Illustrati­on Week takes Tel Aviv

Illustrati­on Week – of­fer­ing 79 ex­hi­bi­tions – brings a splash of color to Tel Aviv

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By BARRY DAVIS

What does the word “illustrati­on” con­jure up for you? If you as­so­ciate the vis­ual dis­ci­pline with, say, pic­tures in chil­dren’s story books, or comics, and not much more, then you should be right roy­ally dis­abused of that no­tion when Illustrati­on Week rolls around next week (Novem­ber 21-30).

Mind you, we should all know bet­ter by now. This will be the sixth edi­tion of the an­nual fes­ti­val with a full 79 ex­hi­bi­tions – many of­fer­ing free en­try – strung across Tel Aviv and Jaffa, at all man­ner of venues, with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mu­nic­i­pal­ity-sup­ported event host­ing works by close to 700 il­lus­tra­tors, de­sign­ers and other artists.

“Look around you. There are il­lus­tra­tive el­e­ments wher­ever you look!” ex­claims Yu­val Saar when we meet at a ve­gan eatery a stone’s throw from Dizen­goff Square. “Look, at the bus there. That’s illustrati­on. And on the bill­board. It’s ev­ery­where in our lives.”

It is, in­deed. Judg­ing by the breadth and sheer num­ber of ex­hibits that the fes­ti­val founder artis­tic direc­tor has lined up for the pub­lic, there is lit­tle you can­not place un­der the illustrati­on um­brella.

“The field has re­ally taken off in re­cent years,” Saar notes. “That’s all over the world, not just in Is­rael.” It seems we are right up there with the best of them. “There are some amaz­ing tal­ents, and there is de­mand,” he adds.

Saar says the fes­ti­val is a must for all con­cerned. “Illustrati­on Week is al­most the only event of its kind in Is­rael, and there is de­mand from the field. With­out the fes­ti­val, there wouldn’t be a plat­form to show th­ese things. There are mil­lions of gal­leries and mu­se­ums for paint­ing and sculp­ture, but there is noth­ing for works of illustrati­on.”

The He­brew say­ing that “the ap­petite fol­lows the food” ap­plies here.

“If the field didn’t want this, we wouldn’t be able to have this fes­ti­val,” sug­gests Saar, adding that the street-level re­sponse gives the artists a push in the de­sired di­rec­tion. “The il­lus­tra­tors see there is a plat­form that works well, that grows from year to year, and that en­cour­ages them to pro­duce the goods.”

Saar says the pub­lic is keen to get an eye­ful of the cre­ations too, and there is a grow­ing aware­ness and ap­pre­ci­a­tions of il

lus­tra­tive works.

“We don’t have some­one stand­ing at the en­trance of each ex­hi­bi­tion space with a tally counter check­ing ex­actly how many peo­ple come in, but we reckon, in past years when we have had 50 ex­hi­bi­tions, that 50,000 peo­ple have been to them.”

Saar also puts the in­cre­men­tal growth in the field down to tech­nol­ogy.

“In the dig­i­tal era, it is much eas­ier for any­one to be an il­lus­tra­tor.”

And you don’t have to be a Pi­casso to do the busi­ness. “Even some­one like me – I don’t know how to il­lus­trate, if I drew an ap­ple or a per­son, it doesn’t mat­ter what, if I tried to draw by hand it would be cat­a­strophic, but it is a lot eas­ier for me to use com­puter tools to do that.”

There is an abun­dance of de­mand in all walks of life.

“All the com­puter games, an­i­ma­tion, TV shows, that’s all illustrati­on-based. To­day there are to­day so many more op­por­tu­ni­ties for il­lus­tra­tors to ex­press them­selves. In the old days, you’d see il­lus­tra­tions in chil­dren’s books, and pos­si­bly you’d find a car­i­ca­ture in the news­pa­per, and in comics. To­day, you find il­lus­tra­tions even on your hous­ing tax bill. It’s a much more vis­ual world.”

The va­ri­ety of ex­hi­bi­tions that will be on dis­play across the length and breadth of Jaffa and Tel Aviv for 10 days is ex­pan­sive. If you want to get a sound bite han­dle on fes­ti­val range, you’d be best ad­vised to pop along to Old Jaffa, where 60 light boxes will be in­stalled along Mazal Dagim St. and Mazal Aryeh St., with tid­bits from the cross-ur­ban agenda. They will be on show around the clock. And should you wish to gain a more im­mer­sive idea of some of the finer aes­thetic de­tails that have been avail­able in th­ese parts over the years, the Old Jaffa Mu­seum will host a lay­out of silkscreen posters for in­die shows in Is­rael and all over the world, cre­ated by Dekel Hevroni over the past decade.

The mu­seum is one of the main­stays of the fes­ti­val, with a num­ber of ex­hi­bi­tions run­ning there con­cur­rently over the 10 days. Illustrati­on is the most mal­leable of dis­ci­plines, and lends it­self to all kinds of sub­ject mat­ter, from the defini­tively in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial, to the down­right per­sonal.

Orit Arif’s show­ing goes by the invit­ingly in­ti­mate ti­tle of “Shit, I can’t be­lieve this is hap­pen­ing to me,” in which Arif presents a comic strips rogue’s gallery of em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments from her daily life. Izhar Co­hen’s con­tri­bu­tion at the same venue, “In­ti­macy,” of­fers a glimpse of “the pri­vate and the in­ti­mate” while “Po­lit­i­cally Cor­rect,” over at the Farkash Gallery, of­fers Aharon Farkash, Lior Peled, and Sh­mu­lik Granit the op­por­tu­nity to un­leash their own views of life with ab­so­lutely no re­gard for so-called good taste. And there’s some­thing of the afore­men­tioned el­e­men­tal illustrati­on for­mat, with an eth­nic-cul­tural slant, over at the Beit HaBe’er Cul­tural Cen­ter, down the road on Salameh Street, where the “Nice to Meet You” lay­out fea­tures work by Is­raeli-Arab il­lus­tra­tors on orig­i­nal, lo­cal, and con­tem­po­rary Arab chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture.

SAAR SAYS the fes­ti­val has been a long time com­ing.

“I started out in 2012 with a tiny illustrati­on ex­hi­bi­tion,” he re­calls. “The idea was to ex­am­ine how the dig­i­tal era was im­pact­ing on il­lus­tra­tors. Like any cu­ra­tor, I met with artists – at their studios, in their homes, at cafes. I saw their work and we chat­ted.”

Saar was keen to share his thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences, and the thing just snow­balled from there.

“I took notes. The one thing that dif­fer­en­ti­ated me from other cu­ra­tors was that I al­ready had Port­fo­lio.”

The lat­ter is an on­line magazine, es­tab­lished in 2005, in which Saar and other writ­ers ran ar­ti­cles, in­ter­views, re­views and news from the world of de­sign, art and fashion. It was the per­fect sound­ing board for the up­shot of Saar’s on­go­ing en­coun­ters with artists.

“Each week I pub­lished in­ter­views with two artists and il­lus­tra­tors, and I got to 100 in­ter­views.”

The dis­course did not go un­no­ticed by the pro­fes­sion­als in the field.

“It was like a blog, which hadn’t yet hap­pened. Then I put out a re­quest for pro­pos­als and I was swamped with works, thou­sands of them.”

Saar was bowled over.

“I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t ac­com­mo­date all those works. How many could I show at my lit­tle ex­hi­bi­tion? 120?” A more gen­er­ous plat­form was clearly the or­der of the day. “I con­tacted mu­se­ums and gal­leries, and things started to grow, with no bud­get at all. Ev­ery­one came on board.”

That in­cluded the Art Depart­ment of the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and so Illustrati­on Week came to be.

“I didn’t re­ally mean for things to get to this stage,” Saar laughs. “If you had told me, seven years ago, ‘Come and out on an event with 80 ex­hi­bi­tions, and you’ll be re­spon­si­ble for the whole thing,’ I would said, ‘No thanks, I have other things to do with my life.’ But, pre­cisely be­cause I didn’t plan on all this hap­pen­ing, that, I think, is why it grew into what we have to­day.”

WHAT “WE have to­day” is an im­pres­sively broad sweep of events that show­case what the Is­raeli il­lus­tra­tor com­mu­nity has to the coun­try and also in the global arena. There are Is­raeli artists do­ing great work all over the world, in­clud­ing in Hol­ly­wood and across Europe. If you’re look­ing to take in as much of the scene as you can at a sin­gle venue, you can get some idea of the breadth of ideas, ap­proaches and styles on of­fer here by vis­it­ing the Mazeh 9 Gallery, the Youth House of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which also marks the launch of the lat­est is­sue of the A5 Magazine, an in­de­pen­dent art and de­sign on­line magazine that also func­tions as a printed gallery. Each is­sue fea­tures an in­ter­na­tional ar­ray of artists and fol­lows a par­tic­u­lar theme. The ven­ture is driven by graphic de­sign­ers Keren Gafni, Golan Gafni and Tali Green, who say they are “mo­ti­vated by the de­sire to cre­ate, ex­plore and ex­hibit, shar­ing our great love for art and print.” That will come across in the La

Cul­ture ex­hi­bi­tion on Mazeh Street, which fo­cuses on the topic of Ob­ject-Spirit. The mam­moth dis­play will in­cor­po­rate works by 140 artists.

There are also a bunch of solo ex­hi­bi­tions on the Illustrati­on Week agenda, in­clud­ing a one-per­son of­fer­ing by Merav Salomon at the P8 Gallery on Ha­p­atish Street in Kiryat Hamelachah. Salomon is a sea­soned cam­paigner who, be­sides de­vel­op­ing her sin­gu­lar aes­thetic take as an il­lus­tra­tor and book artist, has helped to nur­ture sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of il­lus­tra­tors and de­sign­ers in her ca­pac­ity as a teacher, and Head of Illustrati­on Stud­ies at the Depart­ment of Vis­ual Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the Beza­lel Academy of Arts and De­sign in Jerusalem.

Salomon, ap­par­ently, likes to go for de­tail. Her col­lec­tion of pic­tures, called Mau­soleum, is the re­sult of sev­eral dozen stamps she fash­ioned her­self. “There are 50 stamps, of which around 20 are of women sit­ting in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions,” she ex­plains, adding that she took a mod­u­lar ap­proach to the pro­ject.

“There are stamps of tor­sos, and also 15 stamps of just heads, and I can use them to cre­ate a sort of hand­writ­ing style by fus­ing them. That al­lows me to form sur­re­al­is­tic scenes.”

Judg­ing by some of the spec­i­mens I caught, it is a highly ef­fec­tive prac­ti­cal line of cre­ative at­tack. The pres­ence of hu­man fig­ures is de­signed as a sort of trib­ute to dear de­parted.

“Mau­soleum is a sort of mon­u­ment in some­one’s mem­ory, and the main mo­tif of my ex­hi­bi­tion is the seated woman. I pile the fig­ures on top of each like plas­tic gar­den chairs.”

There is a fem­i­nist mes­sage to be had in the vis­ual jux­ta­po­si­tion, which also ref­er­ences the tit­u­lar el­e­ment.

“I con­sider the is­sue of re­mem­brance, through the topic of the mau­soleum, which mostly refers to men, and the legacy of the male fig­ure. I look at the sta­tus of women in so­ci­ety, their place in his­tory, and the way their sup­port each other. They serve as a sort of pedestal for each other.” That, nat­u­rally, sug­gests the male chau­vin­ist per­cep­tion of women as a dainty play­thing that should be revered and placed on a prover­bial pedestal, thereby ob­jec­ti­fy­ing her.

Salomon says she is drawn to the seem­ingly com­mon or gar­den of­fice stamp de­vice, and also to the com­po­nents that com­prise the aes­thetic whole.

“I am in­ter­ested in the process of de­con­struc­tion and re­con­struc­tion, and I al­most al­ways use the fig­ure of the woman in my work. What I find fas­ci­nat­ing about the rub­ber stamp is that, on the one hand, it is a ba­sic day-to-day in­dus­trial ob­ject you find in most of­fices. But it is also a de­vice that is very close to the sphere of printed art works. It fas­ci­nates me that some­thing can be so in­ex­pen­sive and mun­dane, but there is still a very artis­tic side to it.”

That comes across in Mau­soleum. There is also a play­ful­ness about the show­ing that the pub­lic should also find highly en­gag­ing.

There will be plenty to catch across the Tel Aviv-Jaffa metropoli­tan area that should not only please the idea, and tickle a fancy or two, but may well leave its mark on the way we view our ur­ban sur­round­ings and the world around us as we go about our daily busi­ness.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the ex­hi­bi­tions, work­shops, artist ses­sions and guided tours: www.il­lus­tra­tionweek.co.il/’

(Pho­tos: Artists men­tioned)

‘WITH YOUR Back to the Sea’ by Ilanit Shamia.

IL­LUS­TRA­TOR AND comic book artist Asaf Hanuka cap­tures the Tel Aviv vibe.

DEKEL HEVRONI ex­hibits silkscreen posters he has cre­ated for in­die shows in Is­rael and all over the world in the past decade.

(Achikam Ben Yossef)

ETHIOPIAN-BORN painter Nirit Takele feeds off her child­hood roots and the folk­lore of her coun­try of birth.

SIN­GLE ARTIST Noa Ilan finds some ‘Un­con­di­tional Love’ in her ca­nine friend.

(Cour­tesy)

IZHAR CO­HEN’S ‘In­ti­macy’ show­ing of­fers a glimpse of ‘the pri­vate and the in­ti­mate.’

DEAN LEN­NAR’S ar­rest­ing ‘First Im­pres­sions’ work.

‘NO HERO’ by Is­rael-born ‘New York Times’ il­lus­tra­tor and car­toon­ist Tomer Hanuka.

KEREN KATZ in­cor­po­rates sur­re­al­is­tic sen­si­bil­i­ties in her highly styl­ized ‘Peep Show’ dis­play.

MERAV SALOMON de­signs rub­ber stamps to con­vey her so­cial and po­lit­i­cal mes­sages.

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