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STUDIO STORIES 2020

STUDIO STORIES 2020 is a collection of short interviews with artists who have been making contemporary work during the Covid 19 pandemic. It introduces readers to the ways in which artists continue to create and adapt their practice today.
curated BY Lilach Schrag

ABOUT STUDIO STORIES 2020 - As the global health pandemic changed artists' lives and practice, Chicago-based artist Lilach Schrag found herself drawn to stories of how artists were adapting to lockdown and the new reality. The result is Lilach's curated presentation "Studio Stories 2020", hosted by Kol HaOt. "When I realized it would be impossible to have my scheduled June residency at Kol HaOt's gallery in Jerusalem, I reached out instead to colleagues and friends around the world who make contemporary art and started collecting their stories. I asked them to provide a glimpse into their mission, their methods, and their hearts. They spoke about their work, altered daily routines, challenging moments, uplifting realizations, and the ways in which they continue to create and adjust their practice during the pandemic. Individually, from their homes and their studios, they tell fascinating stories with thoughtful words and beautiful artwork. Collectively, they offer a snapshot of artists responding to the unprecedented reality of our time.” – Lilach Schrag, 2020

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Esther Cohen

ESTHER COHEN IS AN ISRAELI-BORN ARTIST WHO LIVES AND WORKS IN TEL AVIV. SHE EARNED HER B.E.D WITH DISTINCTION FROM “HAMIDRASHA” ACADEMY FOR FINE ARTS IN ISRAEL, AND HAS SHOWN WORK IN VENUES INCLUDING TEL AVIV MUSEUM OF ART, HAIFA MUSEUM, PETAH-TIKVA MUSEUM AND THE ARTISTS HOUSE IN TEL AVIV.

MY WORK PORTRAYS A DEEP-ROOTED CONTEMPORARY DEBATE REGARDING CULTURAL LEGACY, HERITAGE FROM THE PAST, AND TRADITIONS THAT CARRY ON TO THIS DAY.
MY PAINTINGS ARE INSPIRED BY RITUALS, NARRATIVES, AND CULTURAL ASPECTS INVOLVING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WILD AND THE MAN-MADE. THE PICTORIAL MOTIFS ARE AT ONCE SYMBOLIC AND POETIC, DRAWN FROM PERSONAL AS WELL AS COLLECTIVE MEMORIES.
in a detailed drawing with a simple ballpoint pen on paper, I refer to the act of mapping and the definition of actual and symbolic boundaries.
I RESEARCH THE DOMESTICATION OF NATURE. WHILE DOCUMENTING THE PROCESS OF GROWTH AND WITHERING IN THE WILD, I CORRESPOND WITH OLD-MASTERS’ PAINTINGS AND BOTANIST DRAWINGS FROM A CRITICALLY CONTEMPORARY POINT OF VIEW.

Poppies Observing the Negev Desert (Detail) - ballpoint pen on paper, 110 x 70 cm, 2015

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Olive Branches in Jerusalem (Detail) - ballpoint pen on paper, 2016

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MY NEW SERIES DISPLAYS A CIRCULAR CONNECTION WITH PROMINENT EVENTS FROM THE JEWISH CALENDAR, STARTING WITH THIS LAST "AVOT PASSOVER" WHICH WE CELEBRATED DURING QUARANTINE WITHOUT OUR PARENTS AND OTHER MEMBERS OF OUR FAMILY.

"AVOT PASSOVER" IS FOLLOWED BY THE COUNTING OF THE OMER, SHAVUOT, AND UPCOMING ROSH HASHANA AND OTHER TISHREI HOLIDAYS.

Song of the Sea. Yam-Mi. Tiamat tryptich - ballpoint pen on paper, 95 x 36 cm, 2020

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SOME OF THE DRAWINGS IN THE SERIES ARE INSPIRED BY KABBALAH LESSONS I TOOK WITH DR. NADINE SHENKAR, WHO OPENED A GREAT DOOR FOR ME AND ENABLED NEW ARTISTIC INTERPRETATION.

THEY EMPLOY JEWISH TEXTUAL SOURCES FROM THE TORAH, THE ZOHAR, AND BY REB NACHMAN OF BRESLEV, ALONGSIDE QUOTES FROM POEMS AND PRAYERS.

The Omer Count. Ana Bekoach tryptich - ballpoint pen on paper, 95 x 36 cm, 2020

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MY DRAWINGS INTRODUCE A NEW POINT OF VIEW ON CEREMONIES AND TRADITIONAL JEWISH RITUALS AND FOLKLORE, ESPECIALLY THOSE INVOLVING PRIMEVAL AGRICULTURAL ELEMENTS SUCH AS INCENSE PLANTS, BIBLICAL FRUITS, AND GRAINS.

IT EMPHASIZES THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MAN AND NATURE, WHICH IN MY VIEW IS THE ULTIMATE REFLECTION OF DIVINITY AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY IN LIFE.

Let His Left Hand be Under My Head, And His Right Hand Embrace Me

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THROUGH MY BODY OF WORK, I INVITE THE AUDIENCE TO CLOSELY OBSERVE AND CONSIDER QUESTIONS ABOUT IDENTITY, EVOLUTION, AND PERTINENCE.

I WANT TO BRING TO MIND THE DIALECTICS BETWEEN LOCAL AND GLOBAL, THE PLANTED AND THE UPROOTED, EAST AND WEST, INDOORS AND OUTDOORS, NATURE AND CULTURE, THE SPOKEN WORD AND THE TANGIBLE DRAWING, SPIRIT AND MATTER, ENTANGLING PAST AND PRESENT, CHARTED PATHWAYS AND UNRESTRAINED NATURE.

Plant the Finest Plants and Imported Vines tryptich - ballpoint pen on paper, 95 x 36 cm, 2020

FOR OVER THREE MONTHS I DID NOT WORK IN MY STUDIO. DURING QUARANTINE THE TERM STUDIO OR "A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN" CHANGED FOR ME FROM AN ACTUAL TANGIBLE PLACE INTO A WIDER ABSTRACT CONCEPT, TO A ROOM INSIDE A ROOM OF CONSCIOUSNESS, AN OPPORTUNITY TO BROADEN MY INNER THOUGHTS AND IMAGINATION.
I needed to combine my practice with family life so I replaced my studio desk with the dining table, and the living room sofa turned into a place where my thoughts and imagination fly.
Spending time at home during quarantine enabled me to deepen my artistic practice alongside my Kabbalah studies. I learned a lot about willpower and persistence, my invention skills and patience.
A Sign of Dawn - ballpoint pen on paper, 75 x 28 cm, 2020
Kala Ilan. Millin Waters - ballpoint pen on paper, 75 x 28 cm, 2020
Yachin. Boaz. His Lips as Roses - ballpoint pen on paper, 75 x 28 cm, 2020

I AM USUALLY INSPIRED BY NATURE AND THE OUTDOORS. LOOKING AT NATURE THROUGH THE WINDOW’S METAL BARS, ORNAMENTED LATTICE HAS BECOME AN IMPORTANT MOTIF IN MY WORK, SERVING AS A BARRIER, A WINDOW, OR A SHIELD.

Pomegranate Raspberry and Rayon diptych - ballpoint pen on paper,60 x 36 cm, 2020

LATELY THE WRITTEN WORD HAS BECOME MY ESCAPE AND AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN MY WORK.

QUOTES FROM PRAYERS AND POEMS SUGGEST NEW LANGUAGE CONFIGURATIONS, AND EXPRESS COVERT FEELINGS, REQUEST FOR MERCY, GRACE AND FORGIVENESS.

Blessed Is the Man - ballpoint pen on paper, 36 x 28 cm, 2020

DRAWING OR WRITING WITH INK MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO ERASE IN CASE OF FALSE ACTION, BUT IT DOES ALLOW REFORM OR "TIKUN."

MY NEW SERIES IS NOW ON DISPLAY AT SCHECHTER GALLERY IN TEL AVIV. ITS TITLE, "A SIGN OF DAWN," IS A PHRASE TAKEN FROM KABALA. IT RELATES TO SCRIBING BLACK-INKED LETTERS ON WHITE PAPER HIGHLIGHTING THE POSSIBLE CONNECTION BETWEEN A SPOKEN WORD’S PREMEDITATED INTENTION AND THE CONNECTION TO PRAYER AND PROMISE.

Up to the Root diptych - ballpoint pen on paper, 36 x 28 cm each, 2020

The Tchelet - ballpoint pen on paper, 75 x 28 cm, 2020

esther cohen

you can see more of esther's work by visiting:

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Created By
Lilach Schrag
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All images are courtesy of the artist.