Synthetic Realism as Emblematical Language – Dr. Miriam Or

Those who follow the development of Ilana Raviv’s Art are stunned with wonder at the unexpected discovery of a surge of creativity, of forceful colors and shapes as she embraces all possible elements out of the artistic achievements in human culture.

The story of Ilana Raviv’s work is divided into several periods and is distinguished by her sense of form, color and composition as subjective values that are supported by formal values based on synthetic and emblematic issues.


Ilana Raviv – Synthetic Realism as Emblematical Language – Dr. Miriam Or
Lecturer and researcher art history

Those who follow the development of  Ilana Raviv’s Art are stunned with wonder at the unexpected discovery of a surge of creativity, of forceful colors and shapes as she embraces all possible elements out of the artistic achievements in human culture.

The story of Ilana Raviv’s work is divided into several periods and is distinguished by her sense of form, color and composition as subjective values that are supported by formal values based on synthetic and emblematic issues.

Emblematic are known from ancient times in Hebrew, Egyptian and Greco -Roman cultures. The word Emblema in Greek means: transplantation of one element into another, and in that case it was a mosaic implanted into a relief. Later on the term was used for the synthesis of words & images or images and symbols of different kinds in a manner they could form new context producing new subject matter and therefore beholding a new meaning.

Ilana Raviv’s stylistic approach, even being involved with a rich and vast vocabulary of signs and symbols, always guards and retains a personal hidden spark, which is set free as years went by and took on the form of deliberate creativity, dramatic expression in forms, shapes and colors, and finally producing new emblematic propositions with contents which are able to capture our attention and awake our curiosity, our thoughts and feelings.

Her strong lines are not only an act of tracing the subject matters, but they emphasize their unique characteristics. They contribute for the shaping and organization of the expressive forms and features. And thus, there exist an order within the chaos, and within the order, there is chaos, and may be that one succeeded the other. As Raviv states: “My work emanates from itself with strong presence. Each line dictates another and each shape creates a new one.” In my opinion her work is a continuous struggle in which everything is built and destroyed endlessly. Inspirations vary from examples in  Art History,  (Titian, Veronese, El-Greco, Franz Hals, Velasques, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, De Kooning, as well as the contemporary American artist Knox Martin,- her teacher at the Art Student League in New York), to the actuality and personal experience in every day life..

The experience of being ‘here’ and ‘now’ is expressed with strong feeling for man’s destiny, environment, landscape, cultural and emotional climate, which are the basic themes of her creativity.
Her art can be seen as creative metamorphosis, a result of subjective growth- personal and completely free.

The starting point in Ilana Raviv’s works is the combination of culture and nature, although the guiding thought is the will to project onto the canvases her attitude of her deep feelings and reactions to her surrounding, influencing her mood, style and subject matter.

Ilana Raviv’s paintings are always full with dynamics and energy which arouses the spectator curiosity and supplies him with much surprising fulfillment.

Rhythms and contexts are perhaps the strongest elements in her paintings; it seems, that humans are moving like trees or animals, and vice versa, as divers objects became capable of human behavior and all the environmental set is interwoven one inside the other dancing the eternal dance of life and death. Myth and reality are interwoven constantly in Ilana Raviv’s Art. As she presented her credo during an interview, she qualified her art as a Synthetic Realism, which expresses a metaphor different from reality. I may add here – well different but based on it. A painting is never reality but a mirror reflecting a flat illusionary shape of reality.  Her reflected images are not sentimental, nor naturalistic or academic, but newly born creatures with their own powerful existence which permit us to receive and interpret them under different and various modes of thinking. Her creatures are devoid of previous opinions and fashions. They are not illustrative but expressive in their appeal of their own language- unique and fantastic, real and dream-like, mythic and real at the same time.

When Jung discovered the broad analogies between the language of dreams and the language of myth, he immediately understood that the thinking tools of classical science are not going to help him if he continues on this road. One of the ways he succeeded to validate his ideas and one of the important ways of doing so was the intercultural research based on the changing aspects of reality. The attempt to discover the universal foundations in various mythologies contributed to the understanding of the universality of the mind.   Following the general question did every civilization and culture have a myth of its own- the private question arises, which is pertinent to our view concerning Ilana Raviv’s stand point of view in her Art. Being totally aware of the inability of the single language and word, in that case the visual one, to give expression to the realities that constitute and engage human beings and the world in which they live, she undertakes an alternative issue which leads her to a crucial intellectual options which have been formulated in various times and places and in various genres associated with myth, philosophy, poetry and psychology, and mostly with visual and performing art. I say ‘performing’ because Ilana Raviv’s canvases are merely theatrical stages, in which is performed the human drama.  In various situations those dramas had been the focal point of highly sophisticated disagreements and debates. Ilana Raviv attempt to reconcile them, both in theory and in relation to practice found place in issues of her artistic style with options of doing so separately or in juxtaposition, which still remain at the very heart of many contemporary reflections and disputes not only in the field of arts, religion and philosophy and esthetics, but in the social and natural sciences as well.

Adopting a boldly comparative strategy that combines empirical description and imaginative interpretation, Ilana Raviv presents ‘classic examples’ of both positions. Her examples range over a wide variety of cultures, including especially traditional iconography and modern approach. She utilizes carefully honed descriptions and analyzes to prepare the way for the presentation of her own insight and conclusions. Through her empirical descriptions and analyses, Raviv skillfully construct a very compelling argument for a pervasive power and necessity of expression for pictorial language as a tool for communication on the one hand, and for the coexisting importance of various kinds of ineffability on the other. In so doing she provides new grist for the mill of constructively oriented opinions concerned to delimit, for our own contemporary purposes, the possibilities and limits of the pictorial language. At the same time, she provides contents with the kind of sharpened sensitivities and conceptual tools that will enable them to refine their own interpretations of historically and contemporary divers approaches to the efficacy and limitations of the painterly language.

One can notice clearly that Ilana Raviv had developed in her Art an elaborate pantheon, fully realized in material imagery, reaching its zenith.  She visualized abstract thinking and spiritual contemplation with the use of images.  So she conceives the inevitability of the use of imagery, verbal and visual interleaved in a metaphorical geometry. The multiplicity of the forms and images used in her art, coincide with the development of the dynamics progressing in the human mind arousing from various causes, all ultimately referable to the diversity of need of individuals and groups. In particular, this multiplicity is due historically to the inclusion of all pre-existing forms, all local forms, in a greater theological synthesis, where they are interpreted as modes or emanations, and subsequently, to the further growth of philosophical speculation.

In the first place, Ilana Raviv’s forms of images are not arbitrary. Their ultimate elements may be of popular origin, instinctive preferences of the artist’s mind’ rather than theoretic inventions, but the method is adopted and further developed within the sphere of intellectual and intuitive insight – reflection of her integrity and character. Her present spiritual activity and the actual existence of traditional iconography , are reconciled. The representation of invisible by the visible can be the result of the revealing record of changes in the nature of the human experience in general and Ilana Raviv’s in particular. From the stand point of edification, the value of an image does not depend on its aesthetic qualities. Recognition of the significance of stylistic changes, in successive periods, important as it may be for us as art critics, is actually apparent only in disinterested retrospect. Stylistic changes correspond to cultural changes: we all speak the language of our own time, without question or analysis.

Let us consider now the processes actually involved in the making of images in the post modern era.
Through the lens of their own society, many modern artist including Ilana Raviv looked both to the art and to the world-view of the ‘primitive’ as a means of challenging established beliefs, but the ‘primitive’ to which they turned is a varied as the movements in modern art. It varies from high art to popular entertainment, from Darwin to Freud. What was used to be seen as ‘modern’ became indeed ‘postmodern’ in a sense of breaking out the ‘taboos’ of what was used to be sacred and intangible. Esthetic criteria changed drastically underlying the expressive of distortion, using quotations not literally but intuitively- kinetic and kinesthetic.

Features are no more separated but intermingled in a holistic and composite emblematic form which may be called synthetic realism. Therefore, Ilana Raviv’s Art is built on composition giving birth to a new born invention- new path in the road of the infinite creative achievements of humanity.