Even the slightest gaze at Lea Nikel’s work exposes a resistance to representations, concepts and statements. after proving the world that she could indeed paint “right”, Nikel turned to form her playful, and yet profound, abstract style. Touched by a metaphysical essence, combining a childlike ability to scribble with a deep spiritual wisdom. So - called “reality” lays there, hiding between pages and notebooks, sketches, collages and fabrics, and when it glimpses, we experience moments of awe, witnessing visual prose at its finest. Accurate like a Haikou or a romantic fragment.
Her pages and notebooks especially, amplify short and immediate pieces of thought, compositions of light and emotion. hand movements connected to the movements of the mind, let us pick at a primal, unprocessed form of existence. Nikel held on to this primal state as an essential component guiding her work. Through her hands, children’s games and free associations were made into drawings that show the confidence of a women that does not apologize. A free woman, a celebrated, proven painter, A member of the artistic milieu of Paris, Rome and New-York, the Art capitals of the 20th century.
As the artist Ygal Tomarkin says in the short film made by the family, “I was very impressed by the contrasts in this lady, on the one hand she was a one year old child, on the other she was a one hundred years old women”. Modernism according to Nikel was liberty, abundant creativity and a willingness to let go of traditions and technics, in order to return to life's spark of wonder. This modernity is a beautiful promise that is rarely fulfilled, seen by many as a false belief. A freedom, combined with an artistic quality that is hard to grasp and explain, that could seam arbitrary but can nevertheless be sensed. Such that require not knowledge but rather oblivion, or rather, a state of mental cleanliness. Look and see, here is the woman, here is the painting, here is a piece of life emerging, a moment of truth. It is the way children draw, automatically, without thinking. An ability that gets distorted as we grow and learn to fit the perceptions of the adults. With Nikel it still vibrates, she doesn't care what you say, she knows, with sharp judgment, that it is her and hers.
It is possible, if you wish, to read her paintings like Zen koans. Lea Nikel had a great love for existentialism, meditation and Eastern thought, hence her connection to thinkers-writers-life artists, like Sartre, Jean Jeanne and Yoel Hoffman. You can also look at the works out loud, that is, read them like games or like graphic notes—suggestions for movement with clear dynamics and rhythm, with a tonal and emotional range that is reflected in texture, mass, shape, and frequencies of color. Like a composer, Nikel creates compositions that give life to moments. Easy compositions, a collection of shapes, colors and sounds, an organization of the emotional-sensory-thinking space. This is the childlike art that not every child can Master, and very few artists.
Leah Nikel, one of the most important artists in the local and international art field, is still a revelation. For the first time, three exhibition spaces in the heart of Tel Aviv joined together to present a contemporary selection of Lea Nikel's works spanning five decades. Each exhibition space focuses on a different material—fabrics in the Givon Gallery, watercolors in The Lobby, and paper works and notebooks in the Parterre Project space. The exhibitions are within walking distance in the heart of Tel Aviv—a center of the artistic life of the city, where Leah Nickel was born and raised. Each exhibition tries in its own way to awaken the connection between Art to everyday life. A connection that has eroded with the move to more industrial exhibition spaces, far from residential apartments and gardens. Each exhibition was curated separately but out of an ongoing conversation between the partners and with Nikel's family. It is an invitation to take a leisurely stroll through the moods of a creator who is in love with the materials of life—sounds, colors and textures—that awaken as the motion continues.