Lena and the Wolf* (Detail), 2016, Hand painted 3D-print, acrylic , 17X15X11, Modeling:Alexander Popov
Lena and Other Animals / Lena Zaidel
The images in the sculptures and paintings from the series, Lena and Other Animals, are in a dialogue, and are an homage to two famous Pietàs: Michelangelo’s (Pietà, 1498-9) and Joseph Beuys’ (How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965).
All the works in this series are actually grotesque self-portraits. From one perspective, the sculptures address the senses and radiate softness and compassion, while from another perspective they touch on issues connected to the ecology of the human psyche, stimulating reflections regarding the state of our planet, our destructive attitude toward nature, and all the species that are being driven to extinction. All the works in which the artist embraces a wild animal on her lap express a yearning for nature and simultaneously a dirge over the distance and alienation from it.
The Wolf of Branches 2 (Profile) 2015, iron, branches,72X140X44, Photo: Dima Noff
The Wolves of Branches / Lena Zaidel
The wolves and other wild animals that have appeared in my works over the last decade have become for me a symbol of liberation and freedom. They represent positive forces of the psyche: connection to nature, vitality, and healthy instincts. The image of the wolf in my works never represents the enemy, but conceals within itself the ability to bring about a shift in the perception of reality and to change the meaning of what is seen.
The image of the wolf has gone through many transformations in my paintings. It first appeared in pencil drawings, then in charcoal, then in dry pastel, in acrylic, and finally, the drawing lines turned into twigs – the image of the wolf materialized into a sort of three dimensional statue woven out of thin branches.
For me, the wolf statues that I have constructed echo qualities of ancient ritual totems. They are connected to the issue of ecology and elicit reflection not only on the ancient connection to nature, but also on nature itself having become a victim. I see the wolves as representing a point of encounter between nature and civilization: not only as a reminder of a primal existence, but also as a warning sign.
The Art of Air Conditioning, 2006, dry pastel and industrial gold paint on paper, 108X230, Photo: Michael Amar
The Image of the Wolf / Lena Zaidel
The wolves wake Jerusalem from its deep slumber, shaking up its streets and sacred sites. Nothing remains unaffected where the wolves have passed. The wolves threaten outdated perceptions, and personal, social or political fanaticism or dogma. They also threaten the tedious daily routine, which dulls one´s senses, vision and thinking. The scenes take place on the fault line between civilization and wilderness and depict the encounter between the wild and culture. The wolves appear as regiments of the Salvation Army, shaman-healers who grant the city its purity and promise of a new future. They are a reminder of untamed vitality, nature´s magic, alert instinct and intuition, challenging structured and linear thinking. As they run through the city´s streets they are transformed into a sign, a symbol, a magic spell that is repeated again and again.
Broken Hearted City Center / Lena Zaidel
In the series "Broken Hearted City Center" (2008 - 2010), the wolves pass through replicated urban spaces. The pieces address the issue of time, as well as visual perception, accompanied by our eyes´ perpetual blinking. The idea of dividing the landscape into segments comes from the phenomenon of blinking. As a result of this division, three tenses - past, present and future - come into simultaneous existence on the drawing´s surface. The series attempts to expand the elements constituting a unit of time - "before", "during" and "after" the wolf - later reconstructing the moment.
Nayedet Mada / Lena Zaidel
Nayedet Mada (Magen David Blood Drive Van) from the series Broken Hearted City Center portrays the Mashbir plaza in Jerusalem and raises the question: Is the reality portrayed here in a process of full reunification, or is it a moment before utter disintegration? The name of the department store itself, maShBiR (provider), suddenly exposes how ShaViR (fragile) it inherently is.
Almost Paradise / Lena Zaidel
I have always been drawn to places that somehow defy definition. Most of them I discovered in the garden supply stands along the roadside on the way to Jericho. For many kilometers along this road, it seems as if rows of decorative statuettes of animals, birds, fruit, and dwarves have sprouted out of the sand like an army of ghosts.
After my initial excitement at coming so close to these strange statuettes, I discovered in this place something that I had never previously noticed. Looking down the long rows of plaster statuettes, I pondered the realness of their presence and the possible existence of some original. I questioned if there really was one singular statuette after which they all were formed. Was there in fact such an original? I looked at the pillars adorned with plaster leaves, covered with a coarse layer of grey-brown paint. Obviously they are an imitation of something…, but of what, exactly? What style are they trying to imitate? What is the meaning of this theatrically scattered arrangement of mysterious statuettes sprouting out of the sand? Perhaps it is nothing more than a random collection of Mediterranean- style kitsch decorations?... Or is there something else hiding here?
The Stone Eagle, 2014, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 105X300, Photo: Michael Amar
Pondering the enigma of this huge collection of statuettes standing as a silent witness to, or as the background scenery for some drama unfolding on the roadside, I began to sense another characteristic of these scenes: all of these places have been transformed into ex-territory. After all, such garden supply stands are scattered throughout the country, and usually appear to be suspended between worlds. They seem to float in some geographically, politically, etc., undefined metaphysical dimension. In other words, they give the impression of existing somewhere, beyond time.
And indeed, these places seem to appear exactly the same even after many years, as if the laws of time do not apply to them.… And obviously, in an ex-territorial dimension between worlds, where an observer is forced to confront the question of copy and original – anything can happen, such as, Almost Paradise, a local, Mediterranean drama with no finale….
The flowings of blue in the Almost Paradise series symbolize the flow of life and the flow of ideas. The blue drippings filled the drawings and became an integral part of my sculptures. Reflection upon the concrete animals on the roadsides gave rise to the idea of a paradise that has frozen in the sands. During my work on the series, I saw images before my eyes of a concrete-and-plaster paradise that is entirely imitation and copy, yet at the same time entirely a longing for a “real” paradise…. The sculptures I made are directly connected to the “original” of the garden supply stands that I discovered on the way to Jericho. My dialogue with “place” and “original” was conducted through the two-dimensional drawings and ultimately returned to three dimensions in the form of blue-and-white sculptures.
Adam and Eve, 2014, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 105X280, Photo: Michael Amar
In my drawings I intentionally exaggerated the dialogue between the living and “breathing” things on the one hand, and the “objects,” on the other hand: between “real” life and still-life.
In Almost Paradise, the concrete ducks surround the colorful parrots who seem very much alive. The gushing of the fountain is juxtaposed with the lifelessness of plaster chickens, plastic apples, and clay pitchers. A concrete eagle tries to take off while harnessed to a heavy chariot laden with clay ducks, pitchers, and flowerpots. A koala bear naps on a tree branch over an abandoned café that is gradually fading into the yellow mist of the landscape. Two pink flamingos walk toward the concrete flowerpots that are arranged like sarcophagi and that pompously exhibit plastic fruit and giant mushrooms. The images of these fruit and mushrooms brings to mind the pagan fertility rites.… A pile of random objects surprisingly brings to mindrecalls the postmodern sculpture of the end of the last century.… And the tree? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil grows humbly in the left-hand corner of the drawing, while another tree stump lies behind the flowerpots, blending into the grey dust.… Adam and Eve float on the water, their hands stretched out to their sides. Water spouts from their mouths. They are floating in a sea of unnecessary objects.… Where are they floating to?
Lena Zaidel, 2023
New website: https://lenazaidel.com
Measurements are given in centimeters, height ª width
All the reproduction photos of Lena Zaidel's artworks in this website,
are taken by Michael Amar, unless otherwise noted.