Pictures and memories

“Pictures and Memories,” June 2022. Agripas 12 Gallery, Jerusalem.
Curator: Tal Gelfer

Observing a painting invites the viewer to a dialogue since the painting returns the gaze in a process of a mutual searching and exploration of getting to know each other and attentively listening which may lead to the buds of a feeling of vague recognition and understanding.

In Oded Zaidel’s current exhibition, the scene of wall-to-wall linked gazes between relatives and friends, a joint fabric of social presence with the viewer at the center, invited into the intimate circle of the artist’s contacts.

The paintings flood the viewer with a sensation of remaining for a time in a familiar space: parents and children holding on to each other, a hand on a shoulder at a festive event, a parental arm embracing a child as the family spends time on the beach on the backdrop of a car in a mountain scene. On the other hand, a portrait series of friends of the artist as symbols of artist and human being.

Despite the directness of the painterly gestures, the paintings also bear the presence of another medium: photography, seemingly familiar – both local and universal – the presence of memories. Indeed, Zaidel is painting memories from old photographs he extracts from family albums, memories of love nourishing his current painting practice. Similar to poet Avot Yeshurun’s statement that “memories are home,” Zaidel turns to memories grasped in old family photographs and paints familiality and closeness. This is an unusual step as is the way Zaidel makes his works in this era of the photographed image, this time of Facebook and Instagram, when everyone photographs everything, lots of it, all the time. Photography is the look of everything. Private is public and consciousness can hardly contain the unceasing flow of images that has become a photographed general and universal stream of consciousness. Within this flow Zaidel takes a well thought out planned stop which is sensitive and deep, the opposite of the “picturizing” so in vogue.

Through the photographs that bear the meanings of his father, mother and sisters, he returns to places, experiences, and emotions. In a separate series using personal photos of his artist friends also taken on festive occasions, Zaidel joins the contemporary fashion of frequent photographing based on aware, intelligent consent, retrieving personal choices of significant people and moments, painting them as a unique humanistic being and as a social gesture.

Following associations and reasons for using the photographic image constitutes the major key to decoding the works. The use of a photograph as the basis for a painting for Zaidel is the grasp of the human experience and its remaining memory. Zaidel’s paintings breathe life into memories, carefully and precisely, held as inner emotion contrasted with past life. Life as lived in the past is balanced by the outburst of vitality in his paintings of friends which Zaidel adds to his memories with sharp intuition looking to the future. This is a genuine adventure – a social adventure, one which is very interesting to see how it continues and to what new work it will lead in his oeuvre.