until 10.10. | #2811ARTatBerlin | Semjon Contemporary presents from 22nd August 2020 the exhibition Lunapark Transylvania by the artist Gil Shachar.
The title already points in a possible associative direction, which is not undesirable to think here: The term Lunapark probably stands for an amusement and theme park for everyone, as it is represented today by Disneyland, for example. In combination with the addition Transylvania, thoughts immediately come up about Count Dracula from Transylvania, the former Transylvania, now located in Romania. In 1897, the Irish poet Bram Stoker had created an imaginative monument to the historical person Count Dracul (dracul in Romanian for devil) of the 15th century as a vampire, which made him the most famous representative of that very region, also called Wallachia. It is interesting that the Lunapark – the artist was not aware of this until now – had its origin in Berlin of all places. Back to the roots!
From 1904-1919 the Lunapark was a popular destination for the divertissement of Berliners and visitors to Berlin, with up to 16,000 restaurant seats. The number of visitors had already reached the first million in 1910. In 1934 the Lunapark was closed by order of the Nazi regime and one year later the whole complex at the Halensee was demolished to make room for the large streets leading to the Olympic Stadium, among other things.
A gigantic water slide had also been set up for entertainment at weddings in the Luna Park. The first escalator is said to have been installed there worldwide. Also present were also the popular and public-effective folk shows, which were still known from fairgrounds and zoological gardens at that time, with representatives of other peoples, which had been rather foreign and exotic for Central Europeans. Also typical at that time was the display of people who stood out beyond the usual norm through small or giant growth, total body hair or as Siamese twins, which was just as unworthy and discriminating for our time.
If you already know Gil Shachar’s work, it is no wonder that he likes to be inspired by this very special world with his true-to-life bust-sculptures. The artist as a researcher and interpreter, the artist – necessarily curious – in order to understand and interpret the world for himself and ultimately for us as representatives.
It is not surprising that he, who in his realistic bust-portrait, in the emerging art figure, breathes a new life, a new soul, that the anomaly of total body and facial hair fascinates him: Gil Shachar is a master of head hair. The hairs of the eyebrows and the skull are meticulously ‘painted on’, whereby the colour material also allows the representation of the individual hair to stand out vividly because it lies on top. The central – so far untitled main character of Lunapark Transylvania is characterized by the total facial hair. The association of an animal-transmuted human being (werewolf?) opens up, even if our own familiar facial features define him. The painting of the facial hair must have been a celebration for Gil Shachar, as I know from conversations with him that painting the hair is a meditative act for him. He spends countless hours to let the hair grow in front of his eyes, which is always extremely short. The regularity of the synchronous hair growth, the flowing around and snuggling around the skull with its slight changes of direction due to the naturally appearing hair whirls, the zero point at the fontanel, from where the direction of growth of the hair is aligned in all directions, this must be like a musical composition for the artist, where everything comes together when the last hair is painted on.
A hairless wart on the lateral calotte in his recently created bust-sculpture adds an additional tension.
But how challenging it must be when he – previously atypical – applies the hair to the surface of the face. The smooth, hairless skin is only the transition area to the closed eyes, or in this case the eyelids, mouth and ears.
How does the artist decide where exactly to stop with the hair? Because two hairs too much in the wrong place, could change the emotional expression of the art person strongly.
As with all previous heads and bust-portraits, the eyes of the protagonists are closed. This is due to the fact that, understandably, it is not possible to cast the open eyes of a living person. Out of necessity has become a virtue, for the sculptures gain a very special Gil Shachar aura, namely that of looking inwardly into the world outside. This circumstance makes the new face-haired figure human, allows us to connect and ally with it, makes it vulnerable. The physiognomy alternates between a slight sadness, self-absorption and great sensitivity, but also inner attentiveness. The softness of her expression is defined, among other things, by precisely that corridor of the hairless field of vision that defines the mouth plastically soft and sensual. And by the naked ears.
The lust and moral torment of voyeurism, which is characteristic of us all, is dampened by the figure’s closed eyes. We are literally invited to approach the object of curiosity unrecognized. Our shiver is a silent and discreet one. In the Luna Park or at the former fairgrounds (of human ‘exhibition objects’), the display of ‘living attractions’ is an incomparably brutal one. Only the anonymizing mass of the gapers forms a shelter and lets the boundaries of decency and the common sense instinct inherent in all of us fall for a distance.
In combination with the relief-like, strongly colored circular large wall sculptures, impressions of crumpled paper, the theme of Lunapark becomes clear once again. The striking nature of the billboards, the shrill colours of the showmen’s machinery such as carousels and slides, etc. find an abstract echo in the wall sculptures. Some of them might even remind us of an emoji of, for example, a sign for Mickey Mouse.
One only becomes aware of the wall work in its essence as a sculpture from close up. Especially where smaller circular forms are cut into the large (moon) discs, which open up the view to the exhibition wall and allow the elevation of the creases to be brought out particularly vividly, revealing a strength of the material beyond that of the paper. The surface of the thousand creases also creates a
sculptural surface, which at the same time enlivens the simple basic form by the multitude of minimal shadow casts.
The works of Gil Shachar are all self-representing solitary sculptures, but their arrangement to each other evokes stories that are matched with our own experience. In Dead Flat, his last solo exhibition, for example, in Eli, the bust-sculpture of an eight- to eleven-year-old boy, the figure of the little prince from St. Exupery’s novel could be read in the context of the large wall piece of a crescent moon shape.
This is also the case here. The figure of a totally hairy man’s bust in the context of the large circular cut-open, mostly strongly coloured wall discs (monochrome or multicoloured) visually underlines the exhibition title, which can already imply a reading direction: The abstracted moons remind us of the night, the period of time that gives the werewolf and Count Dracula their freedom of action.
Gil Shachar is able to cast a spell over us with his works, whether it be the bust-like sculptures or the non-figurative, rather abstract wall sculptures. In both groups of works we are overcome by disbelief. In the bust-sculptures we overcome our shame and are fascinated by the supposedly lifelike reproduction of the human face. The mere fact of how the artist creates the hair on the head can make us understand that his special painting technique (with wax and pigment) of each painted on individual hair is actually the sign of a hair that he creates. The body becomes the canvas.
It is the puzzle game between reality and illusion that interests the artist and that he realizes excellently. The fascination that Gil Shachar can mould a crumpled paper, which has been repainted into a surface, as a sculpture also leaves us astonished, since the paper is connoted with absolute fragility, and then there’s the crumpled one. Instead of bronze, the artist uses epoxy resin. It makes it easier and in the production process he is not dependent on a foundry and can produce it autonomously at any time in his studio.
Gil Shachar’s work fits perfectly into our time, because it works with the epiphany of the human figure or thing. For the quick look, possibly simplified by instagram and facebook, the work is to be understood in its essence (not necessarily wrong). But the one who takes the opportunity to take a personal look at the work can understand the dimension behind it: it represents the human being and the thing, and yet has received its own soul, the Shachar’s soul.
Semjon H. N. Semjon
Berlin im Juni 2020
Soft Opening: Friday, 21 August 2020, 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Exhibition dates: Saturday, 22 August to Saturday, 10 October 2020To the Gallery
Exhibition Gil Shachar – Semjon Contemporary | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin – Contemporary Art – Exhibitions Berlin Galleries – ART at Berlin