Fields of Flowers and Contemplation by Hagai Segev

Israeli art, like any art, is taking form through accumulation of body of works by many artists whose divergence contributes to the richness of the creative world. Farideh’s works are adding one more aspect to the Israeli art and enhancing its existing fascinating divergence. Beauty and unresolved mysteries are essential components in Farideh’s creative activity. These are essences that are looked for by Farideh prior to painting and ultimately manifest themselves in her works in an infinite constructive process. The constructive process is concentrating on developing and refining the visual perception of flowers, landscapes and artistic conventions. It is not to be said that it necessarily provides the answers to artistic and human’s questions; yet it results in a rich and complex body of works, seducing to be immersed in the created pools of colours and forms and get involved with a pleasant world of thought, memory and emotions.

The quest for (intrinsic ) meaning or narrative ( power ) in Farideh’s works confronts the viewer with stratified intellectual challenge. The paintings’ impact stems mainly from the emotional stratum, on which it also operates in a distinctly intuitive manner; at the same time, one is made acutely aware that these paintings result from a calculated, meticulous and rational process. In this rich process Farideh puts layers and layers of dots and fields of paint until the paper is completely covered. Farideh quotes the artist Moshe Kupferman who said: “I work and work to the point I feel that that’s it…”. Farideh’s works undergo a similar process; the sense of conclusion and the precise timing in removing the brush from the paper are intuitively determined during the creative process which is intertwined with emotion. These feelings are naturally conveyed to the viewer as well. The knowledge ( acknowledgement ) when the moment of termination has been reached – namely, the conclusion of the work and reconciliation with the fact that one must stop adding and altering – is subjective, acknowledging the significance of the starting and ending points. This modus operandi also points to a mindset that leaves room for the process of creation and action. The inability to define the beginning and ending also invokes the feeling that things are not fully and conclusively elucidated, and this open-endedness is highly significant in the paintings’ internalization process.

Farideh’s works explore natural beauty in all its simplicity – the natural beauty inherent in something simple, a flower, a palm tree, and a sky. Such perusal is not self-evident in contemporary art. Farideh is attracted to beauty, and her art revolves around the aesthetic perception. The paintings present an important dimension of seduction, arousing curiosity and entreating one to examine them closely, in a desire to understand the BEAUTY and its absolute essence, if possible.

These variegated explorations primarily indicate the wealth of artistic sources and a profound knowledge of the history of art. They also attest to an uncompromising love for painting as such, to paint, where a place of honor is reserved for the concept of aesthetics. Farideh does not deny the component of aesthetics in her work; she does not see a need to be “trendy,” but rather offers a decisive alternative for the attempt to decipher the private code motivating her as an artist. She keeps abreast of all the aspects of contemporary art and culture, yet chooses to create and sustain a space all her own.

Farideh’s work draws on elements from East and West; she is deeply versed in eastern art and its secrets. She is influenced by it, albeit indirectly, via a process of research and reworking that results in a new, original and essentially western art. She often conducts a dialogue with the work of the Great Masters, assimilating their impressions of the human experience, and conveying it anew through her own filters. Farideh’s flower or landscape paintings are not executed from direct observation of nature; she absorbs the spirit of the images, processing them through several filters, and only then fashions their representation. In other instances she relies on reflection through imagination and personal recollections, which do not form layers in the history of memory, but rather produce a fictive topography, at times one whose magical element is tangible and present.

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Undergoing a process of veiling in the early 1970s, Farideh’s works moved through semi-concrete landscapes in the 1980s, making a transition to what may be termed “magnified images”– a type of enlargement of landscape segments or vegetation – in the late 1990s.

The engagement with non-concrete abstraction at the beginning of her career, in works reminiscent of Morris Louis’s ravishing veils of color, was later replaced by representations where Farideh creates concrete landscape in the years in which she struck roots in Israeli culture (1980s, Jerusalem). In that period she often depicted landscapes containing flora, mountainous and hilly landscapes, in delicate painting with repressed sensuous coloration executed on pearly white canvases.

In the mid-1980s the white canvases give way to expressive vistas in a series of landscapes and palm trees painted in industrial, high-gloss Superlac paint on thick paper. The palms may be regarded romantically, with eyes inspired by eastern symbolism, as suggested by David Gerstein in his review of the exhibition in which the works were shown,1 but most of all they may be read as an attempt to assimilate into the local reality which is all but refined and romantic. Here the color-register is extended, becoming more intense, in vivid reds and deep blue and azure.

The series Heaven and Earth (mid-1980s) spans works comprising two parts brought together, yet each recounts a different narrative, opposing each other in intensity. The lower part of the work usually portrays landscape of gardens and palm trees, while its upper part depicts a vast skyscape in different colors, applied with swift brushstrokes from one end of the paper to the other. The top part is dissociated from the bottom part as in nature, and the viewer combines these divergent fields through his individual vision. Despite the difference in the treatment of the two parts, Farideh offers a consolidated whole, which does not contradict its parts.

In the years to follow Farideh reverted to the finer, more contemplative mood discernible in her early works, re-addressing traditional subjects of landscape and domestic interior: vases, flowers, bowls of fruit, etc. She links different painterly areas into a single whole. Each component is granted a painterly area of its own, akin to a private realm, where it can embody its essence. The different parts unite to form a whole, complex composition conveying a simple intimate experience.

Farideh creates a personal retrospective on a single sheet of paper; everything she painted in the past is now rendered side by side. The different parts join to form comprehensive arrays, later to crystallize into clear representations of the contemplation experience – the experience of going out into the magical garden, while focusing in length on one of its corners. Each section requires delving into and brooding in the realms of thought (preferably nonverbal thought), and most of all – the realms of emotion, perhaps even those of gastronomy and aesthetic taste which unheedingly whets one’s appetite, conveying a repressed craving for floral nectar, for the petals’ silky texture. These sensations operate in greater force than the prevalent ones, but their origin is nevertheless unclear, and their impact on the artistic perception remains likewise unknown.
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The 1990s introduce a gradual transition to the “magnified images” in Farideh’s work. The dimension of recollection and reminiscence later paves the path to work based on harmony. The harmony in Farideh’s paintings originates in subconscious, on the one hand, and remembrance, on the other. To wit, as Farideh turns to painting, she forgets all she knows about the garden, the flower, and the real landscape. These memories undergo mental processing, disappearing in layer upon layer of feelings, bursting forth at the culmination of a process of harmonious fusion of recollection and filtered exposure, seen through the veils of emotion. This last is the phase when the utopian harmony to which Farideh strives is assimilated into thought, a harmony sustained only in the realms of unrealized recollection.

The historical strata from which thought emerges followed by art, refer to concrete situations that have gone through numerous filters and filtering processes. The multiple reworkings spawn a decorative work that probes the meaning of aesthetics in its broadest sense; rather than a recollection of reality that crystallizes into a painting, it strives for the unknown existing in the realms of the language of art. In an essay published for the exhibition “Ornament and Abstraction” held in 2001 at Beyeler Foundation,2 Samuel Herzog noted that the ornament in western art is not based on meaning; it is autonomous like art itself. Decorative artistic representation is not task-oriented, theoretical or symbolical. This art operates solely in its autonomous spheres, and this is where its power lies. For Farideh, the total immersion in the flowering garden in the 1990s, continued in the 2000s, is like entry into the protected territory of the magical garden enwrapping and shielding her from existential storms.

This process culminated in a unique series of works where the color profusion and multiple strokes on the paper are reduced to abstract, fine and subtle works in gold and silver (painted in 1995-1996). The effect is one of “sublime art,” as noted by art critic Smadar Sheffi; art that relies on the Christian tradition, mainly Byzantine, religious art.3 Sheffi’s assertion is mainly due to the use of gold and silver; the motifs themselves are not at all religious, even if a sense of sanctity is conveyed by the contemplation and abstraction.

In recent years Farideh has set out to decode the infinite repetition inherent in abstract. The search for total perfection draws her repetitive decoration from the attempt to arrive at absolute exhaustion. Nonetheless, she always feels that something has nevertheless remained unexhausted. The meaning of the pattern stems from the study or recollection of the landscape discussed earlier; it is a single, boundless landscape which she paints over and over again. An echo reverberates on the paper in a gradually expanding variation. The pressure to complete the infinite landscape depiction is also the pressure of time, the need to manage to illustrate the non-demonstrable, the eternally unreachable. In fact, Farideh’s works are endless variations on a single theme that will never come to exhaustion.

Notes
1. David Gerstein, “Mixed Tendency,” a review of the exhibition “Land of Milk and Honey” at Gimmel Gallery, Jerusalem, Yedioth Ahronoth, 18 February 1983 [Hebrew].

2. Samuel Herzog, “The Quick Meaning: Ornament and Non-Western Art” in Ornament and Abstraction, ed. M. Bruederlin (Basel, 2001), pp. 51-55.

3. Smadar Sheffi, review about the exhibition “Cinnamon” at Artspace Gallery, Jerusalem, Haaretz, 9 June 2005 [Hebrew]. The exhibition was supposed to be featured at Seemann Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, in June 2003, but the building in which the gallery was housed burnt down. The writer was the curator of that gallery.