While her paintings speak for themselves, opening up the viewers to interpretations as endless as her landscapes, we sat down with painter Orly Maiberg for a glimpse into her artistic vision, frameless format, and 'Pollockian' process.
Why "Pending View"?
In Hebrew, the phrase carries a double meaning: hanging in the landscape and depending on the landscape. I searched for a name that would hint at the subject matter, while remaining enigmatic at the same time.
What were your goals with the exhibit?
This show is built as an installation of paintings that hang from the ceiling – floating ephemeral structures that are independent from the [Noga] gallery walls. That decision followed an earlier decision to free the canvases from their frames. The floating quality is present in the painted figures as well as the landscapes they are in.
Also, there is no clear horizon line indicating a separation between earth and sky. By hanging the paintings in a circular manner, I am inviting the viewer to walk in and become part of the imagined scene–to get a little closer, maybe even touch the canvas while passing. This hopefully will put them in a 'wanderer' state of mind, reminiscent of my own.
Can you share some insight into your artistic process?
As a painter, it changes according to the materials and technique I choose to work with. One influences the other. In this series, my starting point was un-stretched and un-primed canvas, which led to a specific technique of painting. When I dipped the canvas once dry, the crumpling of the canvas formed shapes resembling hills and streams, which gave me a ground surface to work with. When I hung the half-wet canvas, the ink residue dripped, creating another level. From there, I painted the figures with brush and charcoals in correlation with the already-formed landscape, then dipped each in an ink bath.
In your earlier exhibitions, your human subjects fill up a large space of the canvas. What drove you to shift gears to smaller, less figure-focused works?
Their size always depends on the project. In "Bedroom Eyes," for example, I took the figures' relation to each other into consideration, so they were larger; in my collection of sea paintings, the figures were smaller in relation to the vast sea to emphasize their futile and fragile existence within nature's vastness; in "White Ink," the upside down figures needed the white paper around them to accentuate the zen feeling I wanted to convey. In "Pending View," the small figures are hanging out there –suspended between the sky and the ground, floating in the water – liberated from their surroundings.
Who are these figures?
A tightrope walker struggling to keep his balance; someone diving into a sea of monochrome void; men walking knee-deep in water; two Mowgli-like figures swinging in an abstract jungle; a group gathering around a tent; a woman bending down to pick something up, reflected in the water at her feet. Sometimes they are drawn from memory, sometimes from a photo.
The subjects seem to all be throwing themselves into some sort of action (diving, acroyoga, paddling). Past exhibitions of yours, like "White Ink" (2015), have focused on movement as well. What does this movement mean to you?
Most of my paintings include a human figure either in relation to their surroundings or isolated. Sometimes the action defines them, other times it is their backdrop. Either way, it is the human body that I am dealing with and its state of vulnerability. In most of the paintings, the figures are not specified with physical and facial features; they function more as signifiers to human beings through their bodies' gestures.
Can you speak to this "bird's eye view" feel of the horizon-less paintings?
All the vertical planes of my paintings melt into each other. If there are mountains or seas without a horizon [line], then the boats, tents, or figures look as if they are being seen from a bird's eye view. While standing in front of these paintings, the spectator will feel as if they are hanging between two spaces.
Your style has become more abstract recently.
Yes. In "Pending View," my intention from the very beginning was to bring myself to unknown zones. It was more an experiment in wandering and letting the act of painting surprise me. For me, this series of works represent freedom – a continuous work that goes from one painting to the other without limits.
Who inspired you stylistically when creating the exhibition?
I looked at American abstract expressionists like De Kooning, Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Rauschenberg's silk-screens and collages as well...artists that I was exposed to when studying in New York. I was also influenced by Japanese landscape painters and Yves Klein's "Leap into the Void."
Pollock was well-acquainted with a process called "action painting." How did you adapt this style to your most recent paintings?
'Action painting' refers to the gesture of painting itself; therefore, it is less controlled and there are more drips, splashes, and smears. The act of painting is a physical one, whereby the whole body takes part in the work. These works came out of dipping large canvases in paint baths on the floor. I worked on my knees while stretching my body across the floor, painting with rags.
A very physical process, indeed.Are you trying to create a certain period in time or city for this installation?
A friend recently saw the works and asked me, "So where are you at now?" I replied without giving it too much thought, "I am nowhere or if you want, everywhere." I think that at its best, art allows us to be at different places and times.
What does painting mean to you?
For me, painting is an endless open field. Every time I think I've reach a dead end, it surprises me once again and opens up to another route. There are always vaster planes and deeper layers to explore.
"The finished painting carries me to an altogether different place. When the 'magic' happens, the painting tells me a different story than the one I, myself, set out to tell." -Orly Maiberg
"Pending View" opens November 23 at the Noga Gallery.