About the Work

Ilana Raviv – My Artwork

In the book ‘Letters on Cézanne’, a compilation of letters written by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke to his wife, he describes his heartfelt feelings and deep, intense impressions of Cezanne’s works, which he viewed in a fall exhibition while visiting Paris.

Rilke describes that to which his eyes were privy – the objective, practical innovation presented in Cezanne’s works and the observed essence of the struggle between objectivity and subjectivity, between that which is to the point, unadulterated and without past baggage, and that which expresses matters of the soul. The observance of these opposing forces brought about a material change in Rilke’s work, for which a key principle was not to stifle or burden one’s work with one’s presence, opinions, feelings, beliefs or intentions. To create without a personal interest and to turn one’s undivided attention to the matter at hand when doing so. To allow some fresh air to breeze through the window of opportunities and to give a chance to the surprises that will surely follow. This is the realm of my own work.

‘Being there’ – these are the two magic words that comprise the whole essence of my work and the motto of how I involve myself in art as well as in life. The primary objective is to be sucked in by, absorbed in, and merged with the work, where creator and creation become one.

Cézanne altered the concept of romantic sentimentality into a practical, objective observance. Instead of describing the subject and expressing his feelings, he created anew from what he saw and observed in the moment, from what was actually there, without interpretation, prejudices or preconceived notions.

My works do not involve themselves in ideology.  As an artist, I am not subscribed to any political manifest or academic creed. Art is supposed to be beyond reality. The moment that art turns into a vehicle that serves politics, art loses its essence, as what then would differentiate it from the everyday?

I do not delve into patterns of names, places, trends, tastes or changing fashions. The actual creation and the process that stems from it present themselves anew, from themselves, at each and every moment, again and again; attention is given to the work’s surface – from right to left, top to bottom, as the work constantly forms and changes, surprising me anew, all from the here and now, complying only to itself and manifesting into something that is independent of time and which is forever relevant.

I create metaphorical shapes from real subjects that are constructed in different levels which are sometimes more stretched and sometimes less, all through taking risk and through complete freedom. This lends itself to a discovery experience and not to an illustration of past thoughts. My works can be compared to motion created in a kaleidoscope, which re-invents itself with every new twist.

My inspiration comes from pre-historical wall paintings and is intertwined with the path and spirit of works by great masters of art including Titian, Veronese, Hals, Velázquez, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, de Kooning as well as the American artist Knox Martin who still works in New York and has been my mentor, guide, inspiration and a great privilege in my life.

Art is the true freedom to attempt to cleanse oneself from all external pressures. If this is not so, art loses its way.

May 2015

Source: Rilke’s Letters on Cezanne – Preface – Shimon Sandbank, Am Oved Publishers, 2003


Synthetic Realism

Synthetic Realism expresses a metaphor different from reality. My works create synthetic life on canvas, forming diverse flat shapes in contrasts which are not naturalistic, academic or sentimental. Shapes which recreate themselves while rendering a different interpretation to reality. These works emerge from the present experience without drawing from the past, devoid of opinion, preparation or previous training. They are the product of an entry into the unknown with freedom devoid of fear. My works are woven into rhymes and tied up in a geometry of poetic expression. The formation of my work is not cognizant. The works stem from a process of alert concentration, attention to detail and an interest in the subject. This invites an element of surprise and an unexpected freshness which adds another dimension to my works. The work is not abstract, the vivid interest is in the existing concrete subject and in the formative complex containing its whole, clear of information or any hint or message of any kind. My work emanates from itself with a strong presence. Each line dictates another and each shape creates a new shape. It is built on the anatomy of art and not on the anatomy of the subject. These elements are derived from the works of maestros like Titian, Veronese, El greco, Frans Hals, Velasques, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, De Kooning, as well as the contemporary American artist Knox Martin, my teacher at the Art Student League in New York. The essence of my work revolves around discovery itself and not on illustration or description. It is art that does not age and is beyond time and fashion. ILANA RAVIV New York, 1986

What is A Painting? An interview with Ilana Raviv

Watching llana’s works causes many things and raises many questions. First comes the impact, which isn’t easy to define, and then the curiosity, for one thing: one can’t remain indifferent while looking at these works.

The external impression is evident: The colors and shapes intermingle and the overall effect is that of a synthetic and different image of reality. Ilana creates without leaving the background neutral; the spaces are as active as the shapes they define. The contrasts of shapes and changing colors are at the same time accurate and seem to flow out of themselves: the thick and the thin, the straight and the curved, the big and the small, emerging into each other and weaving their threads into a peculiar “static” motion.

I asked llana why is it that her works lack any ornamentation elements. Her answer was firm and clear: “There is simply no reason why they should be there, absolutely no reason; all that they can bring is to detract from the characteristic vigor of the painting”.

“What are the elements of this characteristic vigor?” I asked.

Ilana hesitated a while, then replied: “There is a little paradox here”, she said. “We are dealing here with rather simple elements that can be found in the works of the greatest painters, yet these were not discerned by all. These elements are found in the rich bow which covers the anatomy of art and are also laid at its basis. They are like a chain that passes through the tradition of such grandmasters as Titian, Veronese, El Greco, Frans Hals, Velasques, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Miro and De Kooning, as well as Knox Martin, the contemporary painter who was my teacher at the Art Student League in New York.”

“And how would you define these elements?” I asked

“The main starting point is the existing concrete subject, from which a flat metaphor is created, a measureless and non naturalistic academic or sentimental metaphor. It is a metaphor that is born on the spur of the moment in a real-time experience, without paying tribute to past convictions, without resorting to previous training. Essentially it means opening a door to a different view, beyond reality and logic, creating yet another dimension within the wide range of the language forms, rhymes, contrasts and spirality, bound together by a geometry of poetic expression and sensation.”

“Would you call this approach by a name, a group of artists that have placed it as their motto?” I asked.

“I can’t recall one”, said Ilana. “These elements do not belong to and do not represent schools of thoughts, trends, messages or gimmicks. Their essence is the complexity which makes the whole without resting contented with a splinter of an idea or allegory which is supposed to be hidden behind them. They do not supply us with association, information or any other clue besides themselves. A painting should be an anatomy built of and into these elements, and not of the elements of the anatomy of a subject.”

“Isn’t there a danger involved in such an approach of obscurity, of loosing contact with the viewer?”

“New creation means walking into the unknown, taking fully the chance and the risk involved in opening the door to the challenge of surprise; it means daring to touch the weird and unexpected. It doesn’t describe a subject and follow its steps; it is what it is, built without “going forward”, without taking anything for granted, without seeking “conclusions”. Each moment creates another moment, a shape that invites yet another shape.” “True, this path has its pitfalls and traps too, which make a world of difference between discovery and the mere description of discovery, an illusion of it.”

“And how can one avoid these traps?”, I wondered.

“This is perhaps the most difficult piece of advice one can ask for”, she said. “First, one should examine the subject thoroughly and become saturated with it, and then leave it alone. Only later one should try and recreate it without carrying along any of the old concepts associated with it. Only a sudden shake-up can move us forward toward a new fusion with the subject; a fusion but not identification which only shuts the door to fresh air, inflates the ego and produces an image that kills any daring and new challenge. A true work of art isn’t just a product of deep concentration, rather it is an absolute awareness of the possibilities inherent in a given subject, in its forms and contradictions.”

“Is it then the idea that shapes the form of a subject, or is it the opposite?” I asked.

“The idea is not supposed to guide us or suggest a line of action; rather it is the action that unleashes the idea, the name. Nature follows creation and not the other way around, and creation isn’t an invention based on the real; it is only a beginning of something that hasn’t yet come into being. Moreover, this something is created and is exercising its power cut of absolute freedom, without coercion, with the same ease that one feels upon arriving back home, like a refreshment brought about by a good companion who shows interest and involvement in that which surrounds us, unlike his boring self centered counterpart. The whole point is that one should be interestred, not interesting, free from fears or alien consideration. One should express one’s self without reservation or polite restraints. Like a child one should go along the mysteries of creation experiencing the full impact of every moment. One’s steps should become concrete simultaneous information, beyond preconceived ideas and without preparations.”

“Aren’t you describing here what a spontaneous creation is all about?” I remarked.

“Exactly so. This is a kind of active spontaneity, striking while the iron is hot at a moment that fits only itself, which needs no choice making, nor an opinion nor an interpretation. This is why there is no place left for a neutral background, for a musical background. The subject should be formed by the uniqueness of its strong presence realization, which is constantly increasing and doesn’t grow old. It is like the elements that one finds in the cave paintings and African sculptures, that dramatic impact hidden in the fiery Flamenco dance which is devoid of any meaning other than its belonging to itself – that very thing which makes this dance so different from the Broadway dance performances. These merely reenact the solving of an already solved crossword puzzle, ready made and easy to grasp, which doesn’t excite and which requires little effort to digest the experience.” “The kind of art-making that I have mentioned, like the Flamenco dance, is a different thing. It belongs to the traveller climbing an unknown hill, full gas forward! Taking no heed, no precaution! What we have here isn’t a trip to a given destination or purpose.”   To be there, this is the key that opens the door to endless creative possibilities. These things cannot be achieved merely through the power of the will, and they are among the characteristics of Ilana’s paintings. Yehuda Oppenhiem