The Consciousness behind the Brush Strokes

About the work of the artist Ilana Raviv
By: Sarit Shatz


An observer with no “understanding” of art has the advantage of encountering a work of art with a clear, primal and unbiased approach that neither labels it nor is tainted by preconceived knowledge and ideas. A “non-understanding” observer approaches such an encounter with what Zen Buddhism calls a “beginner’s mind” – a receptive, enthusiastic, curious, naïve, and pure consciousness, free of any preconception and conceptualization whatsoever. It is this consciousness, lying at the core of our being, which is enthralled by the beauty of a sunset, the pallor of moonlight in a starlit sky or the face of a loved one.

“Non-knowing” observation of art is always primal, multi-dimensional and never fails to leave us with the unforgettable impression of a unique experience.

Ilana Raviv’s work is characterized by wonderful talent and an outstanding blend of the tangible and the surreal, infinite innocence and the turmoil of what is generally hidden beneath the surface erupting from the depth of the unconscious, an opulent texture of revelation and concealment, affecting the all-encompassing senses of human experience.

The chosen paintings both deal with human suffering in the face of death, extinction and loss of time. For anyone looking at them, it is obvious they were painted with a compassionate, loving and sensitive hand.

In “Homage to Vladimir Vysotsky”, the Russian poet, the artist’s wondrously intense brushstrokes create an atmosphere of urgency, power, agony and the sense of suffocation to the point that we feel the physical pressure in our chest and gasp for air. “Slow your gallop, oh my horses,- make it peaceful and calm /And extend, somewhat, my journey to the last and final shelter”, the poet’s desperate plea cries out to his horses.

The poet’s outcry, the sound of the horses’ neighing and galloping hoofs emerges from the canvas as if they are about to break through it and burst into space. The observer sinks into their widened eyes, galloping with them downhill to the verge of life and their demise.

At the bottom of the painting our childhood toy train appears as a poetic oxymoron. The train serenely running its course reflects the child in us, whose perception of time is infinite and life eternal. Its tracks running in a direction opposite to that of the galloping horses seem to have taken a course contradictory to nature. The smoke rising from its engine blends with the breath of the galloping horses while their hoofs threaten to trample and crush it to dust.

In “Easterly Wind”, the artist breathes life into the tragic figure of Hagar – the mother and servant.

The Easterly Wind burns through the array of brown, red and yellow, scorching the spectator with its heat. The rustle of the winding serpents is heard hissing through Hagar’s hair, as if revealing the feverish mind of a mother abandoned to her destiny, lost in the desert with her beloved son, faced with sudden realization of the peril to their lives as their pitchers run completely dry of water. As the pale body of her son Ishmael lies lifeless in her helpless arms, she seems to be embracing him fiercely, or is she tearing him away from her, a split-second before casting him under the shrub.

I am no great connoisseur of art however, I recommend approaching the paintings of Ilana Raviv with a Beginner’s Mind.

Fastidious Horses, Translation by Andrey Kneller,