All the Scars are Pink — Artspace Tel Aviv (2020)

״We do not see things as they are‭, ‬we see them as we are.‬״

‮—‬Anaïs Nin

Human figures and natural images‭. ‬Women and young girls‭. ‬Plants‭. ‬Facial expressions‭. ‬Abstract‭.‬‮—‬All elements interact‭.‬

Fast intuitive painting‭, ‬attempting to capture diverse aspects of reality‭. ‬One fleeting moment that does not stop‭; ‬it keeps moving‭, ‬evolving‭, ‬flowing‭, ‬oozing‭, ‬and dripping‭. ‬The works do not freeze a moment‭; ‬they continue to crystallize‭, ‬continue to form‭, ‬continue to connect in the viewer’s mind‭.‬

The paintings remind us that distortions of form and scale can‭ ‬sometimes enhance the object’s presence‭. ‬The tension created between the image and its decoding is like the‭ ‬“echoes”‭ ‬formed when waves crash onto‭ ‬the shore and scatter‭, ‬recede and disperse‭, ‬over and over again in endless cycles‭. ‬The works in the exhibition are personal and‭ ‬autobiographical‭, ‬intimately addressing body and emotion‭, ‬encapsulating subjective experiences derived from memories‭, ‬desires‭, ‬dreams‭, ‬aspirations‭, ‬trials‭, ‬disappointments‮—‬all those little moments of everyday life‭.‬

Lili Cohen Prah-Ya’s drawing skill provides a solid foundation for daring‭, ‬enabling her to go beyond the‭ ‬“correct‭,‬”‭ ‬accurate drawing in other‭ ‬directions‭, ‬wild in their associations and surprising in their uncontrolled‭, ‬unplanned essence‭. ‬Each work stands on its own and‭ ‬is painted separately‭. ‬Their juxtaposition‭, ‬initially on the studio walls and subsequently in the exhibition‭, ‬spawns one large powerful mass that exceeds the sum of its constituent elements‭; ‬feminine‭, ‬maternal power‭, ‬intertwined with flora and the natural world‭. ‬The resulting universe is richly expressive‭, ‬associative‭, ‬and enigmatic in its interpretations‭, ‬holding a great deal‭.‬

The paper surface has long been an integral part of the works‭. ‬It takes an active part in the work process‭, ‬embracing the stain‭ ‬and line applied to it‭, ‬adding from its own character‭: ‬curling‭, ‬becoming creased‭, ‬absorbing‭, ‬at times even repelling the paint‭, ‬making it drip and trickle downward‭. ‬The titles shed further light‭, ‬expanding the scope of meaning and embedding the image in Cohen Prah-Ya’s inner‭, ‬personal‭, ‬ever-so intimate conceptual world‭. ‬

And there is also the sound‭, ‬the music emanating from the works‭, ‬playing in the background in a wide range of rhythms and sounds‭; ‬at times silent‭, ‬at times amplified and rising‭, ‬surrounding and sweeping like life itself‭, ‬making the viewers active partners‭,‬‭ ‬body and soul‭.‬

In the catalogue of the 1993‭ ‬Kunsthalle Wien‭, ‬artist Marlene Dumas wrote about her works‭: ‬“Drawing is closer to whispering into someone’s ear‭, ‬while painting is more like the ear itself‭.‬”‭ ‬It seems that Cohen‭ ‬
‭ ‬does not distinguish between drawing and painting in color‭, ‬between whisper and cry‭. ‬Each work arouses curiosity‭, ‬fear‭, ‬and uncertainty in her‭, ‬and at the same time also the courage to revisit the same locus over and over again‭, ‬to seek and find another color and another form‭, ‬another expression and another view‭.‬

My Beloved Alona‭ ‬is depicted in a pink swimsuit‭, ‬hands over her head‭. ‬Is she a swimmer doing a backstroke‭? ‬A young girl with an innocent look‭, ‬wearing a bathing cap‭, ‬clad in translucent greenish-yellow veils of color which engulf her back‭? ‬Or is she merely standing there‭,‬‭ ‬feet on the ground‭, ‬growing-climbing out of the trickles and drips‭, ‬drawn higher and higher up‭, ‬to realms of imagination and dream‭.‬

All the Scars are Pink‭ ‬is centered on a gray‭, ‬Gershuni-like cyclamen‭, ‬made up of several quick‭, ‬precise brushstrokes‭. ‬The delicate‭, ‬fragile flower‭ ‬tries to straighten its head‭, ‬but its cyclamen nature restricts it‭, ‬until it finally becomes spiritual and mystical‭, ‬an essence‭ ‬of cyclamen composed of grayish-pink patches of color‭, ‬no longer hidden amid the rocks‭, ‬but rather hovering‭, ‬free‭, ‬wherever the‭ ‬wind carries it‭. ‬The cyclamen image has been charged with symbolism and metaphors in Israeli art‭: ‬children’s songs‭, ‬botanical illustrations‭, ‬images of body and mind‭, ‬Vanitas representations‭,‬ ‬and images of memory and commemoration‭. ‬Cohen Prah-Ya’s cyclamen dissolves into the surrounding background‭, ‬crying with it‭, ‬possibly even shedding‭ (‬pink‭) ‬blood‭. ‬At the same time‭, ‬it‭ ‬is present‭, ‬upright‭, ‬standing at full stature‭, ‬even if it bows its head‭, ‬nodding‭, ‬in homage to its place of origin‭, ‬the shy‭, ‬modest cyclamen growing amid rocks‭. ‬Is the cyclamen the scar‭? ‬A closer look at the painting reveals a caption‭, ‬which is not readily‭ ‬deciphered and may hint at the meaning of the scar‭, ‬perhaps one associated with mental pain‭? ‬Do the painting’s fluids‭, ‬along with the body fluids‭ (‬having mentioned Gershuni‭…), ‬hint at additional contexts‭?‬

In‭ ‬Signs of Anxiety‭, ‬a greenish brush stroke gropes for the contour of the female body gradually being revealed as the brush continues its search‭. ‬The title infuses the black drawing of the flower with a different meaning‭. ‬All of a sudden it resembles the zigzag line of an ECG following a life-threatening heart attack‭. ‬Anxiety makes the figure fluid‭; ‬as it increases‭, ‬the mass evaporates‭. ‬The figure becomes transparent‭, ‬dissolving into an anxious entity‭.‬

It’s All a Pose‭: ‬A pose is an assumed position‭, ‬a body posture‭, ‬a stance‭. ‬A pose can also indicate pretense or a show intended to make a false‭ ‬impression‭. ‬The female figure in a pink leotard stands upside down on her shoulders‭, ‬her legs high up‭, ‬held by the supportive hands which seem to dissolve in the air‭. ‬Petals of pink flowers drop all around her‭, ‬plunging downward‭, ‬in stark contrast to the stretched legs‭. ‬The weight of the entire scene rests on the head‭, ‬in the absence of the shoulders that have turned into a melted‭ ‬green overtone which no longer offer a support or aid‭. ‬The‭ ‬“pose”‭ ‬is perhaps the lack of support‭, ‬the missing sense of security‭, ‬the shattering of the illusion that everything is going to be all right‭.‬

The painting‭ ‬I Learned to Scream‭ ‬seems to be screaming through and through‭. ‬The dry black brush line searches and gropes for the scream emanating from the whole‭ ‬surface of the paper‭. ‬The slit eyes‭, ‬the movement of the eyebrows‭, ‬the nape of the neck‭, ‬the hinted hair‮—‬are all channeled into‭ ‬the ubiquitous scream‭. ‬The painting pulsates‭, ‬the paint dissolves‭, ‬the eyes are blind‭, ‬and the mouth is wide open‭.‬


Women and plants‭. ‬Lines and stains‭. ‬Greens and pinks‭. ‬The materials‭ ‬of life‭.‬

Carmit Blumensohn

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