Heaven and Earth
Magna Rota. The title of this exhibition, travelling from Tel Aviv (Israel) to Schweinfurt (Germany), is dedicated to the treadwheel crane, an invention that made it possible to lift and transport goods vertically. Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted one in Tower of Babel (1563). Oscar Wilde had to operate a prison treadmill during the two years of forced labour to which he was sentenced. Working with it was extremely exhausting physically, as well as dangerous. At times, up to 20 people would operate such a crane, walking inside the wheel, stabilizing the cargo and helping load and unload cargo.
The path between below and above, or rather the liaison of the two places, also connects the two artists in the exhibition. Bobke’s carpets and Fraiman’s blue worlds are about the Heavens and the Earth. They touch both poles, the ground and the ceiling, the imaginary “below one’s feet” and “above one’s head” of the observer.
The exhibition leads to the homeland of each artist: for Zohar Fraiman it is Israel, for Julius Bobke Germany. It is, however, evident that their project is not a political one. Rather it deals with the methods of painting, both classic and digital. It is about new iconographic image creation, whether through the use of fake carpets or by way of dismembered characters. The blue sphere in Fraiman’s Juice WRLD suggests more of an underwater world. The scenic backdrop is borrowed from Dexter’s Laboratory, an American cartoon in which the titular boy-genius character runs a secret lab in his parents’ house. The brightly shimmering creature derives from a music video by the rapper Juice WRLD and represents a mixed form of a woman, a cat, an owl and a worm. Fraiman’s hybrids are based upon pop culture references, preferably those of children and youth culture; however, the artist also saw all-encompassing blues in the frescoes of Giotto di Bondone, such as the cycle he created in the Capella degli Scrovegni depicting the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ. The narrative parallels between Renaissance stories and the design of 20th-century comics are obvious. Fraiman calls into question which reality we belong to and which narratives shape us and our identity as we grow up.
Bobke also examines the imprint of identity, yet not by way of figurative existence, but rather through the use of maps — the delineation of territories and borders — or simply carpets. These are all human products that characterize cultures and eras and therefore reflect the identities of their owners and users. The bleaching out of the old patterns by way of painting, as he has done in Carpet Patrol II, is already a departure from those modes of belonging. In its place, a more abstract æsthetic that provides air and space; breathing seems easier once the old, dusty carpet has been removed.
Reflections about belonging and the external, cultural narratives that influence us provide insight into the two artists’ positions. Yet this exhibition also arose through their own, private feelings of belonging. Both artists studied at the University of Art in Berlin under Professor Burkhard Held; they shared a wall in the studio and were already at ease working together. Even though their work might appear to be quite different, they are aware of the same artistic dialogues they lead: with art history, with pop culture, with paint and print technology, with the Earth and Heaven, and between themselves.
Text: Larissa Kikol
Written originally in German
Translation to Hebrew: Noa Heyne