Can a drawing change the way we look at things? Can it make us pause and look inward, as in a dream? Can art resist the contemporary economy that encourages the rapid consumption of thousands of images daily, and the visual regime which promotes browsing over observing and categorising over understanding?
Yifat Bezalel's works ask for a different kind of attention—slower and more reflective. They come from previous or other worlds where the image had the power of revelation or of prophecy. The white stretches of paper are meditative spaces for exploration and experimentation in emerging forms of emotion and thought. We sit in front of them like we once sat in holy places, in silence and awe. Bezalel’s motifs belong to the long history of art, from the Renaissance to Francisco Goya, René Magritte, to Gerhard Richter. Most of these references operate below the threshold of consciousness, but precisely because of this they trigger and renew the power of the past in the present. In fact, agency in Yifat’s work belongs to the image and not to the viewer or the interpreter. The image slowly reveals and unfolds itself on the paper, it rises from the white void, curls and folds, and so it is first of all a record of time and of movement and only then of an idea or a story.
In a work called ‘Tikun Ha’reiya’, a woman stands in front of a table covered with drawing paper on which drinking vessels are placed. It seems that she is preparing them for a 'still life' style photo. A spotlight washes the constellation of vessels with a bright light that flattens them while the play of light and shadow provides them with an artificial interiority. The artist in the drawing diverts her gaze. The light is blinding and she pushes it away with her hands, the reversal of the traditional movement of lighting candles on Shabbat eve, when Jewish women call for the light to come out and spread throughout the world. ‘Tikun Ha’reiya’ in Hebrew can be roughly translated into ‘The Correction of Vision’. But what does this mean in the context of the enigmatic and fragile work? Perhaps, we should do the same as the artist in the drawing—dim the powerful spotlight so we can observe the minute details of life—to see and gather the sparkles of intimate sensitivities. ‘Tikun Ha’reiya’ is a drawing of nothing but light and shadow that touches upon the possibility and place of drawing today. The artist within the work can no longer observe the work itself; the camera replaces her gaze which is turned away. Facing the drawing, we look with grief at the disappearance of a certain mode of observation— lingering, mysterious, and caressing. Today it is no longer possible to observe this way, the image has already lost its historical-spiritual depth. And here, as in a lucid dream, we witness this impossibility.
The triangle of life, death, and creation is present in other works in the exhibition as well, all of them are works of exceptional quality, mostly pencil drawing combined with lush layers of gold leaves or bright red paint surfaces. Bezalel's work is a bridge between states of consciousness, times and worlds. She travels life and death back and forth roaming in an indistinct aura of haunted appearances. In the work called "Holy vigil", a bare tree trunk rises from the waters of a golden lake through a mountain landscape towards the edge of a Pantheon-like dome through which light enters. The gaze wanders, the gold pulls it down and the light draws it up. Until we discover a mother resuscitating or kissing her baby in the lower corner of the drawing. She breathes life into her newborn like the Spirit of God who gave us a soul. In this case, the divinity is a woman - a force of life and death, and creation or art is her prophetess.