Israeli dancer, painter, and psychologist Lilac Abramsky-Arazi describes her abstract paintings in a way that suggests they have flesh and soul, body and emotion - a transference of her life experiences into the life of the work. Her paintings become a new being in possession of a fervid language that exists beyond everyday vocabulary. We asked Lilac to take us into her studio and talk about her process.
Do you employ ritual to sustain your practice? How do you know when a painting is complete?
Sometimes there is something waiting to meet the canvas, just wanting to come out and I have little or no involvement there. I just need to show up. At other times, I have something that I want to create, a general sense of something, but even there it can assume a life of its own, and I am left to execute it. The initial stages of the creative process are really not very conscious. The creative act is a very emotional process, I am not sure I can give it words that will truly reflect it. What I can say is that I use music to reach that place that allows creation to flow more easily.
The question about completion is the biggest question. I don’t always know. Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I look at a painting and think, ok, you’ve done your thing. Sometimes I feel that a painting is not fully ripe, that it can realize its potential more fully, as if saying – it is not your time yet. I try, with each painting, to have at least one element that is not as convenient, less expected, and it can be a gentle and tiny element. Completion is also a matter of interest, since I mostly work with more than one painting at any given time, when a painting calls me and asks for my attention I know it needs work, and when a painting ceases to call me it is sometimes finished.
How are dance and movement incorporated into your art practice?
At times, a painting begins with a movement, which at a certain point translates into painting. Movement is expressed in my paintings both in how I create them and in the product itself. I rarely paint sitting down, but mostly paint when the canvas is stapled to the wall or on the floor, which requires me to keep moving and use my body, not just my hand. There is also movement embedded in my paintings – there are dynamics, something is happening there, something is moving in them. There is action, not merely stillness, a restlessness, which finds its way into the paintings.
Given your tendency to "shy away from words" are you comfortable sharing the stories behind each of the four paintings shown On The Ground Floor?
There are no stories. There are no words. There are emotions.
The act of painting and the paintings themselves mostly belong to a nonverbal world. I can give the paintings some words. I can speak of the colors that I’ve chosen, about what I like or not – about composition, but I cannot speak about what really is happening there. I don’t think the paintings come from thinking. I feel that because my work is seldom planned, that these are parts of who I am, each time a part of me comes out and is expressed. Each of the four paintings express something of my inner reality at that given moment. The colors, the materials and textures, these are all means to allow this expression. It is a world of experiencing, of sensations and feelings – of being, and the viewer can experience it directly as well.
Explain how your work "translates processes of deconstruction-reconstruction of materials and worlds." What does this mean?
I am interested in what there is underneath, beyond the first sight. I don’t like things too polished, too perfect. Something excites me in imperfection, in the tension of layered work, and in knowing that there are many more layers, unfinished or incomplete, underneath. My art is characterized by tensions, between colors and textures, different depths, symbols of beauty and disharmony. For example, I can create a very rough texture and use soft and gentle colors, or create a polarity between directions.
Deconstruction and reconstruction is also about the imperfection. I accept and even create high level of imperfection. Something in me insists on not fixing; on creating imperfection and tolerating it. And I find myself peeling and scratching, shaping the painting into a more tolerable, partial being, perhaps more human.
Your paintings were exhibited in our show on the explosiveness of intimacy "Bang Bang." How does your work fit within the context of this theme?
The four paintings presented here belong to a series called ‘Varied Depths’. Like a lover, the paintings wish to be accepted with their incompleteness, their flaws, their dissonant textures and color. They want to be appreciated as beautiful even when they are far from being perfect. The tension between aesthetics and imperfection, beauty and pain is maintained in different ways, including their presentation: leaving no margins for stretching them, it is unclear where they begin and where they end. Each painting in its own way wishes to reveal the complexity of love and desire, of hurt, of losing control, of being at the mercy of the powers of life. Hopefully, the encounter with the paintings would not only meet the eye, but also penetrate the heart, challenging the observer to allow them in, to choose life and love because of and despite of the gifts and prices it demands of us. Love mostly begins with hope. It is only later that complexity is introduced, that varied depths enter the matrix of two universes colliding, of two lips touching, of two people who meet. These depths amplify both pain and greater appreciation of human connection.
Interview by Malika Ali Harding
All Paintings by Lilac Abramsky-Arazi
1. Crossing, Acrylic on Canvas Painting, 2015 2. Nothing, Acrylic on Canvas Painting, 2014 3. Tron, Acrylic on Canvas Painting, 2014 4. A Foreign Land, Acrylic on Canvas Painting, 2014