March 2016 *
In recent years, Jerusalem artist Alon Kedem has added to his oeuvre two groups of paintings from the series entitled "Scrambles". The first group is comparatively organized. In each painting appears a collection of random figures, lines and colors, perhaps pieces of objects or perhaps abstract gestures all bundled together in the center of the work or alternatively spread across the canvas. These scrambled bundles may appear at times traveling along a conveyer belt as if to pass through an X-ray machine for examination; others may float on a raft, surf in the sky, or at times lay to rest on earth. Beneath these scrambled images is visible a reflection, perhaps a silhouette of the scramble, or maybe a puddle slowly dripping, thereby emptying the scramble of its matter and arbitrarily scattering its remains. The puddle itself too is a scramble, a painted lump emptying itself like an hourglass, yet simultaneously filling itself with new being.
In the second group also appear random figures, lines and colors, yet in contrast to the focus and order of the previous group, these bundled together objects have suddenly “taken off” and are now spread out loosely and fill the entire canvas. These objects invade the space between the viewer and the “subject”, and subsequently hide otherwise visible objects. These images disrupt the usual order. One may view these figures as if a “scramble” from the previous group burst as a balloon, its remnants splashed on a new canvas, and now float, transfused and transformed from its previous existence.
First and foremost, Alon Kedem’s painting expresses his passion for painting. His joy of creating is apparent throughout his work; celebrations of his indulging in colors and images and toying with them. "The world is full of so many subjects to paint," says Kedem during a conversation in the artist’s studio. He expresses feelings of fascination and passion which come to life through the language and colors of his canvases, reminiscent of a toy store or an ancient computer game. In his palette exists an amount of intentional, yet relevant artificiality, as if a plastic object illuminated by a LED lamp; in contrast, through his compositions is noticeable a glimpse of wonder bordering on the marvelous.
Yet, the game, the wonder and the passion of creating are only one side of the works on exhibit. Another side deals with the attempt to offer meaning to the act of painting in the era in which the death of painting and its resurrection have already become a cyclical cliché. The past one hundred years have created countless deaths, obituaries and rebirths of painting, and have caused even the educated painter with historical awareness to carry against his will the bag of promises, of successes, of falsehood, and of the ruins of the medium. Like many artists of his generation, Kedem starts his work by wandering through the “junk yard” of modernist and post-modernist painting. The visit to the junkyard allows the painter to investigate the disorderly; but it is difficult to claim by looking at the paintings that the artist’s investigation of the disorder has in fact instilled order. As a result, the paintings show sequential prolonged contemplation of the chaos and confusion that instills substance while creating within itself a new definition. This act of observation, exploration and picturesque interpretation of chaos and confusion, is unable - and doubtfully desires - to cleanse nor to eliminate the disorder.
As such, what is Kedem expressing through his exploration of picturesque disorder?
One answer can be found in the difference of perspective as appears in the two series of Scrambles presented above. It is the transition from the external viewing of the "pile" to the viewing of the internal. If the earlier series presented the “pile” of the painting on its path through the X-ray machine, the later series transfers the viewer’s attention to the internal of the "pile" itself. Currently the viewer exists in the internal; if the “pile” were to traverse the X-ray machine, the viewer's gaze would seemingly appear on the control screen.
“To be scrambled”. This explains the transition between the two series of Scrambles presented here. Kedem delves into the picturesque Scramble not to "address the problem", but rather to cause it to be a problem - experience the Scramble in the utmost scramble. The result creates a reversed point of view, whereby rather than viewing the painting from the perspective of the world, the world is observed from the perspective of the painting. This becomes literally a picture of the world. Like a movie filmed from the perspective of an actor or parts of the set, like a melody vibrating from the inside of the sound box, the viewer experiences the world as if looking out from the painting itself.
What kind of world is seen through Kedem’s painting?
To answer this question, we return to the components of the painting as above - the ruins and the junkyard, but also the game, the wonder, the disorder and the passion. I noted that similar to many of his contemporaries, Kedem wanders through the junkyard of modernist and post-modernist painting. As such, he contains within his works the ruins of the early 20th century yet also a gesture to citation, fragmentation and pastiche created in the latter half of the 20th century. The crumbling ruin and its intermittent rejuvenation form the basis of Kedem’s painting, not the result of his work; as a result, the wandering that nourishes his work is not a conclusion in relation to the painting, but rather its starting point. Perhaps as a result, the works are free from a melancholy mood and a feelings of loss, alienation and pathos, but also from sarcasm, anger and disappointment. The exhibition presents a chaotic and amusing world, like a world created of broken items as if dispersed after an explosion, but simultaneously coherent and organized according to its own logic. The paintings are reminiscent of a symphony of broken toys of which we have lost control, yet now perhaps they are disorganized or perhaps reorganize themselves to form a new display. In an era in which both the remnants of painting and the critical perspective upon them have become a rigid tradition, Kedem's paintings offer the possibility to be “scrambled”, concealing the potential resulting from a renewed innocence
(From the solo exhibition "Touch Me", Rosenbach Contemporary, Jerusalem, 2016) *