Dogma | Dugma

February 28, 2012

This morning while thinking in Hebrew, I noticed that the Hebrew/Aramaic word for pattern DUGMA, is almost identical to the Latin loan word DOGMA.

In November, I had the honor of meeting with Robert Zakanovitch, one of the founders of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the 1980s. We had a wonderful discussion about the various crises that Modern painting has gone through, beginning with the abstraction of figures and of observation, through the pure formalism of placing pigment on canvas with great virtuosity as was valued in the 1950s. This process of elimination, led to what many would consider to be a dead end in painting: Conceptual art, in which even the pigment is eliminated.

A love of pattern is innate in all human cultures. Creating repetitive ornament has been the most common form of visual creativity for thousands of years. Yet sometime in the Renaissance ornament fell out of favor in European art, and gradually became relegated to the lower level of handicrafts, and even worse, to be considered merely “women’s work.”

The Pattern and Decoration movement was dominated by women, more specifically Jewish women. Battling for their feminist agenda was not enough. They also had to battle with the current artistic dogmas: The very “pithy” and deliberately exclusive art establishment viewed anything “pretty” as being vulgar.

Yet “Prettiness” is not any more vulgar or simplistic, than let’s say the color blue is. Blue inspires a whole range of emotions, and when contrasted with other colors, blue can enlighten or blur new awareness. Blue can be brilliant or banal, depending upon the context. So too with visual beauty.

Chanan Mazal – Art Studio Update February 2012

Dear Friends,

I would like to share some of my recent artwork with you.

Last May, at the opening of my show at the Jerusalem Theatre, I spoke about the border between ornament and art, and about my exploration of ornament’s potential as a vehicle for emotional and artistic expression. I have found this subject to be even deeper and more gratifying than I had imagined. While applying more and more layers to each painting, I alternatively create denser layers of pattern, or masks to hide or mutate them. Like a toddler building a tower of blocks, building, knocking down, and building again. At the same time, my own levels of raw emotions vacillate with a desire to return to a well behaved and pretty aesthetic. Like the naughty child in Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”.

My goal is to stop working at that enigmatic point in time, when I feel that this tug of war, has reached a perfect tie: The war is between impulsive, yet engaging “bad taste” and refined, pleasing “good taste”. The moment when our tense concentration, breaks into a humorous, joyous smile.

I use the power or delicacy of pattern, to counterbalance my deliberately coarse executed of earlier layers; to correct my deliberately imperfect compositions, and to make peace with waring colors. I prefer to initially attack the canvas as quickly as possible, from my gut. Then I patiently, thoughtfully and joyfully, build up the painting to that moment of equilibrium. Perhaps we all get gratification from fixing broken things.

When artists paint portraits of others, in a sense they are always painting themselves. Likewise, I feel that even when painting the most neutral of objects, these works reflect my own search for self identity. Our teenage self definitions get redefined over time, as we mature, change our family and work roles, and re clarify our values.

I find that self humor is a great tool. Perhaps that is why so many of my works contain either a well balanced, symmetrically placed
object, over a joyfully chaotic undercoat, or impossibly off balanced bowls, about to roll off of the canvas.

If any of you folks are here in Jerusalem, please join me at the opening of my newest exhibition:

Tuesday Feb. 21 2012, from 6 – 9 pm
at the AACI Center, 2 Poalei Zedek St. corner of Pierre Koenig, 4th floor. (across from the Hadar Mall in Talpiot)
The show will be open from Feb 2 to April 5, 2012