Interview with Tslil Tsemet
By Sarah Elise Abramson
Growing up in the exorbitantly politically charged environment of Jerusalem, artist Tslil Tsemet was bound to find some of that manifesting in her art. Her paintings lie at the intersection of creepy and humorous. Her subject matters are often telling a story dealing with social and cultural matters, which are clearly very much entwined in the fiber of her being. Artists paint what they know, what they’ve experienced or want to experience, and what topics are important to them. This is exactly what Tsemet is doing. She believes that laughter as well as art are both healing remedies in this sick, sad world, so those are the things she puts into action. Her slightly disturbing imagery demands your attention. Then after a longer look, the dark humor of it all hits you and you’re suddenly able to laugh at these hideously daunting things and people therefore taking their power away ever so slightly.
Tsemet is a strong believer in the truth that we are all one; we are all connected. Stripped of our clothing, our skin tones, our speech, our religious beliefs, we are all just naked bodies plodding around trying to make sense of ourselves and the world. She has found that painting her subjects in the nude gets this message across more directly. She is also calling upon the fact that nudity does not always have to equal sex or sexiness. Bodies are bodies and we all have them.
“Through art I examine the human species based upon the social and cultural values to which it is bond, and to those ideals we grasp in order to maintain our sanity,” says Tsemet. As she is still an emerging artist, she struggles with where her art actually belongs but seeing as how her technique is competent and cunning, not to mention powerful, and her topics of choice are relevant and striking, I believe she is one to watch. We can expect very large—she usually paints on canvases that about 60 by 40 inches—and influential paintings from her in the coming years.
How old are you and where are you from?
I’m 30 years old and I was born in Naharyia. It’s a small town in North Israel. I currently live in Los Angeles.
At what point in your life did you realize you were an artist?
I was always an artist, since I can remember myself. Since very early childhood and someone put a pencil in my hand.
How often can one find you drawing or painting?
I am always working on something. Sometimes seven paintings at the same time. I wish I could say I paint every single day all day long, but it’s not the case since life often forces me to handle other things. But I am very productive overall. This past year I have completed 17 large oil paintings, and I believe I can more than double that next year. When life allows me, I can paint in the studio for a week without going out at all. The plan is to basically do only that.
Did you have any formal training?
I finished my MFA in 2011 at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. I majored in fine art.
What would be the main underlying message you’re trying to communicate through your work?
I guess as much as some of the work is intimate and personal the message is very universal and relevant to just about anyone. I use a lot of humor while dealing with heavy issues. Humor is a special type of cure and it helps us to release and move around topics that aren’t funny. It also forces the viewer to actively think and question. Images, visual art, have an immediate