Project no.137


White Night Art 2012


Etty Lev

Unexpected Encounter


Curator: Rachel Sukman

Opening: Thurs. 28.06.2012  at 8:00 p.m.
Closing: 03.08.2012


On opening night, The Cameri Theater actor Albert Cohen and keyboardist Adi Weiss
will perform their show Stage Play and Musical.

6 Zamenhoff St. (near Dizengoff Square), Tel Aviv, tel.: 03-5254191
Gallery hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 5-7 p.m





Hasbaya, 2010
oil on canvas, 30x40 cm

Visitors in Florence, 2012
fresco, 45x50 cm

Blue Chair, 2011
oil on canvas, 130x156 cm

Unexpected Encounter, 2011
oil on canvas, 100x120 cm


Parallel Glances, 2011
oil on canvas, 60x50 cm

Bars on My Window, 2010
oil on canvas, 65x75 cm

Unexpected Encounter, 2011
oil on canvas, 100x120 cm

Colorful Space, 2010
oil on canvas, 30x30 cm


Family Meeting, 2012
oil on canvas, 86x140 cm

At a Crossroads, 2012
oil on canvas, 103x130 cm

Faces and Shadows, 2011
oil on canvas, 30x58 cm

Mahane Yehuda Market, 2012
oil on canvas, 70x126 cm


Etty Lev: Unexpected Encounter

 Rachel Sukman

Etty Lev's artistic language has formed over the years mainly in vividly-colored, tension-ridden abstract oil paintings. At the initial phase of each painting, she takes great effort to create a colorful space on the canvas which seemingly awaits her. She comes to the void imbued with her world, striving to grant a visual manifestation to thoughts, sights, quandaries, and memories, which come together to constitute chapters in her life.


Her paintings are constructed as a familiar setting, in which stains and lines intersect, generating a painterly space rife with geometric shapes and images in bright colors. The resulting surface is an open space which invites visitors to unexpected, imaginary, surprising encounters: with the past and with faces and shadows.


Some of the paintings from the past two years introduce portraits and shadow-figures. Both have come for a momentarily visit in her abstract compositions and stayed on. In the course of time, she became acquainted with these figures, and began identifying her self-portrait among them, as well as those of her mother, her aunts, and other family members, including uncle Nathan—all of them from Jerusalem.


The realms of her happy childhood in Jerusalem offer the artist an inexhaustible source of flashing scents, sights, and memories from Mahane Yehuda Market as seen from the bus window, as the artist attests: "My mother told me: 'Come, quick. We have to meet Uncle Nathan on Ben Yehuda Street'… I looked through the bus window and said to my mother: 'Here's Aunt Yehudit's home.' Then we passed the market, and I saw all the colorful vegetable stalls, large tubs in a range of colors suspended at the entrance to the street-facing shops…".


The work Unexpected Encounter conveys the multiple experiences, flashing before her eyes, rife with random encounters, all compressed into a single day in the artist's life. All the events take place within tempestuous color surfaces which spawn a surface of abstract painting. Two women in red sweaters and light-colored hair are seated in the top plane, near the center, a mother and daughter, close together, sharing a single bench in a city bus. These are Lev and her mother, Abigail. Uncle Nathan is depicted inside a red frame in the upper right corner, at a distance from them. Only here, on the canvas, a meeting never held in reality takes place; an imaginary world, ostensibly detached from real life occurs on the canvas, which nevertheless conveys an urban landscape seen through the window during a bus ride.


The color blend of flickering cityscapes—in which one may identify details, such as windows, lattice, houses, blocks, fences, ladders, utility poles, flower and fruit stalls—is meticulously spun on the canvas with the dexterity of a lace-maker. Thus, for example, in Encounter with the Past, featuring a self-portrait of the artist from the front and the back, her location in the composition articulates yearnings for the colorful past.


The urban landscape as a meeting point is a motif which recurs in some of the works in the current exhibition. The ability to invent, each time anew, a different-yet-similar texture of bodies, figures, faces, and shadows attests to the obsessive quality underpinning her paintings, as reflected in Family Meeting.


Lev's ability to stretch the boundaries of the palette while concurrently surrendering a daring use of black as a dominant marker of shadows—figures present, whether in her imagination or in her memories—is discernible in Encounter with Shadows. At its best, the black is stormy, generating tension, as in the abstract painting Bars on My Window. The brush dipped in black encounters two family members, while marking a crossroads against the warm ochers, dividing black shadows and the pair of portraits in At a Crossroads.



The insight gradually sinks in that the entities conceived and depicted by Lev are interlocutors from her childhood and youth in Jerusalem's Mazkeret Moshe neighborhood, where her grandparents, Esther and Avraham Zrahya, lived. The family hailed from the village Hasbaya at the foot of Mt. Hermon in northern Israel, where a rural Jewish community persisted for two thousand years, since the time of the Second Temple. Her grandfather's path was intertwined with the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem, where he taught jewelry-making and copper beating, a profession he acquired in Damascus. Artistic sparks and a passion for painting and sculpture appeared in Lev when she was a young girl, surrounded by her grandfather's impressive works. This family heritage may account for her persistent commitment not only to painting, but also to the family figures which emerged in her paintings. These figures clearly have no intention of parting with the artist who created them; they are tied together with a bond of intimacy.