Gal On Gallery, Tel Aviv
Curator Daniella Talmor
The riveting human landscape stemming from the works of the artist Hana Jaeger is anchored in the world of experiences rooted in everyday life. The paintings, mostly of men, bestow on these moments a standing of dominance by virtue of their hypnotic portraiture and highly individualized aura. Her expressive oeuvre is characterized by an open, free, figurative language as well as by large painted expanses and a grayish monochromatic colorfulness. Her works are, on the most part, in oil and acrylic paint on canvas or on found materials such as cardboard, wood, metal and Perspex sheets, which she recycles.
The title of the exhibition, Limbo, is taken from the Christian faith according to which limbo is the abode of the souls of those who are not entitled to go to heaven but at the same time have not been dispatched to hell – in-between people who did not lead really right and proper lives but were also not completely corrupt. Consequently, most of the men in Jaeger's paintings are not heroic. The majority of them are depicted in static positions, appearing to be depressed and lifeless or even sending distress signals. Jaeger captures her figures in moments of weakness, as if by penetrating their hiding place behind the scenes. Facial features, too, are missing in most of the paintings, and the supposition justifying this absence is that the subjects of the paintings do not see her, that she is peeping at them whereas they are not looking at her. And so, from time to time, she chooses to paint her male figures foreshortened, from an elevated angle, with their faces hidden or turned aside. She relates that her painting stems from an unknown place, and sometimes even she herself is frightened on perceiving what she has just painted and to what extent the result has diverged from the original source of her inspiration.
The subjects which Jaeger deals with are taken from the margins, from the banality of everyday life. She depicts trivial situations that usually escape our attention, and when she makes room for them in her work she glorifies them. The men who appear in her paintings are usually engrossed in everyday activities – dancing, washing themselves, speaking on the telephone, looking at the computer screen, and engaged in sporting activities such as running, swimming, judo, climbing, etc. Observing them engenders an irritating ambivalent feeling. The limbo dancer, for example, is portrayed at the acme of his difficult task, at the instant when he arches his body under the bar uncertain as yet whether he will succeed in his effort or freeze and fail. Also the body of the singer appears bent and drooping in contrast to the bright pinkish shirt he is wearing, and his face is hidden behind a pair of dark glasses. A pale man is leaning over the sink in the bathroom, either washing his face or crying, and beside him water has collected in a puddle on the floor. In one of the paintings, tearing at the heartstrings of compassion is an old man sitting bent over on a bed with the earphones of an MP3 stuck in his ears and looking like someone trying to hold on to life by means of the latest electronic gadget. One of the works depicts, from behind his back, a man in the twilight of his life sitting in a wheelchair; in another, a man lies sprawled on a striped couch in a moment of weakness, with a hint of a bandage around his leg; and in yet another a man is lying on a bed with a sling supporting his arm in a plaster cast. Sometimes the figures are caught in a tangle, like the motorcycle rider enmeshed in electric cables, or the man climbing up an enormous billboard while the ropes around him perhaps support him, perhaps imprison him. An additional painting portrays a prisoner manacled hand and foot; his head has been left outside the frame. In another work, a sprinter can be seen sitting bent over on a track in an athletics field, and in an additional one a clown hides behind a mask from which protrude a pair of sad eyes. A series of scenes from the court of law displays a group of defendants sitting bent over, waiting with their heads covered.
Jaeger seemingly uses colors taken from the palettes of both 'minorism' and 'majorism' painterly tones which, when combined, look like a mixture of dingy cold and hot, jumbled together, half-shadows reverberating free images and breathtaking shapes. The gray, somewhat turbid colorfulness enhances the feeling that the paintings deal with calamity and disruption; images propagating a feeling of lack of precision bordering on the unrealistic. The exposed human image, in a color totally devoid of any attempt to soften the effect, brings to light a naked truth exhibited without the least effort to beautify or disguise it. This revelation gives expression to the usually restricted aspect of the pain ingrained in daily life and constituting an inseparable part of the human condition. The special combination in which the images are intertwined confronts struggle and pain on the one hand with calmness, gentleness, beauty and aesthetics on the other. Thus do the works in the exhibition display the striking contrast of extremity and the grinding daily struggle against the emotion of art and its ability to submerge these hardships in large life-giving patches of color.
The paintings of Hana Jaeger form a kind of picture album glorifying the trivial and convening riveting meetings between the common within-reach immediacy and the fictitious, between extinction and eternity, between reality and illusion. Her works serve as a means of expression illustrating personal stories and exhibit an eternal periodicity of formation and disintegration not implanted in any specific time or place. Her images are like an old photograph, dark and mysterious, ranging between the reality and a dream.
Gal-On Art Place