between Creation and Transmutation), a perception of the pact between matter and spirit, encoded in the Tables of the Covenant in the Holy Ark of the heart (Covenant of the Heart, Water in Fire – the Conscious Heart), and a circle (spirit) squared (mind) by mutually echoing (Echo of the Square Circle) transmutated units of energetic balance (Heart of the Square Circle).
Balancing the two lobes, rendering a transformation-transmutation through the spiritual spark absent in computerized intelligence (Beyond Artificial Intelligence);
the evolution of the self-portrait into an integrative “self”, through awareness of the regesh (emotion) as gesher (bridge), bearing a sheger (message) of truth (Self-Portrait [regesh-gesher-sheger] box);
fathoming the notion of averaging, and ostensibly carving light out of non-light (Golden Path – The Light-ray in Gray);
the integration of universal symbols, originating in diverse cultures and civilizations, into a single awareness of light, and the inclusion of the past in the present, by forming a balanced approach to the future (The Secret of Circles and Circumferences, The Fifth Element).
On the figurative plane, matter and form are balanced in a symmetrical sphere (of letters as coordinates, for instance) and in graphic convergence (like that of the pentagram and the Star of David). The metal “heats up” due to its color, becoming stiff-soft, and the confined Leonardian image acquires the spiral magical key, inserted thereinto for the sake of its balance. We no longer have before us a Renaissance (human) body-restricting infinite spirit (circle), but rather (chakra) spirit in (human) body in (circle) spirit; namely, an all-inclusive chain of being, multiplicity which is one.
The path to obtaining the lost unity, on the dual level of the “here-and-now” and of the “not-here-and-not-now”, reveals itself in Dorit Feldman’s works by drawing the attention of he who beholds-the-golden-path’s-wisdom-in-his-heart to the given unity in multiplicity. Awareness and opting for such an experience will once and again yield the fragile moment of unity nesting at the heart of creation. The mundane equilibrium is alternately violated-obtained, varying in a constant kaleidoscope of awareness and unawareness. Nonetheless, the works before us manage to model the striving thereto, while it is received and fixated therewithin in all its force.
Art (omanut), which by its very uncompromising nature, is at once an omen (in knowing heart-intellect) and truth (emet)** (in knowing heart-intellect), grants us here, by virtue of its intensity, a step toward the gate of Creation and toward touching upon our-self. Two which are one.
* In Hebrew, the words chomer (matter) and ramach (designating in Jewish numerology the number 248, the number of organs in the human body) are comprised of the same letters in inversion; the letters of the word moach (mind) are contained within them.
** In Hebrew, the words omen (as in English) and emet (truth) are contained within the word omanut.
Dr. Shoshana Zimmerman
Lecturer of Art, Literature and Jewish Studies
Author of the books Twins Before You (On Alterman’s Works) (1997); From Thee to Thee (On Bialik’s Poetry) (1998)