The Subject Matter and its Interpretation
Igal Vardi: The Seen and the Unseen in Line and Colour
By Miriam Or
”Art does not represent the visible, but makes visible“ (Paul Klee)
“There is in his (Rouveyre’s) work a mad on rush of lines, lines answering each other in accordance with the laws of plane surface, curves, upper lines and lower lines intersecting, receding or stopping in accordance with the abstract suggestions and unties whose functions they are.
Sometimes this becomes like the whirling of luminous point, a vertigo of lines, the body turns into an ellipse, cylinder of circle. Some have seen in this method an attempt to pile on effect, but to us it is a rare, persuasive and real manifestation of certain immaterial qualities of things. Yes! There exist circle-men, and others – made in squares. In these works there are visions of heads, shoulders, arms and joints that seem to have escaped from Euclid’s immortal book.
Precise definition of the planes by the minimum effort of line, a tendency towards polygones and towards curves closer to the ellipse than to the circle. Suggestion by means of points or strokes and lastly, distribution of light by reference to the inclination of the planes and not in accordance with their convexity or concavity: this is modern design, the product of the modern design, the product of the modern soul.” (Mecislas Godberg, from La Morale des Lignes, Paris 1928, pp. 32, 49-50)*
Igal Vardi’s work of art bears on issues of global importance today. He is an artist whom history has invited into a more complex and composite role than the traditional Modernist role of the master esthetician. Like certain others of this moment, he sees the work of the artist in a broader sense than that, overlapping with the activities of the philosopher, the social scientist, the historian, and the cultural theorist. The present moment in history needs the mediation of cultural pastiche to facilitate the emergence of a global sense of human identity. This type of mediation happens frequently in Vardi’s paintings and writings. In his conceptual combinations of elements from different traditions and periods he collapses the polarities East-West, Past-Future, Death-Life, etc.
* Mecislav Goldberg (1868-1927), a figure whose very name is unknown to all but a few specialists in French Literature deserve to be remembered as one who prophesied the cubist contribution to twentieth-century Art.
The demands of the past come to incorporate the invitations of the Future. Each element, rather than defending its selfhood against the claims of the other, relaxes its boundaries sufficiently to accommodate the other. It is this process, called the process of the postmodernism, a redefinition of the sense of history that, though it is happening primarily in the West, is of global significance since it signals a change in Western attitudes toward other cultures as well.
Igal Vardi’s art and style is composed by a studied mixture of the most "ordinary" images of reality with the more unpredictable associations of the imagination. Metamorphosis is the key of his outstanding and magnificent art, which we shall try to present in this book. Metamorphosis is usually understood as the process of transformation of one being or of one species into another, generally related to the broad symbolism of inversion, but also to the essential notion of the difference between primogenital, undifferentiated Oneness and the world of manifestation. Everything may be transformed into anything else, since nothing is really anything.
Vardi’s art takes from life and art (history of art) for feeing, like other outstanding creators, he stands far beyond any frontier or genre. Within this wide range of vigor and devotion we can trace examples of great cultural significance. Marvelous is the essence of this extraordinary artist, who started his career from early childhood with the expressionist inclinations, then progressively involved and influenced by Andre Loth’s Cubistic style of painting, and finally in a continuous progressive evolution into the postmodern world in our era.
The international repertoire offered him multitude codices and tendencies until he took real aesthetic satisfaction, in a process of self-criticism and creative renovation that is present in his wide artistic trajectory and strong influence on art and artists.
Vardi has a memory of unaccountable tenacity, or perhaps not so unaccountable, if we think of his extraordinary capacity to observe and study the human being. He is essentially and exclusively a figure artist, and being gifted with creative and dynamic urge for innovation, his interest in people is so sustained and piercing that he always discover the active anatomy of his subjects, salient characteristics, movements, and variations of structure which escape the ordinary eye.
Each one of his images is charged with ambiguity. On one hand, Vardi presents his figures in clear and open pictorial language, but on the other hand, in a second look, we discern that they possess a disturbing psychological resonance. Vardi seems to provoke speculation but does not resolve it. He leaves it to the spectator's intelligent eye. It is this combination of stylistic rigidity and psychological provocation which makes his works so different and special. Adding to that the immediacy and freshness they behold in the Sisyphean vanishing process of nihilism, non existence and becoming, they had been created in a magnificent way. Vardi’s effort to reach the prefect extract of expression leads him to trace repeatedly the outlines of his figures. In that way they have something of the quality of Jackson Pollock’s action painting deriving perhaps from the futurist, and may be from Leonardo da Vinci’s exploration in space and time, but mostly they contain the urgent response of creating the dynamic process of appearing and disappearing – the feeling of freshness deriving from a satisfying dialogue, based on the mental, artistic and historical activities. He wanted this dialogue to become unique as a metaphysical exploration in finite and infinite time and space.
It is not so much what his painted figures are saying, as how they look when they said it, not so much what they are doing, as the shapes they get themselves into and the faces they put on, that fascinate curiosity. And once he observes things he never forgets them.
His knowledge of human figure, though furthered, of course, by Old Masters and Modern Artists, is largely gathered from direct observation of those around him, from people performing naturally their daily tasks. Like Daumier in his time, Vardi does not need to hire models; the surrounding population is his model, and with his special memory, he watches people in action, returns to his studio, his head filled with them he continues to elaborate them in a kind of dialogue, which as the magic to provide every minute new ideas and changing aspects.
This procedure is the key of his magnificent serial of portraits, reminding us of the Andy Warhol pop serials, but different in style and intentions
Art in general, like religion, deals with inner reality. The artist reveals the inside of life and not the outside. In this respect, the artists is akin to the mystic, but one seeks "life more abundant" and the other becomes a creator. This creation is the product of the imaginative "wedding of spirit and matter". Every creation will differ according to the eyes through which the artist, and in this case Igal Vardi, sees himself as creator, the raw material of experience which he transforms, and the kind of ultimate spirit which he hopes to reflect.
Is his absolute a divine person of blind force? Granted imagination, what other human faculty does he prize most highly, his faith, intuition, reason or senses? Can the natural world be analyzed or must it remain mysterious? Until the fundamentals are known about nature, Man, and God, or as the Chinese put it, Heaven, Earth and Man, we cannot fully apprehend the art of any person or culture.
What makes a painting typical Vardi’s? We never put it in words, because his art in itself is such a direct and immediate revelation of the spirit, which is so manifested, that we seldom stop to ask for any selective prerogatives. Although the characteristics of Vardi’s spirit seem self-evident, their roots lie deeply buried in his early orientations and influences by the different cultures and achievements in Art History and of his contemporary colleagues, artists, philosophers, psychologists, poets and writers. Actuality is in no doubt also his crucial source of inspiration and motivation. They are the intangibles which embody his hopes and longings. They are the incommensurable which determines the answers to basic issues of Experience, Nature, Man and God.
What is then dominant and very special in Igal Vardi’s art?
Here we find a very surprising answer – Vardi’s attitude versus art and his unique way of looking at life and art are not primarily through religion or philosophy, or science, but through art.
All his artistic activities seem to have been colored by their artistic sensitivity. Vardi prefers above all the art of living; instead of rationalization, he indulged in poetic and imaginative thinking, and instead of science, he pursued the fantasies of recombining new systems of accumulation and assumption of divers elements. If these observations seem to be unduly imaginative, consider the paintings of its own right, Vardi’s art never became the handmaid of certain manner of certain fashion; he avoided the pitfalls of reason, whether the classical beauty of mathematical proportions or the modern limitations of pure abstraction. He escaped the glorification of the romanticism or surrealism, cubism and abstract art, even when he is somehow influenced by them; he remains faithful to realism, but never emphasized imitation at the expense of the imaginative re-creation of experience. Unfortunately, it is very easy to say what Igal Vardi’s art is not, yet it is difficult to say what it is, but this book will attempt to show the unique special characterizing this artist. Whoever, for our purposes, since each doctrine embodies a certain constant outlook of life, Vardi’s models of thought intermingled to establish the eventual content, form and overtones of his art.
Whenever the Western mind would set up antagonistic dualisms – matter-spirit, divine-human, ideal-natural, classic-romantic traditional-progressive, and so forth – Vardi takes a mediate position. Stated negatively, he tends to avoid extremes, in contrast to the quest for reality by pursuing each extreme to its end. He carries on relatively with his approach to experience. I am not trying to argue here the pros and cons of this artistic approach, except to point out that instead of being a static mean in which the extremes suffered, Vardi’s fusion is a dynamic union of opposites which need one another for completeness. For this purpose Igal Vardi must be neither classic nor romantic, he should be both. Irrespective of the strengths or weaknesses of this approach, it is the way he sought the "inner reality" of his paintings. Discussing a number of polarities which have been blended in Vardi’s art will provide two merits: it will avoid the use of Western terms, such as impressionistic or romantic, which completely falsify Vardi’s orientations, and secondly, it will provide the fluid relative field of nuance and overtone which is needed for a better understanding of Vardi’s art.
We shall begin with the basic contrast of spirit and matter. In the West the gulf between them has been impassible. For many people spirit belongs to the life of prayer and worship, matter is the concern of science. This has directed the Western art to the extremes of religious meaning and naturalistic representation. Instead Vardi creates a unique conception of the realm of the spirit which is one with the realm of matter. This means that his art would tend to take over the functions of any kinds of theory and would become the prime vehicle for man’s most profound thought and his feelings about the mystery of the universe. This unique conception of spirit and matter is embodied in the notion of Vardi’s sense of harmony existing previously in mystic thoughts such as Kabbalah and Chinese Taoism.
Very likely in the Tao, it is seen as primal source which is stated in Chapter XXV of the to the Ching: “There was something formless yet complete that existed before heaven and earth, without sound, without substance, dependent on nothing, unchanging, all-pervading, unfailing. One may think of it as the mother of all things under heaven. Its true name we do not know. Tao is the by-name that we give it”.
By the single daring assumption of the cosmic principle of the Tao, the Chinese focused on the notion of one power permeating to whole universe, instead of emphasizing the Western dualism of spirit and matter, creator and created, animate and inanimate, and human and non-human. This concept of the Tao corresponds perfectly to the Kabbalistic concept imbued into Vardi’s conceptions, which he sought to paint and which are indeed the touchstone of his painting which affected the creative imagination, the subject matter and the interpretations.
By looking at Vardi’s paintings one cannot wander to find the similarities with a Chinese Thoughts expressed in Hui Sung’s catalogue:
“Furthermore, looking at the things made by heaven and earth
One may find that one spirit causes all transformations.
This moving power influences in a mysterious way
All objects and gives them their fitness.
No one knows what it is, yet it is something natural”.
According to these quotations, the activity of the artist approaches that of the mystic in so far as those of the Kabbalah and Taoism, which may be called a kind of “natural mysticism”. Only instead of seeking of union with God or the Absolute while ignoring this world, Vardi sought harmony with the universe by communion with all things created by God, real beings of his own reflection.
No line of separation was drawn between the life of nature and the experience of man. They both belong to the elemental being of the universe. In other words, the material world, unexplained by science, retained and assumed attributes which we would associate with the realm of the spirit. It is illuminating to note that some of Vardi’s paintings made the distinction between inanimate natural objects and man-made artifacts, perhaps, because man had disturbed the cosmic harmony in them or because they could be rendered by a foot-rule.
Vardi’s landscapes seem to aim at a recreation of the natural world as a universal system comparable to the cosmic system. By sheer multiplicity of parts, piling mountain upon mountain, on the one hand, and reducing elements on the other hand, he creates an overwhelming sense of majesty and vastness of nature. By moving focus from part to part, by avoiding compositional axes, and by opening up the views at the sides according to the realm of his inspiration, the designs suggest a sequential experience in time and a movement beyond the limits of the painting into the boundless infinity of the universe.
Against the limited glimpse of nature – a specific place, a known quantity, capable of being objectively understood – Vardi suggests a new pictorial language of "brush pointing" or "delete" monochromatic washes or effecting lines by which known forms faded off into the void of the unknown.
Vardi’s paintings manifest themselves as an eternal flux of being and becoming. When the seasons come and go, all things die and are reborn as it is expressed in the anonymous lines:
“Being great, it passes on,
Passing on, it becomes remote,
Having become remote, it returns”
How powerfully this manner of painting has captured the quality of eternal energy.
There is no rest in his paintings. Forms appear and disappear in every line and shape of human faces or bodies, land or water, clouds or mist, still life or landscapes presented in Vardi canvases or papers. Their rhythms turn and twist in ceaseless becoming. Like some modern contemporary painters, Vardi has tried to express the kind of energy which Modern Science has discovered.
Confucius used another beautiful metaphor while standing beside a stream: ‘Ah! That which is passing is just like this, never ceasing day or night."
In flux there is movement. Vardi’s hand moves again and again unceasingly, suggesting the universal truth that tracing does nothing, but there is nothing that is not done. In many ways this was the most subtle and fruitful aspect of Vardi’s style for inspiring an inner pictorial dynamism. The living quality in his art is the rendering life in static objects, a quality which depends primarily on the rhythmic abstraction of the form. The idea of activity in tranquility and vice versa is further applied to all relationships. It generally resulted from a resolution of opposites, the left and right of the Kabbalistic tree, the Yin and the Yang of the Chinese philosophy of Tao, the feminine and masculine principles, the far and near, the possible and the impossible, the shade and light, the life and death – the tracing and effacing of Vardi’s pictorial expression. Only by opposites can we know something, because the Tao tells us that:
“Difficult and easy complete one another,
Long and short test one another,
High and low determine one another.”
The use of nonexistent in his painting, that is voids, began historically with the neutral backgrounds which were characteristic of all harmonious forms, which is supposed to set up tensions throughout the universe, between the great and the small, heaven and earth, male and female, and so on. Everything resides in tension; the opposites need one another for completion. Everywhere where this principle of the resolution of opposites was applied to painting, it was in the laws of growth, in the layout of a composition, in the creative process itself, and even in the estimate of artistic values.
The significance of the nonexistent is the most obvious attribute of Igal Vardi’s system as of the Tao and yet the most elusive:
“In Tao the only motion is returning,
The only useful quality, weakness;
For though all creatures under heaven are products of Being,
Being itself is the product of not-Being.”
In Western painting these neutral voids were supplanted by the discovery of space and its rendering as human figures, atmosphere and content.
By tracing and effacing continually with brush storks and lines, Vardi becomes more and more aware of the significance of the nonexistent into meaningless blank paper or canvas, because the painter had lost his touch with the profundities of this system and had begun to indulge in “art for art’s sake”.
We note that the use of the nonexistent in painting was far removed in time from the symbols of the usefulness of voids employed by the vacuum in a wheel, a vessel or a house, human face or representations of divers objects; and yet the kind of speculations may be that the driving urge to assure the evidence of being is based on the historical fear of death and annihilation. Indeed this is one of the first human phenomena we read about in the book of Genesis.
From the moment when humanity became conscious of the possibility of its extermination after the destruction of the world by the waters of the Deluge, man has not been free of this terror of the end. The sole consoling response found expression in the promise to preserve the natural cycle of eternal return. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heart, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”. [Genesis, 8:22]. The covenant of the rainbow in the cloud was the sign of the inception of an existential tissue in which the Creator and the Creation, God and man, joined together in a commitment to preserve “all that is upon the earth”. This miraculous and fragile union was not infrequently undermined in the wake of crises and periods of ebb in the history of human society. Man was continually called to confront the danger of annihilation, both as individual and as a member of the society in which he lives.
As everything in this world has two sides of meanings, the Deluge by waters was not only the symbol of destruction, but mainly the way of salvation and renewed life by the power of water to clean, heal and purify the world from its sins and misfortunes. The very same process occurs in art, and especially visualized in Vardi’s art. By erasing he emphasizes again and again the vital act of purification and revitalization. Life and death are intermingled.
In view of our chaotic era, where personal and collective security are put in danger, where the growing sense of imminent end has become fixed in our consciousness by the recurrent fear about “the end of ideology”, Igal Vardi has found the suitable manner to express the aggressiveness of man’s reactions, his personal fear and his self-examination of what can be the meaning of these notions and their affinity to the eschatological context of “the end” solutions.
Finally Vardi found a kind of solutions as a new kind of expression in his art. This creativity is produced on the basis of the cultural climate in which such notations might eventually flower into the emptiness, limitlessness and intangibility achieved in the paintings. In fact, they are associated notions of the oneness of “spirit and matter”, the eternal flux of all things, the resolution of opposites, and the significance of the nonexistent.
Those components are the corn stone on which this kind of art is based. The notion of “end” appears in Vardi’s technique and contents, as the polar-opposite of the notion of “eternity”. In contrast to the romantic conceptions prevalent since the 19th century – which found some consolation for the sense of the insignificance and finiteness of life, therefore of the physical existence, being and appearance, in its yearning for the infinite, for the eternal spaces the universe floats in, into which all beings would ultimately merge – most of these works brought together express this notion.
Mysticism is the direct experience of “ultimate reality”, but strictly speaking, non-art, including Vardi’s art, is entirely mystical, just as non-art is completely realistic. The phrase “natural mysticism”, which is adopted by Vardi, has been used to emphasize the Kabbalistic, Taoistic, Hindu, Neo-platonic or other theosophical tendencies and the arts associated with them. In Vardi’s art, Realism is juxtaposed to illusionist counterpart of the coincidence of opposites, which obviously is the paradoxical solution for reaching harmony. But without it nothing could be possible.
The distinction hinges on other-worldliness and this worldliness, or heaven and earth. If the artist gazes too hard towards either, the lack of balance will show in his art. If an age concentrates on the other world, this world must necessarily seem lacking in significance, so that the artists, while avoiding the physical, will try to depict another worldly realm of bliss. Such an attempt is best illustrated in Byzantine art, in which the goal of the artist was to create holy icons to be worshipped at the altars, or to decorate the walls of churches with mosaics to inspire awe and wonder. The Renaissance interest was the representational fidelity, in contrast to the Byzantine denaturalized schematic shapes. But when we come to the Modern art in its various approaches and styles, including Vardi’s, we may clearly say that the chief attempt is to transcend the physical, although in his approach we notice that the linking of the above mentioned approaches is combined together – the heaven belongs equally to earth, the beautiful stays in front of the ugly, the sordid, or deformed stays beside the gay and the harmonious, the terrors of war and the calm of peace, empty and desolate places and deserts in contrast to crowded towns and people, hybrid creatures, deformed plants and tortured trees, smashed and broken objects are fitting vehicles of his artistic expression.
The gulf between God and man gave birth to intense emotions which are conspicuous by their absence in Vardi’s art. Everywhere we meet the Christian extremes of good and evil, of sin and repentance, and of divine love and human need.
Rembrandt immortalized grief and suffering and forgiveness. The terribilita of Michel Angelo caught the dramatic struggle of man’s free will. To minds attuned to these religious overtones, Vardi’s paintings seem to reveal another kind of human world.
Igal Vardi paints by deconstructing and reconstructing the forces of nature, rendering them in free rhythmic movements, associating them with man’s destiny, with the achievements in art, from historical and cultural point of departure, and paraphrasing the previous with the actual. We may also emphasize some influences on his art, such as the Confucianism, which like his paintings is centered on man’s relation to man, that it avoided the unknown while accepting its existence. “Until man knows about the living, how can he know about the dead?”
However, it was much more than a humanism – its recognition of sanctions greater than human, since ancestors of the universal cultures gave man a sense of permanence and a special dignity.
Vardi sees also man in the perspective of a moral universe in which the moral order of each was synchronize with the order of heaven through regulators, which are: love, consciousness, belief, hope and creativity. Ritual and learning are the roads to the goal of social harmony, and they derive their authority not from contemporary human wisdom but from the ancient, through custom and the classics. His criticism to his surrounding – injustice, malice and discomfort – is expressed by the attempt to destroy with purpose to rebuilt, a continuous revolution with hopes without final resolutions, accompanied with the unfulfilled ideals for recuperation of new society build on trust and love, good relations between man and man, in the Buberian attitude of dialogue of “I” and “Thou”, maintaining the highest virtue, supported by the additional virtues of rightness, decorum, wisdom and sincerity. This conception of moral universe and its ethical virtues lent a mortal tone emphasis to the postmodern issues of citing whatever is done and said in the previous artistic expressions in past or in present.
Likewise the themes suitable for his painting must be worthy. The dignity and decorum of human society must have been supremely realized so that they are is imbued with deep meanings. On one hand, the moral precept is driven by a didactic story, and on the other hand, the human relationship is ennobled by pointing out deficiencies and failures.
Greatness in painting requires high moral character in the artist who is confronted continually with general subjects and figures subjects, continuing to appear in lofty plane while they differ in characterization according to the taste of the various periods. The subtle changes occur in his choices of subject matter according to his psychological insight influenced by the surroundings – moral and socio-political and environmental events.
The opposing virtues in Vardi’s paintings have given his art a balance and strength. Greatness is assured when the stability of conformity, moderation and lucidity is added to the creative imagination of freedom, naturalness and sometimes a mystery. He strongly believes that through his paintings he purifies his heart in order to eliminate vulgar worries. He also believes that appreciating and understanding cultural achievements, reading books widely, listening and communicating with others are not only necessities, but the core of existence – in order to understand the realm of hidden and unknown priceless. Vardi is quite persuaded that he should renounce early reputation in order to become far-reaching, to associate with cultivated people in order to rectify his style.
His mode of action is driven almost by being “cranky” – going against the world, “foolish” – forgetting about the world, “poor” – being contrary to the world, and “remote” – being far from the ways of the world and thus able to preserve the human. This may seem contradictory, but if we attempt to systematize these opposites we shall discover that they reveal subtle insights into the nature of the artist and his training. Vardi's motto is based on the belief that once the heart and character of man are developed due to the expression by the catharsis or the sublime introduced in his paintings, he will prove the satisfaction of being a vehicle for reaching high principles and pure vitality for humanity.
Above all, Vardi depends on natural gifts and therefore he is conscious that he should preserve his naturalness but must go to the wisdom of other artists – ancients and contemporary – to perfect his natural endowment: “In exercising one’s own individuality, not for one moment can you forget the ancients (others)”. Whoever, he does not take himself too seriously – painting should be the playful pastime of a scholar, even though one should prepare to paint, “as if to receive an important guest”.
Vardi is deeply convinced that the universality in brotherhood among artists and their achievements is of great importance in the way of reaching oneness and harmony in the world. Therefore his paraphrasing and homages are a kind of partnership for fruitful and creative dialogue.
Vardi longs for the uncomplicated modernist belief in Cubist and Abstract painting as autonomous objects, representative of nothing but itself, and at the same time, he his immensely knowledgeable and has arrived inevitably at the postmodern practice of making art about art. The apparent spontaneity of his gestural abstractions is contradicted by the almost accretion of their direct references to art history, their indirect references to philosophy, and their subtle but pervasive evocations of the natural environment. Yet his work is complicated by his ideas about what is “true”, the impossibility of painting, and the troublesome correspondence between the means of marks by which an artist represents a subject and what those means might or might not signify.
In my opinion, the marks are form, they are energy paths rather than conventional signs, therefore his evident influences throughout Andre Loth’s approaches to Cubism which had opened the gates of the ravishing endless creativity shown by Picasso and Braque, include Symbolism, Surrealism, the European school of gestural abstraction known as Art Informal, and the group of Quebecois modernists called Les Automatistes.
Igal Vardi's is aware of the fact that Modernism is now viewed in much of the West as a period that has passed. It was a phenomenon that affected primarily the culture of Europe and America, and was not a matter of having advanced technology and so on, but of a certain ideology. Specifically, it was a puristic mood in which European culture protected its essence and rejected like an organism rejecting an unsuccessful transplant, any insinuation of the other into its domain. Colonialism and imperialism were expressions of this mood. Spurred on by its history of foreign conquest, the West felt itself to be a universal norm which had the responsibility of enforcing itself on the rest of the world. The belief was ingrained in Western culture that this was an expression of the inner order of nature and the hidden agenda of history. The spread of Western cultural norms at the expense of others seemed inevitable, on the order of providence. Behind it lay the philosopher Hegel’s idea of a future historical stream that would blend all cultures into one.
The problem with Hegel's thought is that the Prussian society of his own day might be that culminating historical moment. That is why Vardi addressed himself to the future to come through the mediation of the Postmodernism, which allowed him contemplating and appreciating the achievements of the past generation. He does so by paying them tributes and homages. This rampant tendency for pluralism has broadened the horizons of contemporary art in exciting ways.
Vardi’ works are broken into thematic sections: new portraiture, self portraits, imagining selfhood, expression of the body, the city, the social and genre painting, still life, landscape, narratives strategies and a spiritual realm, and most of all homage paintings or appropriation from earlier artists.
Postmodernism is a deeply revised attitude toward history, which attempts to separate it from the concept of providence, denies any claims of inevitability, and aims at a multi-cultural solution to the problem of history, rather than an imperialistic one. Coming at the end of the fascinating but terrifying 20th century, and at the beginning of the 21th, Postmodernism, including Vardi’s own view, proposes to Modernist essentialism and ontological compromise: The opposites are to be incorporated into the self, opposed cultural forces are to be conflated into a union, however awkward it seems at first. The Modernist tyranny of sameness, as the modern Jewish-French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas called it, is to be counteracted by the Postmodern affirmation of difference. This affirmation is to be acted out through the principle of pastiche which brings differing cultural entities together without subordinating one to the other. It is this Postmodern mission to which Igal Vardi's work as an artist contributes on the visual and theoretical levels.
The phenomenological speculations on the nature of painting and perception are revealed in these statements, written and printed in Vardi’s books along with a series of quotes and aphorisms, all serve to produce a medium as a vehicle for concrete meaning, a conveyance for cultural theory, literal representation, or narrative. And yet he infuses his art with intense philosophical inquiry. To this I would like to note that a mysterious equation where operation of spirit oriented towards a translation of its visual constructions, tangible, immediate, malleable, with its anguish in the face of space of contour of color, projects itself towards the filter of another spirit, one motivated quite differently towards a system established in the conversation of its signs, and inexhaustible in the organization of an abstract suggestion. This transfer can receive its value of real transmutation only if, from the one mode to the other – of seizing, or refusing, the universe – there subsist a common similar objective of desires and means.
Dr. Miriam Or 2004