״We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.״
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
Prah-Ya 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.
Hospitalité (Feminine Hospitality) #1
Artists: Lili Cohen Prah-Ya, Ruthi Helbitz Cohen, Yael Shachar, Maya Attoun
Guests of guests: Mia Gourvitch, Ayala Netzer, Chilla Ezra
Curator: Sari Golan
The project Hospitalité (Feminine Hospitality) is the result of a collaboration between artist Lili Cohen Prah-ya’s “Room Studio” and curator Sari Golan’s “Triangle Art” Space. The exhibition “Hospitalité (Feminine Hospitality) #1″is the culmination of the project’s first residency program, hosting three female Israeli artists and three additional female guests. It is exhibited simultaneously in both spaces, located on the first floor at 6 Shvil Hameretz St., Tel Aviv.
The project was initiated by Cohen Prah-ya, who wanted to create a physical and mental space of collaboration and dialogue between women-artists. The exhibition spans works created by each of the artists during her stay in the “Room Studio”, as well as works by other women-artists whom they hosted on site. Cohen Prah-ya’s featured works were also created when she was a guest herself, during a residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Curator: Nir Harmat
Lili Cohen Prah-Ya’s cluster of works “Two-Sided” relates to the unusual material on which the works were rendered, as well as their contents. The works were painted on a unique “paper-fabric” originally intended to be used for shoe-soles. Work on this substance yielded paintings which may be viewed on either side of the surface, hence “two-sided.” This body of work oscillates between the abstract and the figurative. It introduces a large-scale female portrait, a figure that likewise verges on the abstract, eliciting questions about its fluid identity.
Blondes Cry Too
Curator: Tali Ben Nun
A woman needs “a room of her own”—a real and a metaphorical space, safe and nurturing, where she may shatter every binding taboo or myth, and neutralize the echoes, dictates, and expectations from the outside. Lili Cohen Prah-ya’s works may be construed not only as works created in “a room of her own,” but also as ones that function—in their amusing, wild language, which challenges familiar orders—as little rooms of her own.
Painting is the major medium identified with Cohen Prah-ya’s practice. It extends over diverse surfaces (canvas, paper, plywood, cardboard, etc.) and materials (acrylic, oil, spray paint, markers, pencils, watercolor, etc.). Of this broad and diversified painterly spectrum, the exhibition “Blondes Cry Too” formulates a fine, refined combination of drawings-paintings on paper and small ceramic objects, all of them created in the past two years, except for three prints created in the 1980s, at the outset of her artistic career.
Recognizing the limits of the material—whether paper or clay—and the way it dictates a quick and expressive work process, gave rise to a drawing language that reveals a different aspect, less immediate and familiar, in Cohen Prah-ya’s oeuvre at large. The encounter between the small sketchbooks and raw ceramic figurines, between delicate drawings on golden paper and diluted paintings on parchment paper, or between saturated paintings and drypoint prints, unearths an intimate language, somewhat childlike. Cohen Prah-ya’s works familiarize the foreign (the subconscious, the unsaid thoughts), bringing to light the latent strata of the realm of fantasy.
The title of the exhibition, “Blondes Cry Too,” meshes a hackneyed cliché and sarcastic pungency together, like an instinctual counter-response to chauvinistic sayings such as “beautiful and dumb” or “look pretty and keep your mouth shut.” The subtext embedded in the title turns on the “automatic viewer,” conjuring up two simultaneous visual images: a woman’s portrait featured in the exhibition, bearing her name, and an image of the “other blonde,” a figment of the viewer’s imagination. In the gap between the real and the imaginary, Cohen Prah-ya encapsulates a subjective experience of “deconstructed” femininity comprised of a set of differences and antitheses to beauty myths and social-cultural stereotypes. She strives to remove the metaphoric barrier between what appear to be antithetical worlds, and fuse them into one another to form a single new entity.
Cohen Prah-ya’s work explores the language of painting-drawing, harnessing it into sculptural materiality. The reduction and laconicism of this language, as well as the adherence to the primal material, lay the objects bare, making it possible to observe them in their raw, pre-rational state. The raw quality and ostensible “artlessness” of the ceramic objects turn out to be powerful. The aesthetic value embodied in the material awkwardness corresponds with the direct “inarticulate” drawn line concealed in the small sketchbooks. The internal dialogue between the verbal and the visual, between object and metaphor, between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, sheds light on little, human moments that have been frozen. The conceptual and aesthetic syntax developing between the paper works and the ceramic objects accentuates the ostensibly antithetical qualities embedded in the works: frugal drawing versus vivid coloration, transparency versus opaqueness, traces of the artist’s touch on the material versus traces of inner voices which make their way into the drawing-painting. These contrasts spawn a broad range of feelings and states of mind: love, fantasy, pain, and beauty alongside embarrassment, silence, weakness, and self-irony.
Thus, in the transition from paper to clay, the intricate dissonance between the repressed-trapped and the overt-lucid is gradually exposed. Cohen Prah-ya stretches the line between that which is “proper” and may be revealed and that which should be kept hidden and silenced, airing the shame in the open.
The text concealed in the drawing-painting is a blend of internal dialogue, jokes, and associations elicited by widespread expressions: “blondes cry too,” “unsociable on the bus,” “mom doesn’t hug,” “organized tour,” “constantly having to save you.”
The conspicuous presence of the written word in Cohen Prah-ya’s works becomes a funnel of the subconscious, of the inner voice. The shut eyes, as in sleep, represent being indrawn and introspective, as the words go on, insisting on “bombarding” the silence. Language covers up the shame, but at the same time also exposes it, offering a possibility of resounding hearing or reading, the same old expression whose sounds (may also be) different.
The female body in Cohen Prah-ya’s works, and the image of the woman in general, is revealed as an arena of twisted and sensual conflicts, feminine power which envelops contradictions and secrets. Life experience and the signs of age, traces of a broken heart, longing, erotic yearning, memories which refuse to dissipate, and primordial fears are all recorded; all of them are discernible on the body as if the soul were tattooed on the skin.
The Way Home
Curator: Gilit Fisher
Lili Cohen Prah-ya’s works introduce a maternal stance anxious for the wellbeing of her household. Featuring drawings on paper, created daily as a diary of sorts, the exhibition “The Way Home” is a documentation of a mother’s search for a survival strategy which she may bequeath to her young daughter in her encounter with an adversarial masculine world, which could lead to catastrophe. The good mother’s consciousness, according to Cohen Prah-ya, is concerned with the classical role of gatekeeper, protector of the home, family, and elusive sanity. The viewer faces the mother’s concern for the mental health and wellbeing of her family and home in portraits of girls, young, and mature women—Lolitas who look at the viewer defiantly. They are usually rendered in ink on paper, painted at the center of the sheet.
Cohen Prah-ya’s works portray young girls, yet relate to a type of an especially violent adolescence, hence the title “The Way Home” a-priori attests to the fateful, near inevitable progression toward physical, mental, and emotional loss. For example, a painting depicting a stalk-like adolescent girl drawn on paper, as if she were scratched and torn, bears the title 106 Har Zion St (2012) a location near Tel Aviv’s central bus station where young women and girls gather every night to offer their services to men in passing cars. Another work on paper, No Other Sex (2011), alludes to a poem by Yona Wallach, where “(an)other sex” refers to sadomasochistic relations, supposedly consensual violence. Cohen Prah-ya, on her part, strives to convey a critical warning to the Lolita, beseeching her not to believe.
tried to be liked.
And God doesn’t want.
God decided that she’d be rejected.
And she tries
with shirt unbuttoned.
And she’s pretty
But God doesn’t want.
And God sent me
to insult her
to abuse her.
I think that
if I were a contractor
I wouldn’t have taken
as an engineer.”
—Ron Adler, In the Name of All Pains, 1976