Igal Vardi is a fascinating virtuoso painter. Vardi proposes a type of painting in which reality is reflected as a new homogenous tapestry, containing painting styles ranging from the classical up to today’s style.
His portfolio contains more than a thousand paintings and several hundreds of sketches. He learned painting in his childhood, and his formal education includes degrees from Tel-Aviv University in Philosophy and Clinical Psychology. simultaneously with his academic studies, he accomplished highly professional training in Graphology. Vardi published till now three books (one of them – Mimesis:The Psychology of Modern Painting).
Presently he intends to hold new exhibitions of his work, and is about to publish a fourth book, dealing with teaching methods of painting.
Stream of Consciousness
His painting style is far from monotonous and though some of his work includes series, the items therein look different from each other, creating a changing visual and sensory experience, new with every painting. Yet, the whole bulk of work has a common basis, its uniqueness deriving from the artist’s deep knowledge of “the art of painting”. Vardi presents to the viewers a work with technical power, perceived in the skillful drawing with the high quality and sensitivity to color combinations, but he is not satisfied merely with that. His multi-dimensional works are composed of diverse layers and encounters with 20th century art styles. As a theoretician he wrote in one of this essays: “Today’s painter is requested to go back to acquiring the skill of contemplating nature and the skill to perform the actual painting. However, he is also required to be a thinker-painter. The art of painting is not possible without the philosophical thought about it. Without the reflection and understanding of the ‘isms’ of the past, and the understanding of the significance of the Art of Painting at present, painting cannot materialize again. Getting back to painting is not an anachronism. We are required to reinvestigate dozens of trends, which occurred for short periods of time during the revolution of modern painting and whom we have not had the time to assimilate fully. We are required to revive the Impressionism, the Cubism, the Fauvism, the Expressionism, the Surrealism and the Abstract, while testing their relevancy from today’s viewpoint. As well, it is necessary to analyze the possibility of 'merging' the different styles”.
Encounters and style mixtures are familiar to us from the Postmodern art. However, while the Postmodernism tries to build a “multi-reality”, Vardi tries to build in his paintings one unity, one reality, composed of a combination of several styles. A large part of his work can be analyzed with this perception. But, first of all it is necessary to illuminate some parts of his creative process where the process called by Vardi “Stream of Consciousness” takes place. This action is born when his hand holding the color starts to wander over the painting bed creating a “new order”. This happens with the combination of the eye, the hand and the brain, namely the automatism and the intuition,with the conscious, calculated and organized things. Vardi paints with the knowledge of the regulations and procedures of the structured painting, but it has more than a little of the subjective and expressionistic.
The Early Beginning
The delicate balance between the conscious and the flowing, the spontaneous and the structured, and the pictorial qualities of his painting, has been reached by Vardi over many years of work. His catalogue “Painting along the Road: 1962-2002” contains oil paintings he made at the age of nine years and onwards. His childhood paintings presented here, although primal, are not totally “childlike” and they are even surprising technique-wise. Reaching the age of 13, he already presented a solo exhibition at “Beit Ha’am” in Beer Sheva. Reporters wrote about this wunderkind,and artists such as Marcel Janco, Hava Mehutan and Jean David came to see his exhibition. It was clear to everyone that once he graduates from high school, he will go to study art in Paris.
Vardi’s first oil paintings were made in Argentine, where his parents took him at the age of six, for five years, leaving their home in Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev. He started taking painting lessons at the age of seven, with the sculptor and painter Cecilia Markovich, according to the theories of Seurat and Cézanne. When he returned with his family to Beer-Sheva, he became student of Moshe Agmon (graduate of Mordecai Ardon’s art workshops). Vardi’s paintings during this period reflect influences from the Cubistic movement, and later on, from Picasso. There is a story related to those days,that when Raffi Lavie showed Zaritsky one of Vardi’s acrylic paintings, the latter exclaimed: “this is an excellent oil painting!” and added: “I am enchanted… both of us rely on the Analytical Cubism”.
The Figures Go through a Transformation Process
But, over time, Vardi’s paintings became more complex, and they no longer relied on the “Analytical Cubism” alone. His artistic approach became eclectic, referring to the history of art, without disconnecting from the external landscape, or object, and emphasizing the subject of man as the main component in the entirety of his artwork.
Vardi holds a sort of dialogue in his paintings with styles and senior artists from the past, such as Picasso, Velásques, Bacon and others. In many of his paintings he puts side-by-side several indicators of art-trends, such as the Cubistic, the Fauvist, The Expressionistic, the Impressionistic, the geometrical or the action-painting. He adopts these trends forming a homogenous, consistent work. In this context we can mention the series “Nines”, where consciously and rationally he divided thepainting named “Picasso” so that in its center there is a realistic painting of the artist’s portrait. This is a documentation painting from which our gaze is drawn to the other squares, where the figure undergoes a process of change, and Picasso’s portrait acquires different forms: abstract, conceptual, geometrical, expressive and other forms.
Transformation of a naturalistic figure is a strategy repeated in interesting ways also in the painting “The Drunks, according to Velásquez” where the realistic portrayal of the figure (in the middle square) appears in the other squares as a primary sketch, as a geometrical abstract, as a high resolution drawing, as a dismantled Cubistic figure. From the series “Nines” one can also see thee variations of sketches he created on the basis of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings. It is important to note that the paintings in these series are not a “sample catalogue” for the 20th century “isms” and style schools.
Although premeditated, the work in itis not methodical by definition, but rather creating a structure of esthetical artwork, which stimulates the viewer’s interest.
With his artistic language Vardi gives a new space to the styles of the past, a possibility to exist through merging them into, and examining them under contemporary perspective. The contemporary view observes these styles of the past with a large scope, through the gap of many years after they were born, being thought at the time revolutionary or avant-garde. In his painting “A Woman Lying down” (1987), a figure of a woman is seen, the background above her left side is made with a pointillist style with large brush strokes, and under the woman there isa bedding of red lines in the style of action painting.The woman’s monumental foot seems to be taken from the Socialist Realism paintings, and the contour of her figure seems to be influenced by Japanese influence, maybe even a little by Cubism, her face done with patches of Impressionistic style. However, here as well, similarly to the series of the "Nines” –one should see the wholecomplex, and the viewer is faced with an impressive, vigorously powerful painting, which imprints itself in one’s memory.
The painting “The Boy” (2001) converses with Monet’s “The Flute Player”, where the shadow of a figure creates, with simple lines, the perspective dimension of the whole work. Here, Vardi creates a diagonal line along the leg of the naked boy, thereby creating the illusion of the three-dimensional. In this work as well we can note the mixture of styles – the Impressionistic strokes of the brush, with the expressive or naturalistic description of the boy.
It seems that during the years of his energetic creative work, Vardi encompassed many subjects of painting. In one of his fascinating series, he presents variations on the portrait of Haim Nahman Bialik. In this series,it seems as if he “peels off” the external skin of the poet’s image, digs in, illuminates it from within, suggesting other alternatives, different viewpoints and interpretations of the portrayed figure. (Vardi’s series of Bialik paintings entitled “Portrait of the Soul” will be presented shortly at the Bialik House in Tel-Aviv.)
The paintings of horses by Vardi include some spectacular sketches with flowing lines full of movement, which create inner tension, and colorful drawings of horses, in light blue color, galloping forward. In the series “The Mushroom” Vardi juxtaposes casual objects that we conceive as enjoyable, pure, vital and healthy (such as an apple), with the ominous demonic concept presented by the smoke mushroom created by a nuclear explosion.
The series of paintings concerning with Ecology deal with similar connotations. The beautiful work “Macro Politics”, for example, is divided into eight squares, containing landscapes erased by layers of color and thick graphite lines with written words in Hebrew and English around them.
A Virtuoso Painter Well Aware of his Capabilities
Whether he paints landscape, a self-portrait, a series of portraits of the radical feminist Simon de Beauvoir, a nude, or a sketch of an object in one of his many sketchbooks, he constantly oscillates between the associative figures and those who come from the rational conscious, between the clear knowledge of the art of painting and the uncertainty regarding the “next step”.
The “Stream of Consciousness” and the voyage of the hand over the paper up to the final, complete existence, guided Vardi as he decided to paint in front of an audience, in a series of performances he organized in the “TheaterNetto” – Duo-artist” – at the “Habima” theater. A model or a dancer in front of him, next to him on the stage a musician who improvised jazz music, Vardi painted canvases of 2X3 meters.
These artworks were influenced by the image of the model, and the musical improvisation when his hand (photographed and projected on a huge screen) danced or roamed over the canvas, without rest or pause – which are usually used to organize and plan rationally how to continue of the painting.Such an action of exposure traces out a virtuoso artist who is well aware of his skills, an artist whose work over the last years presents a diversified creative art, consisting of new correlations and complex insights into our contemporary art.