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Felix Ringel Galerie_Düsseldorf

"Play with Me"_( Text by Barbara Weidle)

Roy Mordechay (born in 1976) uses complex installations, objects, paintings and drawings in order to find explanations for life’s madness, both his own and that of others. He is a keen observer and a charming player. For him life is a balancing act. It is as if he were a young relative of Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Panamarenko who watches himself and the world with almost incredulous amazement, a sharp eye and a sense of humour. He effortlessly crosses the boundaries between art, everyday life and politics, and between reality and fantasy. However, at the same time, the depictions of his figures, which sometimes seem skinned, also bring to mind Francis Bacon’s grandiose ruthlessness.


This artist, who is based in Tel Aviv, chose manly aquarelles for his first solo exhibition in Germany. Most of them originated during his four-week stay in Düsseldorf in the summer of 2009 and after his return to Israel. This was a clever choice for a European debut as these works on paper encompass his entire artistic cosmos. Mordachay’s theme is the individual’s never-ending struggle for success, and the pursuit of profit and recognition. His “Cactus Man”, a figure only recently created in Tel Aviv, is a further development of his insightful bodybuilder series about Arab men. This modern Sisyphus can be found both in the streets of Tel Aviv and on the beaches of this young metropolis. He is the Tsabar or Sabre which means cactus in Arabic and Hebrew. This is the term for the children of Jewish immigrants who were born in Israel, in other words, the modern Israeli: prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. Mordechay plays with this figure which everyone in the Middle East knows well. Apart from seeking aesthetic inspiration in films and comics, he also subtly applies stylistic elements from sport and advertising. The 33-year old artist has hacked a path through the modern jungle of images and even turns this action itself into subject matter.


In his work Roy Mordechay questions a certain ideal of manliness. He describes the weakness and fragility of his often injured antiheroes. A chaotic inner life shines through their skins. They try to be free and yet they never succeed. Either their legs are weighed down by various kinds of stumps or they have artificial limbs. Other figures are physically intact but emotionally damaged. They are imprisoned in social structures -- or within themselves. His works reflect external and internal limitations and fear. They are ultimately about not measuring up to society’s demands, about failing within a political situation but also about not living up to oneself and one’s own expectations. Hybrid human/ animal/plant creatures, which are sometimes nightmarish and sometimes comical, emerge time and time again. Mordechay is almost intuitive when he draws thus creating characters somewhere between King Kong, Buddha and Superman. They look like 21st century mythological figures.


His “Zoom-Zooms”, on the other hand, strange flying creatures with bones, wing membranes and astonished eyes seem like a cross between an archaeopteryx and something from a science fiction film. These strangely soulful beings glide through the artist’s pictorial worlds as though he were steering them by remote control. A visit to Chicago’s natural history museum inspired Mordechay to create this series. Visitors were given a magnifying glass with which they could zoom in on the often tiny exhibits (hence the title).


Initially, the vital character of Mordechay’s pictorial worlds seems cheerful. At the same time, the separate, severed body parts, injuries and false limbs, remote controls and fuses, the huge level of often palpable tension, the explosive atmosphere, the walls and fences all refer to the political situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. These images express the feeling of fear and oppression on both sides which comes to light beneath the fragile surface. Vulnerability and war are often “mentally” present, as Mordechay himself says, even when they are not spelled out explicitly.


In these superbly executed aquarelles with flowing shapes and colours the artist invites viewers to take a close look: “Play with me”, he says, “but it may be dangerous” He uses effortlessness, humour and an eagle eye in order to drag his audience below the surface right into the chaos and the depths of human existence. Yet at the same time, his Zoom-Zooms, these dainty flying entities, which float through his world of images, are enchanting. The delicacy and precision of these ephemeral creatures and the love of dreams create this impression.

A young Israeli generation’s ambivalent feeling towards life is expressed in these very promising works.

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