Northern Gallery & Artist Wall
Dream. Figure / Efrat Merin
Efrat Merin’s body of work from the past two years is characterized by monochromatic colors and strong contrast of black ink on a white surface. Her scenes appear borrowed from a dream world that veers from fantasy to nightmare. The drawings invoke a sense of paradox: they call to mind horrifying dreams and graphic violence—but her delicate depiction of figures is captivating.
Merin’s works draw on stories from mythology, yet the narratives are reinterpreted or turned inside-out. The genders of her figures are ambiguous; sexual roles are swapped or deprived of their potency. There are recurring motifs in Merin’s works. One striking example is the hybrid creature—multiple works feature impossible combinations of humans, animals, and objects, drawn on a distorted scale and crudely conjoined, lacking a sense of depth or perspective. Merin’s spaces refute the laws of physics; time is dream-time. There is a recurring cyclic theme: many of the works follow a circular composition or enact a cyclic series of organic states—birth, growth, death, decomposition.
Merin outlines horror with light strokes and an abundance of humor. One encounters images of eyes: wide open in panic; empty and expressionless; or isolated, floating in space. A number of works present skulls and skeletons: some direct their gaze at the spectator, revealing golden teeth in their mocking laughter; some sit in heaps inside a catacomb-like cave; still others see themselves reflected in the black water of a river. Despite the horrors portrayed in Merin’s works, her delicate outlining of figures creates a sense of frailty and feebleness. Furthermore, the sharply contrasting black and white color scheme and the finesse of the imagery create an aesthetic space that accommodates the harsh themes.
Merin’s works continue a long tradition in the history of art: the portrayal of dreamlike worlds, depiction of hybrid creatures, and representation of torments and violence. Merin’s works bear a clear resemblance in both content and form to the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, as well as to Dada and the surrealism of the early 20th century—in particular, Max Ernst’s gigantic eyes and hybrid creatures and Joan Miró’s dreamlike atmospheres and floating figures. Another modern artist whose work suggests influence on Merin is Chimei Hamada, with his numerous portrayals of the Sino-Japanese war horrors. Other significant influences include the 20th-century surrealist artists Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, as well as Aboriginal painting traditions that refer to “dreamtime”.