|"Sharon by the Pool" 2012 50 cm X 40 cm oil on wood by Gil Haller|
Much like encountering an insect caught in amber, certain moments have been frozen in the ooze of what feels like memory: the wending of wind through olive trees, the breaking up as light meets water, the arc of his wife’s back. New paintings by Gil Haller on display at poet Linda Zisquit’s Artspace Gallery in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood focus on a specific time and place.
Haller, Jerusalem born in 1979, studied painting at the Jerusalem Studio School for three years, and subsequently spent time on student cultural exchanges in Italy. This is Haller’s third solo exhibit, his second at this venue. Fans of the television program "The Portrait (Ha Diokan)" may recall his appearance on that popular reality show where he painted Knesset member Ahmad Tibi’s likeness.
Old photographs often serve as a source of inspiration for Haller, and, in other work outside this exhibit, he has transposed black and white photos into close duplications of the originals, parlaying vintage sporting events or obscure family memorabilia into a second life for those long-forgotten moments. The verisimilitude is so close that they can cause confusion as to whether they are formed mechanically or by the human hand, and beg a philosophical question regarding the significance of “reality”.
There is certainly nothing new in the use of photographs as an aide memoire for a painter. Practically since the invention of photography painters quickly caught on to the camera's faster eye and ability to order space as an asset to their work. Delacroix, Degas, Eakins, and thousands of painters in their wake adopted photography as one more tool to achieve their goals, though it might remain in the realm of a trade secret.
A handy shortcut to translating the three-dimensional world into two dimensions, photography organizes much of the visual information with which real life assaults one and saves the artist many decisions. But stream-lining creates other issues for the painter: how can one keep the painting vital in a time when the photograph is ubiquitous, when a phone camera and Instagrams are a click away for every lay person?
The photograph, whether from magazines, the internet or family albums, is the start, but not the end of Haller's paintings. The instantaneous click is slowed to a much different pace when transformed into paint, a kind of technical throwback as if applying a buggy whip to jet travel.
|"Self-Portrait 2" 50 cm X 40 cm oil on wood by Gil Haller|
Simplified, yet not simple. Like being there.
Artspace Gallery, ends January 17, Tuesday 5-7, Thursday 5-7 or by appointment 02-5662423. (All images courtesy of Artspace Gallery).
This post was originally published on the Times of Israel: