Paint­ing by num­bers, with a dash of Mr Bean

Tal R paints us­ing only seven colours — and sees the Rowan Atkin­son char­ac­ter as a good anal­ogy for art. The halfIs­raeli, half-Dane ex­plains him­self to Ju­lia Weiner

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

TAL R CER­TAINLY set him­self strict pa­ram­e­ters when pre­par­ing work f o r hi s c ur r e nt Lon­don ex­hi­bi­tion in Lon­don. Six­teen paint­ings are on show, all of them the same size (250 x 250cm), and all painted in the same fixed pal­ette of seven colours.

Tal R was born in Is­rael in 1967 but has lived most of his life in Den­mark. “I was born dur­ing the Six-Day War in Tel Aviv,” he says.

“My fa­ther was serv­ing in the army when I was born. My mother is Dan­ish, so when I was six months old they chose to re­turn to Den­mark. I at­tended the Jewish school in Copen­hagen and ev­ery year we trav­elled back to Is­rael. Half my fam­ily lives there.”

So does he con­sider him­self Is­raeli or Dan­ish? “I think I am float­ing some­where in be­tween,” he says.

“It was quite com­pli­cated when I was young. For ex­am­ple, Tal means a num­ber or a digit in Dan­ish. It is the most ridicu­lous name a child could have, and so I called my­self Klaus, which is a very com­mon name in Den­mark. I wanted to be like ev­ery­one e l s e . How­ever, as you grow older you grow to a p p r e c i a t e b e i n g b e - tween cul­tures.”

What about his name? Why does he call him­self Tal R? “I was born Tal Rosen­zeig,” he says.

“When you live in Den­mark, it is a very dif­fi­cult name to spell. Even I have prob­lems spell­ing it out for peo­ple. So I de­cided to shorten it to Tal R. I like it that way.”

Why and how did he de­cide to use just seven colours? “The project took four years and I wanted to set some pa­ram­e­ters for my­self while work­ing on it,” he ex­plains.

“If you ask a ques­tion and have 100 pos­si­ble an­swers, it be­comes com­plex. If you only have a few pos­si­bil­i­ties, you get more pre­cise re­sults. To achieve some kind of free­dom, I pre­fer to have a lim­ited range of choices.”

The seven colours he used for the paint­ings are black, white, red, yel­low, green, brown and pink. “The six main colours I used fea­ture in a paint­ing by Ed­ward Munch where they make up the pat­tern on a bed­spread in the paint­ing,” he says.

“I thought, why not just use those colours? But Nor­way [where Munch came from] is such a moral place, and the colours were rather Nordic, and so I added pink as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the body.”

The shade of pink he chose is not ex­actly a flesh tone, but more rem­i­nis­cent of bub­blegum.

He agrees. “It is not that nat­u­ral­is­tic, so maybe it is a more con­tem­po­rary im­age of the body.”

On show along­side the paint­ings are seven shal­low show­cases, each one con­tain­ing sev­eral framed paint­ings and works on pa­per. Each show­case is painted and named af­ter one of the seven colours he uses, ex­cept for white, which has mu­tated to sil­ver.

Wan­der­ing around the gallery, you look down on th­ese “pedestals”, as he terms them, and their con­tents. It is an un­usual way to present his work.

“There is a very ba­nal rea­son for it,” he says.

“I feel there is a great dif­fer­ence be­tween look­ing at a paint­ing on a wall and look­ing at it when it is ly­ing on the ground. Paint­ings that hang on the wall have monumental sta­tus. When they are on the floor, you feel more in charge — you can move them around, you can move around them, you can show some source ma­te­rial with them.”

The press re­lease for the ex­hi­bi­tion lists “the dark his­tory of The Holo- caust” as one of the in­flu­ences on his work, but he re­jects that state­ment.

“I am not in­ter­ested in the Holo­caust, but I grew up with it. I had no choice. My child­hood sto­ries were not about Moses on a moun­tain, but about Auschwitz. Many fam­ily mem­bers from my fa­ther’s side were Holo­caust sur­vivors, so it is part of my life’s bag­gage.”

The one ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of an im­age con­nected to the Holo­caust is a draw­ing of Hitler in one of the works.

“All the work that I do comes from private sto­ries, but I want them all to end up ob­jec­tive. The im­age of Hitler is not prop­erly painted be­cause I could not de­cide how to paint him and left him un­done,” says the artist, not re­ally ex­plain­ing why he chose to de­pict the Nazi leader.

Other paint­ings may re­mind view­ers of the Holo­caust. There are strange tow­ers sur­rounded in black clouds in one and a long dark road that leads through fields of gog­gle-eyed be­ings in an­other. De­spite the colours be­ing in­spired by a great Scan­di­na­vian artist, Tal R re­veals that in Den­mark, peo­ple do not think his work looks Dan­ish.

“My work does not be­long to ei­ther the Nordic or the Is­raeli-Jewish tra­di­tion. For ex­am­ple, Mr Bean is funny with­out the need for lan­guage. Art is like Mr Bean. It can talk to many dif­fer­ent cul­tures with no sub­ti­tles needed.”

He may not work in the Jewish tra­di­tion, but there are Stars of David dot­ted about his work. Are they sym­bolic or the re­sult of doo­dling? A bit of both seems to be the an­swer.

“If you sit down and draw in the sand, you draw a square, a tri­an­gle and sooner or later you are go­ing to draw a Star of David,” he says.

“Of course, those images are prob­a­bly re­lated to my Jewish back­ground but I would doubt­less draw one any­way if I put my foot in the sand.” Tal R: The Sum is at the Cam­den Arts Cen­tre, Ark­wright Road, Lon­don NW3 un­til June 29. Tel: 020 7472 5500

Tal R in his stu­dio, where he cre­ates the vivid paint­ings — of­ten fea­tur­ing Stars of David — that are on show at the Cam­den Arts Cen­tre in Lon­don

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.