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Hagai Argov – Daily Fairytale

Past Exhibition

21.05.2015 - 05.07.2015

Life and death in the power of the brush / Matar Engel

When Hagai Argov puts a brush to a stretched canvas, a table top or everyday housewares, he paints a story. It is a tale he sketches every day. In his depictions, you will not meet magical creatures or distant worlds, but familiar surroundings peopled with unknown characters and forgotten objects. Yet this simplicity searches the conscious depths to produce the plot – one with which we are already familiar. This exhibition deals with the stories and the characters that are, as in everyday life, along the boundaries between fantasy and reality and conversing about the artist’s life, his dreams and his disappointments.

Argov uses “Readymade” as the main technique in his work and it can be found in many of his paintings that are on display in the exhibition. This choice is a source of great difficulty. The objects he has chosen for his work are full of flaws, both on and beneath the surface, and they force him to consider an unconventional composition and a non-neutral surface. But beyond that, from an emotional perspective, gathering and using street objects invites feelings that may seep into the work process and influence it. Argov makes intelligent use of these constraints and uses them to highlight his paintings. He rises to the challenge and takes full advantage of the existing needs, and, like the doctor in Mary Shelley’s famous book, breathes fresh life into the damaged objects.

Preoccupation with life and death permeates Argov’s work, even when the work surface is not ready-made. His “Self Portrait”, which is also displayed in the exhibition, is a canvas stretched on an internal frame, built by the artist from discarded pieces of wood that he found and upon which he layered the paint to create a face – a three-dimensional death mask reflecting the humanity and the memories that reside in all of us, even though we do not know who is standing behind the mask.

I visited Argov’s studio, in a classroom in a school in Rishon Letzion, where we ate palm hearts and talked about his work and the stories that stem from everyday objects. Between the palms we discussed archaeology and the similarities between it and his work.

An archaeologist uncovers an invisible world with the delicate movements of various brushes, exposing ancient truths that are directly reflected in the present. But then, I was thinking to myself, archeology is not the exact term, but rather “reverse archeology”. Argov does not reveal the story by removing layers – on the contrary, he adds layer after layer, drawing line next to line, till he recreates what he saw when he found the artifact, the forgotten piece of “history”.

You can see it in his biker helmet, an ordinary object we see every time we look at a road. Yet it takes on an entirely new meaning when Argov “exposes” a figure etched into several layers of color, light and dark, resembling the days of his life, with the last layer so engraved being the darkest in color and reminding us of asphalt.

While the natural hair brush used by the ancient scholars reminds us of the artist’s brushes, the difference is that we are the ones who are supposed to “peel away” the layers and do the reasoning, in order to understand how objects, and these characters, connect with our personal story.

Press here to view a video about the exhibition