Zohar Fraiman

Die Bösen dürfen nicht weinen 

08
.09.2017 — 21.10.2017   

Galerie Russi Klenner

Berlin
 

Thibaut de Ruyter

Exploring the relationship between humans and animals leads us on a path that goes back to the beginning of mankind. In 1974, Joseph Beuys spent a few days living with a coyote in a New York art gallery. Earlier in the first half of the twentieth century, Balthus painted the happy lives of young girls with their cats. Further back comes the epoch of fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood from Charles Perrault and beyond that the devils and chimeras ornamenting Gothic cathedrals. Travelling back even further in time takes us to Greek mythology in which we meet with Centaurs and to the Egyptians who associated dogs with gods. Our journey finishes in the dark caves daubed in prehistoric paintings. In short, our connection to animals has been an endless source of inspiration for artists: it is present in religion, literature, society and even our dreams.

The painter Zohar Fraiman (born 1987 in Jerusalem) has, since 2012, been examining the interrelation between humans in combination with figures of devils and, more recently, wild animals. In her most recent paintings, wolves co-inhabit the world of young women almost happily. Sometimes, the wolves and women merge to create hybrid figures. If one searches for a clear common thread connecting the paintings thereby creating a fairytale, one will only be mislead. The story is fragmented, from one canvas to the next, without any linear order. One can of course try to build up one’s own narrative but Zohar Fraiman’s paintings are more than a simple illustration to an untold story. 

Instead we are left, as in a play, with scenes involving different actors that will, from one tableau to the next, live out their lives and their relationships. The principle of theatre echoes within Zohar Fraiman’s world. Many of her paintings are composed with mountain landscapes that resemble a backdrop, whilst figures stand on the proscenium waiting to give their final bow. One must only look in Koo Loo Loosh (2017) at the four men who stand contemplating a stage in the distance where indistinct characters move whilst bananas float into the sky, to understand that all what we see in those paintings is a mise-en-scène. 

In all the paintings from the exhibition Die Bösen dürfen nicht weinen [The bad ones may not cry] the border between humans and animals is blurred and the roles are constantly shifting. Women are victims and suddenly take power; wolves guard their territory together but also decide to eat each other; brides appear without telling us if they are willing to marry and, sometimes, it’s even fun to play guitar. It’s a game of domination and submission where — from one painting to the next — characters change their social and sexual roles. Indeed it is this constant role change that impedes any symbolic interpretation in Zohar Fraiman’s work. What is left is a world that more or less resembles our everyday where the enemy from yesterday is the hero of tomorrow, where good intentions create failures and strange stories depict a damaged reality.

Infold Enfold Unfold  

0
6.12.2014 — 14.01.2015   

Dorothea Konwiarz Stiftung

Berlin
 

Michael B. Ron

What does one who looks through a screen see? While one is covered, what can others, who are looking, see? The figures Zohar Fraiman (b. 1987 in Jerusalem) paints are covered under a white cloth. Underneath they hide unseen, unseeing. And the closer one looks, the less one sees too. Could those figures see us behind their white screens? Is there anyone under those screens at all?

Front or back, in or out – Fraiman keeps it dubious. She paints figures on wooden doors that open up to an altar triptych. In her Talal/ טלל* series of self built boxes, a number of fragile and intimate objects engage the viewer to follow a trail of images and incidents from one box to another. The outside of each box appears to be raw and blank, yet inside each work is an image that aims to fulfill the viewers curiosity after opening the box. The images inside each box are trapped unless revealed by the viewer, reflecting a trapped possessive spirit hidden within another body. 

Those covered figures unfold to more. In the altar piece Tallit *(2014), three figures on the front unfold to a triptych presenting a great crowd in white, resembling waves carrying sea foam while breaking on shore. They seem to bend back and forth together according to a single tune, in a frozen eternal movement. We may animate them and bring them closer together while closing back the doors of the triptych. Then the all-over landscape painting infolds into three figures, as in an inversion of German romanticism, infolding the sea into the lonesome monk. This act is repeated in Untitled (Don’t See Us) (2014), even more abstractly. Don’t See Us calls to the song written by hip-hop band The Roots. Giving another painting of a covered crowd its title from The Roots, Float like Hovercrafts/Sting like Vaccinations (2014) shows the connection Fraiman makes between lyrics from these songs to the paintings content. 

These enigmatic figures being portrayed by Fraiman seem genderless, as if the white fabrics infold sexuality. In the Jewish orthodox synagogue only men pray covered with a tallit, separate from women. But in Portrait of Grandmother Bugmann on her Wedding Day (2014) it is a woman who is covered from head to toe with a white fabric. Covered grandmother Bugmann reminds us of the bogeyman, she looks like that featureless ghost, yet she seems more vulnerable than frightening. Que viene el Coco (2014), hints at another painting, in which we finally face the bogeymen with several figures who unveil their faces. The faces, emerging behind the tallit through a vaginal fold, are red and demonic.And yet, after looking at Grandmother Bugmann covered up and demons exposing their faces, we stumble upon a pure white bride and a demonic red devil enfold into each other’s arms in Kiss (Avoiding Kiddushin Series) (2014). Is such a kiss enfolded under the white screen in Enfolded Kiss (2014)? 

Fraiman engages the curious viewer with looking without seeing, whether she unfolds the unseen openly all over the canvas, or infolds it intimately into boxes suggesting secrets. The viewer looks, but doesn’t see. Seeing is restricted, out of bounds. Religiously, one mustn’t see the sacred. Morally, one shouldn’t look at the demonic. But under a cover of white purity a bogeyman may hide, and a demon shining in red may expose us to a moment of eery romance.