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Dror Ben Ami's "Windows of the Mishkan," his large, monochromatic drawings, trace the line formed by the high windows in the Pillars Hall of the Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod. These windows fascinate many visitors and draw their gazes, thanks to the generous constant light they direct into the large hall. Ben Ami, as an artist inspired by the Baroque, who studied and lived in Amsterdam for several years, was obviously drawn to the source of the light that changes with the seasons.

Ben Ami's artist gaze has also captured the traces of life nearby Nature left on the milky glass windows: round marks, images of tiny legs, painterly stains left on the windows' exterior by the roots of the clinging creepers tendrils covering the Museum's lovely patio wall. Ben Ami was enchanted by the "fascinating connection between the cultural experience of art and the unique experience of Nature with its quiet and purity." The silhouettes of branches with their Autumn leaves, signs of grasping hold of the whitish panes, together form a chance grid from the play of light and shadow - all seem to seek their embodiment in shades from black to white. Out of this experience the artist began to work on a series of windows in an attempt to make present the unique local sight of Nature in which it imprinted its mark in light to create an artwork expressing the abstract sensation of visual wholeness that lacks a central object able to be captured in a clear image.


It seems as if the drawings were implementing statements by philosopher

Maurice Merleau-Ponty:

The painter, any painter, while he is painting, practices a magical theory of vision. He is obliged to admit that objects before him pass into him of else that [... the mind goes out through the eyes to wander among objects [.]

[.] The painter lives in fascination. The actions most proper to him-those gestures, those tracings of which he alone is capable and which will be revelations to others because they do not lack what he lacks--to him they seem to emanate from the things themselves, like figures emanating from the constellations?

From that fascination, Ben Ami set out to capture the visions and the light reflected through the Mishkan Museum's windows. This attempt exceeded the definition of documentation of "landscape" or "still life" (which was never strict from the outset), and became a series of drawings, which became a significant milestone in the artist's developing his unique working style through repeated visits to draw the buildings' windows. Each new drawing emphasized the transience of changing Nature, its beauty, and its infinite range of forms. In the drawings, the black is not only black, the white is not only white, and the paper is not only paper.

Ben Ami draws with different types of black charcoal on industrial paper which is white on one side and brown on the other. The common saying states that "paper can take anything" and Ben Ami's paper does indeed take everything: the initial rapid, expressive drawing; the incising into the paper with a sharp implement, that determines where the large patches are placed and to which depth the blackness reaches, the repetitive caressing and handling of the color to arrive at the precise shade, the scrubbing and rubbing with sandpaper, which exposes the "yellowishness" of the microns of color in the shades in the depths of the factory-made paper, underneath the whiteness of the upper layer and on the other side; piercing holes with sharp iron tools that crumple the paper, excavating in a repeated search for the various strata. All of the above merge into one grainy surface of patches Of color that Ben Ami integrated into the paper. His artwork is physical work embodying an illusion about the strength of the paper - until it crumbles and falls apart.

Ben Ami's work of painting and drawing also examines the act of painting

itself: he researches the essential form and color. What happens in the strat a of the white color and in the depths d thied and back How isit posible so of the on the deep layers of white and black and eek content within them, working something happen there" without the color becoming opaque: The trist examines the ability of the image to revea teselF within the thicker of at abstract, discontinuous grid, being careful hot to have it lean too mud on a particular form, but maintain an holistic look" creating meaning out or its various layers.

'The first look at the drawings of the windows presents the dramatie silence existing in Nature, the quiet before the storm, in the contrasts between light and shadow and with the impression left by poetic winter Nature as attempts to remain alive. These are drawings whose drama is quiet bur infiltrates, resting on the painted surface in order to be revealed to the eyes of the stringent observer.

Thus, Ben Ami's works, despite their impressive size, bear the qualities of small drawings: attention is paid down to the last detail, with the utmost care applied to each centimeter of the large drawing that is usually given to small format works. The details of the paintings and the events taking place within them invite an intimate, close look and seek precise observation.

Only such observation would enable viewers to notice the textures formed in the complete work process, comprising the crude and laborious damage Ben Ami perpetrated on the thin paper material. Only an additional gaze, a close examining look, will make it possible to reveal the paper surface, some smooth and others ripped, the outcome of aggressive, invasive processes intended to test the paper's strength in bearing the acts of erasure Ben Ami performs on it time after time, its depths and materiality, and its layers of changing color layers.

Each encounter with a work of art is a mode of mute conversation, wrote Gideon Ofrat, and a precondition to this is the invitation from the artwork for a conversation, which "signals" us and "seduces" us to stop, come closer, and begin "talking" with it. In the case of Dror Ben Ami's series of windows of the Mishkan Museum, we are invited to converse with the contrasts of the textures and the patches of black and white, which merge, emphasize,

and heighten each other. This is a conversation after quiet observation, contemplation, and sinking into deep thought. The "conversation" taking place between the paintings and the viewer is actually also a conversation between the viewer and the artist, who graciously offers up the experience of his vision oflife and phenomena: Nature, changing seasons, light and shadow, strength, and the decomposition constantly taking place. Within all of these elements is a piercing, genuine, illusionistic beauty, and the understanding that all is connected: magic, color, form, a painter, and the greater whole.


Tal Gelfer 



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