From Landscape to Horizon
Lavih Serfaty was born in 1945 in Casablanca , Morocco . At the age of 11 he immigrated with his family to Israel , carrying with him memories of his homeland's vistas and their vivid coloration. Later in life these memories found their way into his art. Serfaty is a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem . He engages in museum and exhibition design, painting, and sculpture.
Serfaty's aluminum works manifest a dramatic turn in his long-standing artistic career. He considers the moment in which he turned to aluminum a moment of revelation: in 2003, while sitting in a concert hall, he began folding the program and straightening it several times. In retrospect, he describes his feelings that evening as a type of meditation. The folded concert program gave him the idea to create a new series which would be based on folding, unfolding, and painting. Unable to obtain the desired effect with a sheet of paper, he turned to aluminum, and this material became the substance for his new works.
In the series of aluminum pieces, Serfaty explores the basic elements of an art work: color, form, light, and composition. The works resulted from a long process of reduction, simplification, and abstraction of matter and content alike. The entire landscape is encapsulated in the skyline dividing two geophysical entities of "upper" and "lower"; a single line which suffices to furnish the viewer with a sense of stability in space. "I am still interested in the same ideas that fascinated me in the past, such as borders versus continuity, separation versus integration, natural phenomena versus human creation. In the series of aluminum paintings I strive to exhaust these ideas; to arrive at the essence of color and the purpose of the stain," he explains.
Indeed, while the watercolor paintings were rooted in an external realistic image, the aluminum works turn to an inner world; while the watercolors addressed geographical borders between territories, the aluminum pieces shift the focus to the boundaries between colors and forms. The broad monochromatic color surfaces are the image itself, embodying a meditative quality. Instead of observing a portrayal of a concrete reality, the viewer is invited to delve into the painterly reality and enter a world of silence and slow motion.
In the physical process of folding and flattening the aluminum sheet, Serfaty sculpted the grid, as it were, rendering it three-dimensional. The painting thus began to "invade" the real world, being affected by the external light which changes throughout the day. By making the paintings three-dimensional, it is as though the artist installed the light-changing apparatus inside the work itself. The paintings are now influenced by an external light source, and as the day goes by, they are "forced" to change their color.
Serfaty's watercolor paintings confront the viewer with stormy landscapes teeming with movement: a mountainous desert landscape takes shape before our eyes, extending upward toward the sky and downward, toward the rocky ground which is poured from the blots of paint. Tiny houses break through this painterly materiality, attesting to human existence in a primordial nature. Observation of nature was the point of departure for this series. Serfaty lets the impressions of the scenery sink in and assimilate in his memory before he conveys them as picture. Work from memory enables him to enliven the landscape, to recreate it on paper, so to speak.
The use of watercolor on soft absorbent paper which responds to every brush stroke is congruent with the landscape depictions. Nature evolves on the paper, sprouts from it as if it were subjected to a geophysical process: the tectonic rhythm generated by the application of lines produces small formal units, which, in turn, accumulate into a total image.