Painting While Sleeping (Graffiti)
Bar Lev continues to work from a place which connects the making of art with sleep and dreams. However in contrast to her previous works in which she wrote her ‘dreams’ on the surface of the painting in text with painterly means, in her new paintings she paints ‘dreams’ composed of texts and images. These unite the personal and private with the public and the cultural.
A meeting between two heroes from different cultures such as Freud and Um Kultum on a common ground delineated by a printed song of Meir Ariel’s creates a dialogue which reveals the subtext of the works: Western culture, patriarchal and colonialistic, believing in one Godhead, shields itself from Oriental culture which believes in a multiplicity of gods and godesses and appears to be a softer, more feminine culture, encompassing many-faceted otherness.
This is the starting point from which Bar Lev enjoins the painterly struggle, to conquer the canvas. This is a reflection of the daily struggle (here in Israel) between politics and religion, between cultures, minorities, the strong and the weak.
The connection between personal and public struggles, represented on the canvas, in a calculated composition, creates a situation of utopian balance and harmony, with the intention of producing a winning equation to solve the pressing problems of our life.
Parallel to the images representing various cultures and various levels of culture (‘high’, ‘low’, popular’, folk’), the texts in the paintings are written in three different languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English. These together make an everyday ‘carnival language’ (Julia Kristeva) taken from folklore, from the media, from rock and roll, which exposes a wide spectrum of points of view, from the highest – Biblical quotes – to the lowest, American spoken language and slang – right down to the fundamentals of language – sounds and stuttering.
The choice of the Hebrew – quotes from the Jewish holy books – points to a kind of forcefulness arising from certain aspects of the Jewish tradition which established a special, privileged position for itself as the ‘Chosen People’.
Bar Lev represents the Arab through her experience of learning Arabic for beginners. Thus the gap and the absence of a real dialectic relationship between the two cultures – a superficial, childish language lesson instead of a true meeting between the two cultures.
American culture is represented from the point of view of one who was born there. Bar Lev, who absorbed the American culture of her birthplace, represents it as a culture which produces an enormous amount of images, texts and ‘proper’, ‘good’ taste compromising the widest denominator, and also the lowest.
The freeze-framing of this struggle, as a kind of reality presented on canvas, which brings the painting itself into existence and immortalizes the viewer as witness, merging us with the images arising from the world of the artist who ‘paints while sleeping’.