Eureka! A new concept of beauty has emerged, whereby dissimilar theories of aesthetics complement each other, giving birth to a new harmonious work of art. In Vardi, creator of "Topological/Formative Painting", talent and multidisciplinary erudition converge, in an artist who might be the new master of neo-realism.
By Esther F. Yeshayahu
Igal Vardi is a plastic/visual artist and a remarkably astonishing virtuoso at that. He presents a unique type of painting, where reality is re-created in a homogenous and innovative manner. His very mastery and capability of integrating various past artistic styles in a single work of art, starting with those of the classical period through current ones, adds zest and profundity to contemporary painting. Already at the age of 9 years, considered a Child Prodigy by his teachers, Vardi had had his first group exhibition, and for over forty years, he has created more than a thousand works of art and hundreds of drawings/sketches.
His intellectual stance as a thinker, psychologist and graphologist has evolved hand in hand/in tandem with his artistic creativity which kept nourishing him. This makes him a theoretician and explorer of the history of art as well as a painter who is conscious of his own expressive capabilities.
His declaration: I think, then I paint, is indicative of the direct impact his evolution as a theorist has had on his artistic maturity and vice versa.
In his books, Vardi is offering an authentic, contemplative verbal interpretation which, to a great extent, makes his art explicit, and sheds light on his philosophical background. However, at the same time, he is leaving it for the mystery element of the image to bring closer the ineffable.
Vardi has incorporated in his work of art a sophisticated multidimensional language culminating in layers and strata that maintains an ongoing dialectical dialogue with the various painting streams marking the 20th century.
Thus, a novel idiosyncratic artistic stream is born, which Vardi himself has dubbed as "topological/formative painting", and it both reaffirms that "painting is not dead", and revalues works of art done by such great masters as Picasso, Velazquez, Delacroix, Van Gogh and the likes.
His outlines/strokes are born with ease; through a fluent balanced flow between eye – mind/brain and ands, associative shapes and rational knowledge of past styles such as cubism, impressionism and realism generate a new order; a pendulum-like swing between the intrinsic knowledge of painting and the surprising innate inspiration it has in store.
Subtle equilibrium between the conscious and that which flows, between the spontaneous and the structured has been obtained by Vardi; and the quality of his work is the fruit of many years of experimentation.
In his catalogue titled "painting along the way 1962-2002", one can identify his paintings done since the age of nine, which, in spite of being primitive/original, they are by no means infantile. In fact, already at that early phase, Vardi's paintings manifested a high level of complexity.
Going back to his experience as child artist, Vardi recalls: "It has been said that when I was little, I used to daydream and think, and that I was immersed in my own world. And also, that I would play around with my soup noodles and make drawings with them on the table. My mother, who was a kindergarten teacher in the kibbutz where we were living at the time, took the above comments seriously and saw to it that my artistic inclination got nurtured.
With his family, Vardi immigrated to Argentina, his parents' country of origin, and for six years they lived in Buenos Aires, where his father completed his medical studies. For three years, little Vardi took painting classes at his art teacher's home, forming a small group with other students.
His two years between the age of 7 and 9 were marked by intensive creativity, which also included his participation in an exhibition organized by same teacher. By then, painting had become an integral part of my identity, or better said, an integral part of my basic identity. Oil paintings I did on paper were quite complicated, in terms of form as well as contents.
The next step was taking more systematic studies at painter and sculptor Cecilia Marcovitch's private school/academy. She had been a student of painter Andre Lhote and of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, the latter having served an apprenticeship in August Rodin's studio.
When I got to know my new teacher, she was 70 years old and I was 9. At that time, when Hector Romero, an exemplar student of Marcovitch, to see my paintings, he said: [the boy] is playing symphonies although unable to read the notes."
Upon their return to Israel, Vardi and his family settled in Beer-Sheva, where he came to know painter Moshe Agmon. "It was he who helped me break rigid guidelines/principles under which I was painting. Agmon brought me closer to the expressive, cubistic aspects of modern visual art, to Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Ardon and others.
At the age of 13, Vardi had his first exhibition in Beer Sheva. The press Started writing about this Child Prodigy and artists in the caliber of Marcel Janco and Jean David came over to attend the show.
This exhibition brought to Vardi's home artists and masters like: Rafi Lavi and Ran Shechori, and later on, through the latter, he came to know Osvaldo Romberg. Lavi invited young Vardi to his home to take part in debates over the history of art and works of art analysis, and it was there that he came in contact with new techniques.
TRANSFORMATIONS AND DISCOVERIES
Two most significant experiences highlight Vardi's forty years of artistic creation. "First, here I was, a young painter, faced by the artistic revolution that occurred in the 70s [of the 20th century], and during which artists were abandoning classical painting in favor of conceptual art which represented the art of the Earthly and Bodily; Secondly I was getting familiar with the philosophy of post-modernism which, taking a pendulum-like swing, was oscillating between structuralism and de-construction.
These new discoveries had motivated and influenced my artistic thinking. I was navigating among different styles. I did not venture into abstract painting; I declined giving up on the pictorial medium and I was fluctuating between realism, expressionism and cubism.
Finally, I went for a new style, which sustains that it is necessary to consolidate the different tendencies within a more comprehensive one, an approach which later became to be known as neo realism. The theoretical basis for this was laid down in my book "Mimesis – the sociology of modern painting" (1966).
Painting and writing went hand in hand, and I became one of the founders of the "Polemics of the arts" group, which was born as a political act, claiming to explain, theoretically and in practice, the utopian horizon of the arts in general and leading idea of the pictorial trend in the present with view to the future. Reflection is indispensable for any artistic creation. I paint according to my manifest and in addition to painting; I explore, think and talk painting.
WHAT DOES TOPOLOGICAL PAINTING MEAN?
Reality lends itself to multiple artists, and according to Vardi, in order to represent it, it is necessary to integrate different artistic styles. This is why his work has become more and complex and eclectic, insinuating to the history of the arts without opting out the exterior landscape, or the object, and pointing out the theme and its central image as being the main component within the given whole.
This is how he had created a new style, which he dubbed "topological painting" and about which he goes on to comment: "My style is based on the study of reality under constant change. It elevates geometry and the dynamics of the fluid form. In Greek, topos means place and topology is a mathematical concept which refers to properties that are preserved under continuous deformations. This is the place to recall the supporting psychological idea offered by Freud and Lacan who, among other things, sustain that the human being, rather than being static, is constantly in oscillating motion between the conscious and unconscious.
I think that my concept is innovative because it integrates the topological theory with the movement and light of impressionism, with the structuralism of cubism and with the figurative element of realism.
Current sayings or styles that attempt to represent reality correspond to three mythological points of view concerning the universe: the world in constant change (expressive deformation), the world as a static cubist entity, and finally there is concrete reality reconciling between the two.
According to Vardi, Salvador Dali had created a topological painting, which he himself called topological art two years before passing away (1983). Looking at his entire work, one can discern topological art playing a role in many of his paintings, [especially] where deformation of images is highlighted.
Vardi's expressive language treats currents of the past with a new perspective and space of coexistence, all from a current point of view.
It is worth mentioning the portrait series done on Haim Nachman Bialik (2002), where Vardi removes the exterior layers from the writer's image, and while exploring other visual alternatives, he proposes different pictorial interpretations.
A good case in point is the painting titled: A woman in lying position (1987). The style with which her bottom left side is painted is pointillism with wide massive brushstrokes, while the red lines below represent action painting style. The woman's monumental foot seems to have been taken out of a painting done in socialist realism style, while her contours reveal certain Japanese or cubistic touch. Her faces is created by impressionistic spots.
Capturing it all is what makes the painting so interesting. The observer/viewer is faced with a painting that creates a powerful impact, which remains imprinted in his memory.
Applying the technique of topological painting, Vardi has done variations on paintings by Delacroix, Van Gogh, Picasso, Da Vinci and others.
PAINTING ON A PAR WITH MYTH
As an expressionist intimately linked with existentialism, Vardi has always taken interest in the universal myths that have been accompanying the human race since ancient times until today.
Vardi went on to create a series of paintings inspired by Professor Shlomo Giora Shoham, who had been accompanying Vardi for some decades, since Vardi had taken course he was giving at the university. Professor Shoham is an Israeli criminologist, winner of Israel Prize in 2003, who had published about seventy books and hundreds of academic articles in the fields of philosophy, psychology, criminology, sociology, law, history and politics, all influenced by the existential stream of thought.
Vardi's paintings about myths represent a type of spiritual journey that the painter has undertaken, sustained by specific aesthetic norms. Concerning meeting-points between the art of painting and the myth, Vardi has written: "Myth is a story, the purpose of which is to explain the world and give it meaning. The myth is characterized by being subjective and dependent on the worldview of the individual who has created this myth. The content of the myth is adjusted to the psychic structure of the person who has authored it. In parallel, it can be demonstrated that every artistic style reflects, by means of its own ideological manifesto, a mythical worldview.
Along human history, man has created innumerable myths, whose universal archetypes are the three basic components of the human psychic apparatus that conform to painting. Movement represents that which exists, flows and gets modified over time, which is the libido; the element of organization represents the super-ego, and the form serves as the interaction between the two."
Vardi is a species of text-interpreting artists, who enriches the present by means of comprehending (on the basis of Pythagorean Theory) mythical symbols that surpass barriers of time and biography.
The series Myth Portrayals, the theme of his present exhibition, conveys a chaotic expressivity of tempestuous energy that tends towards forms painted with vivid color, all within a harmonious order.
PAINTING IN CONCERT
During out talk, Vardi has confessed that he had benefited from his artistic exhibitionism. This impulse has made it possible for him to paint in front of a public in the framework of Teatroneto and Two artists, in a spectacle called: Painting in Concert or A Concert of Painting, which took place at the Habima Theater and at the Jerusalem Theater.
The show included a model or a dancer with a Jazz musician doing improvisations next to them.
It all has to do with a process he himself calls the "flow of consciousness" which is produced in a state of suggestion that guides the artist's hand for the length and breadth of the 2x3 meter large painting surface, in a spontaneous, uninterrupted manner, until a final integrated whole has been achieved.
During the show, the artist's hand was filmed and projected onto a huge screen; undoubtedly, the act of exposing himself so directly, opening up at the very moment of creation, is indicative of a virtuoso conscious of his potential.
LINES THAT CAPTURE
In an exhibition run in Israel in 2003, at the Artists' Residence in Herzliya, Vardi presented a series of sketches, the major part of them were painted by oriental Zn technique, without lifting the painting instrument from the paper. This pointed to an outstanding capability of synthesis. These paintings manifest a desire to capture an ephemeral reality, to captivate the dynamics of life with a story made by pure and simple lines.
Vardi touches the essence of a sketch/scheme, which is about chasing the dizzy passage of time, while establishing an interaction between volume and the expressive lines, with fluent hand movements by means of a conscious process that tends to expose the intrinsic nature of the elements or the theme.
This is how Vardi put it at that opportunity:
The sketch is the art of the possible
Between the casual and the necessary
It is experimentation prior to reaching completion.
This is the title of Vardi's last book published recently, which in these very days is being translated into Spanish and in which he lays down an aesthetic interpretation concerning the work of art by this great genius.
The title was not given by chance; it encloses the critical position of the artist vis-à-vis contemporary art, about which he had already made the following comment: "In recent decades we have been witnessing the agony of painting. Those who teach how to paint, don't know 'how to read nor write paintings", and in consequence, they are unable to further pass on this knowledge which had been treasured over so many years of painting.
Going back to painting means going back to the virtuosity engrained in "I seek, I find!" (a famous phrase coined by Picasso), but also to that which lies in "I think, then I paint".
The revolutions which have taken place in the area of painting during the last century have generated different "isms" that interpret reality by offering their respective rules or aesthetics and harmony.
Therefore, today's artist needs to recapture the ability of observing nature and the skill of going through the pictorial act. But more than this, he needs to be a thinking painter, because painting without philosophical thinking or reflection is impossible. Without realizing the "isms" of the past on the one hand, or without understanding today's painting on the other, there is no hope of recovery for painting.
My pedagogical approach stems from heuristics, that is to say, from the theory of the quest which makes room for reading and allows for capturing the different faces/facets of reality. In this sense, returning to painting is no act of anarchism / is not like returning to anarchism.
We must revive impressionism, cubism, fauvism, expressionism, surrealism and abstract art again, by reviewing their relevance from a current point of view. We also need to consider the possibility of mixing these styles.
In his book "Viva Picasso", Vardi writes a letter to the great artist, the second one after 43 years, the first having been written when he was 10 years old. Here is how he refers to that first one: "I cannot remember the address I had sent it to, therefore it remains as a letter sent in a bottle which got hurled into the sea.
Other quotes from the letter: "For me you are a positive obsession which gives me strength, motivation and passion to go on experimenting for ever in this field of creative thinking in general, and in the field of painting in particular.
I realize that my identifying with you must have something to do with similar elements about our personality. In spite of being different, I live this magnetic flow that exists inside you, which is a quest for relief hoped to be found in obsessive and tireless creation.
It is said that on the one and I am a tireless creative-artist, resembling that Sambation, whose stormy waves gush against the rock, while, on the other hand, I am wearing that bourgeois jacket that contains me. So, maybe it is the latter which gives me the stabilizing power necessary for channeling my creative capabilities towards productivity rather than towards self destruction".
Vardi's obsession is the creative emotional drive being channeled through painting, in order to forge a sense of meaning to life.
"It is definitely a theological situation when a human being is confronted with the mystery of life and with the shadows of existence", he added.
His next project is an exhibition inspired by the work of Picasso, which will be taking place at the Cervantes Institute in Tel Aviv coming June, and also there will be a novel "show" type theatrical performance called "Painting Concert", where he will be creating his own Guernica in front of a public who will be attending the show.
Upon closing the meeting, Vardi commented that he is now in the process of planning his next 50 years of artistic activity and theory, citing one of Che Guevara's quotations which he feels is applicable to his intense life as an artist: "I feel I'm living life in a hurry".
Titles of the various paintings:
The artist next to his work of art: "Picasso and his model" (2006)
"A woman in lying position" (1987)
Under I. Vardi's portray a short biography is given:
Above the portray it says: Igal Vardi
Below the portray it says:
He was born in 1953 in Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev.
He learnt painting in Argentina, by the schools of painter Andre Lhote and Sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Later, in Israel, he progressed alongside artists Moshe Agmon, Rafi Lavi, Ran Shechori and Osvaldo Romberg.
Vardi graduated from Tel Aviv University majoring in Philosophy, and he has a Masters degree in Psychology from the same university.
He has specialized in graphology, a discipline in which he works professionally/as a professional.
He has had more than 11 exhibitions in galleries and museums in Israel as well as abroad, e.g. in New York, London, Monaco, Spain, Italy, Holland.
He currently lives in Ramat-Gan, a city where he also has a studio. He is married to Ziva and is a father to four children: Sagi (22/29), Elinor (20/27), Ilit (18/25) and Mor (14/21).
He has published four books:
Mimesis – the Psychology of Modern Painting,1996;
The wisdom of the mind/spirit/soul at healing itself, 1998;
The manuscript as the mirror of the soul, 1998;
A Sketch (Boceto), 2002;
Viva Picasso, 2006;
A fifth book, about Salvador Dali's art, is in preparation.
On Friday, December 28, at 20:00 hrs, Vardi will be launching his new exhibition
Sewage and Redemption
Following the work of
Prof. Shlomo Giora Shoham
At the Artists' Residence in Herzliya
Open until January 28, 2007.
"(the) Protest 2002
"God as a the shadow of the human being" 2006