Wobble Bubble Trouble
Tsibi Geva in conversation with Noga Shatz
I would like to open the conversation with a question about the exhibition’s title; Where does the name Wobble come from? Does it refer to something that is essential to the exhibition as a whole?
The word wobble is derived from the German word wabble, and it is commonly used in British English. The definition of the word is an unsteady movement from side to side.
This feeling of poor balance, and unsteadiness had a strong presence in my life during the last year, dealing with, and living through the Coronavirus pandemic in England, a time during which we were going back and forth between lockdowns. I was unable to go to my studio for the large part of the year, and It was almost impossible to make any plans as reality was changing between one day to the next. Social distance regulations and the isolation caused my world to shrink into a very limited existence, an echo of my previous life.
When I look at your paintings, I am interested to know what the work revolves around? What is the subject of these paintings?
I realize that this is a complicated question to answer, considering the various elements composing the paintings; the images, the mark making, the way it was painted and the why.
So this is a complex question.
I like to think about each body of work through keys. A key is an important notion/ motivation/ question that I am interested in. The key is driving the process forward and sometimes backwards, keeping it dynamic. It is usually already present in the early stages of my creative process, long before I have an understanding of what it is. Following these primal hints, and attractions, will in time, develop into a more defined field of work, with sets of rules leading and developing the paintings.
The body of work exhibited in this show was developed throughout the Coronavirus pandemic that took a toll on and affected everyone I know. For me, personally, it was a lonely, challenging time as my main line of communication with the world, my family and friends, existed only on screens. This had a lot of influence on how I painted and what I was interested in when I returned to my studio.
In what way did it influence your painting?
I started painting on a square format, a format I hadn’t used before. I was imitating the format of the Instagram app, used these days by a lot of artists as their main social-media platform.
During the first lockdown I started to create small paintings at home on a daily basis. I would then photograph the paintings with my phone, and upload them to the app. Within this lonely, isolated existence, every heart emoji and every comment came through as signals of love and support, it created a feeling of closeness.
It is strange, but when there was no other way to communicate, many people turned to virtual communication, and I think that for artists, it had an even bigger impact as the virtual space turned into the space where you could display, sell your work, and get feedback.
When I returned to my studio, I wanted to transfer the square format from the virtual space to the physical space of painting. I was curious to see what would happen in the transition from the pixels to the stretched canvas.
I started working on small formats which were a replica of the Instagram square in size. I later moved on to painting on larger squares. The only thing that I knew about the paintings at that point was that they are part of something bigger, and that they are not complete. The colours in the paintings were also influenced by the digital world; the palette became extreme with high contrast and high saturation. It was interesting to follow these changes, and to explore ways to manifest them within the work. Each painting in the exhibition is both a stand-alone and a part of a bigger group of paintings. None of them is finished in a way, and none of them creates perfect pictorial sense.
The environment we live in today is fragmented and layered. We encounter high volumes of information and of visual content daily. When I work in the studio, the images that I think about, and the filters I work through, are already fragmented. In this current body of work the canvas itself became the fragment, an uncompleted piece.
Many of today’s contemporary painters operate in a pictorial world far from that of traditional classic painting. One of the elements that I like to explore is the flattening of perspective in painting, and the relationship it has to the use of screens.
The changes that pictorial perspective went through since the mid 19th century and even more so in the last 40 years, has been very dramatic due to changes in our everyday life, and the perception of our self-image.
From the 15th century until the mid 19th century perspective depicted in paintings created an illusion of depth. The painter’s hand manipulated the viewer to enter the painting from a single viewpoint, drawing him into the painting.
Yes, these paintings all have a definitive vanishing point. I often use a definition borrowed from the theatre world to describe these paintings; The unification of time, space and action. You see the stage, and these three unities are there to lead you through it.
I think that 200 years ago the connection between humans and nature was much stronger than it is today, which is why this type of gaze was possible then. In today’s reality, flattening, layering, collage, and multiple viewpoints, are elements that are already deeply integrated in our everyday lives. We live in a reality that combines, and interweaves, the three dimensional with the two dimensional in a variety of configurations.
There is a deconstruction of the gaze and there is a deconstruction of the wholeness of the world in general, not just in art. There is nothing whole that we can say anymore, and we don’t really know what to say about the truth.
I think that in your work you are developing options of recomposing these pieces. On the one hand the paintings in this exhibition express a fragmented world, we get pieces that are part of a larger picture which we can’t see. And on the other hand, there is an attempt to compose these fragments in a new context, one where they are both connected and disconnected. They present the intention and the will to create a world built out of fragments. And in that, they are both succeeding and failing at the same time. The highlight is their duality.
Some of them are connected and some of them are stuck. For example, in Jean Dubuffet’s work, his paintings are both connected and fragmented, and there is no hierarchy at all. If I relate to the three unities that you mentioned earlier; time, space and action, in Dubuffet's work all three are flattened, and have multiple viewpoints.
Yes, and it is not by chance that Dubuffet is often associated with Outsider Art. I would say that he is one of the few Outsider Art artists, who were accepted by both the art world and the public, as an important artist within the art world.
The fragmented image emerged in the 1980’s, with Postmodern Art, and Trans- Avant Garde Art. I claim that there hasn’t really been a new paradigm in painting since then. This is a non-coherent painting that has the freedom to deconstruct ideas, styles, and hierarchies. These tendencies continue to lead the pictorial world. However, today, we are experiencing the fraction in almost every aspect of our lives. The Coronavirus pandemic exposed the depth of the fractionation and gave us all a glimpse into the fragility of our way of living. It created a trauma and it will be interesting to see what will happen next.
Regarding the amplified use of technology you mentioned; While a physical connection wasn’t possible, working through zoom and using social-media platforms to communicate with one another became our ‘new normal’. But now that we are not under lockdown, many people are beginning to question whether connecting physically is a necessity. And all of a sudden there is a dehumanization of life. Why is another person necessary to me? What is the level of intimacy I need in my life? I feel that intimacy is being underrated and in a way, pushed aside.
The experience of viewing a painting in person is a different experience to viewing the same painting via a screen.
Some aspects of painting cannot be conveyed from a screen. Some artists are abandoning the tactile aspect of painting altogether, creating directly for the screen, and exhibiting their work on online platforms and virtual showrooms. For artists this brings up the question of the relationship to a physical place of encounter between the viewer and the artwork.
My motivation to create is linked to a desire to connect to the world around me. There is something very intimate in standing alone in front of a canvas, yet very connected to here and now. I see the finished paintings as an expression of relationships and discoveries made during the process of creating the work.
This is true. The paintings are alive, and I’m engaged in a relationship with them. It is a whole secret world that nobody knows about.
Exhibiting the work is an important stage, where the works get to travel to a new space. Still, it is a part of a greater journey.