Carmela Weiss’ new paintings appear as sites prior to a disaster. Their coloration is demure and pastoral, varying between grey-purples, creams, and baizes, and ostensibly they appear very calm, perhaps too calm.
Weiss locates figures in snow-bound sceneries, amongst slender, naked toped trees. Occasionally, they seem human, portraying a singular appearance; sometimes they resemble monochrome shadows, which indicate a present absentee, kind of a lacks form or human void. A sense of mystery and oppression creeps upon the observant viewer, and suddenly they are divulged as replete with distortions and delusive diversions. Weiss maneuvers between meticulous usages of thin accurate brushes to color spillages that alternate between spontaneity to moderated control. The tension between the line and the blot, and between the premeditated and the random, lends a dramatic flair of standing on the edge, of life on the verge of suspension.
The human existence in Weiss’ paintings merges, at times, with nature’s vast expanses. Two lovers sitting on a versant, gazing into each other’s eyes affectionately. It seems as if the whole world stops its turn. However, a black splash spreads in-front of them like a blitz of lava, without them noticing it, threatening to destroy at once their serene moments. A group of youths sitting comfortably with their backs to the viewer also do not sense the horror, as they face the black tar raising and simmering a short distance from them. These stains function as a sealing screen segregating the figures from the world, like a cognizant albeit indifferent state of mind, as if oblivious of what lies ahead.
In two additional paintings, tiny black human silhouettes are visible, with a volcanic cloud or storm hovering above them, threatening to wipe them out like tiny ants. However, it is unclear whether they sense the imminent horror, observing it with awe, turning their backs at it unconcernedly, or beginning to move away in retreat. While in these paintings man is confronted with the immense forces of nature, without the ability to control his destiny in their presence, Weiss, sometimes,
locates her figures seemingly as if they position themselves consciously in the face of danger. In one of the paintings, black figures carry an elongated rectangle that appears like a coffin. The artist’s gaze, like an omniscient narrator, observes the scene from afar, hovering over a spiral staircase that symbolizes the dominating entrance of ‘culture’ into the wild bosom of the forest.
In two other paintings, male silhouettes gather in circle, as thin veins web their bodies like a shrub, or a flickering of ‘white noise’. These stand in a fenced corral, or march into a ‘black hole’ tunnel that might swallow them irretrievably. Then, the branch laced tree-tops acquire a sense of human blood-vessels extending upon the painting alike a vibrant revitalizing potentiality, but also one that stifles the painting’s space, and marks the end of its heroes. Though it seems that these branches hatch like arms from the depths of the earth, threatening to beguile those who stride nonchalantly upon its crust. The duality in these paintings stems from the enigmatic narrative and the figures’ motives – do they stand upon the edge of an abyss of their own accord, or perhaps they are blindly unaware of it?
Alongside reliance upon photographs, of which Weiss ‘samples’ figures for her paintings, Eastern and Western influences are detectable; those are sometimes contradictory by nature, but are harmoniously settled in the preset series of paintings.
On the one hand, it seems that the sublime landscapes from Caspar David Friedrich, the German Romanticist of the early nineteenth-century, resonate here for the humans facing the vast epic forces of nature. However, while in Friedrich’s paintings, one stands awestruck facing the scenery, with mystical reverence facing the wonders of creation, sensing the divine majesty and the wonders of His creation; Weiss’ figures are indifferent, preoccupied with their selves, almost ignoring the environment in which they are present, and the sudden intensity of the given space. Friedrich’s influence becomes particularly clear in a painting, which converses almost directly with Friedrich’s “Two men contemplating the moon”
Yet, while in the German artist’s masterpiece, the men stand on solid ground and in a secure position, facing the moon viewed from a distance; Weiss has three young woman, like marionettes hanging between heaven and earth, or like birds intending to soar from there to the unknown horizon, or land upon the surface of reality far below them.
In addition to this Western-European influence, Weiss draws inspiration from Eastern-Asian images like those by Utagawa Hiroshige, the Japanese print master, Friedrich’s contemporary. In many of his works the tree-tops seem coral-like, almost abstract shapes of a kind of nuclear conscious distortion, within the detailed, meticulous landscape.
Weiss transfers these blotchy forms to her paintings, inserting an internal blaze to the frozen surface of the painting, like that troubled lava seething unseen, emerging at once to the world’s consciousness.
Weiss’ political awareness constructs images of aerated violence under the guise of serenity. There is no burning rage or hysteria in her paintings that would
signal the impending danger. While the viewer tries to locate the point of conflict, Weiss leads him to linger, intimating that perhaps not all is in order.
Sagi Refael, Curator