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hēliotropion  Tamar Getter 2017


In the course of two years, I have been drawing horses' relaxation roll. The drawings were carried out in a fast manner, done in succession, in groups, according to one horse posture at a time, starting by looking at videos snapshots arresting the few seconds when the horse is on its back during the roll. Later on, I abandoned the mediation on photos for the sake of direct work, elaborating the rolls in a free manner, drawing from a drawing, a series from a series.


To respond to the duration of the horse's roll from the stillness of a posture, to find, and moreover to invent these postures, introduced me to a rather primary sense of drawing - description. I developed a fast drawing mode, never correcting or rubbing out anything as if to calibrate it with the speed of the roll. At times I drew with my eyes closed. I drew other groups of drawings from memory, often changing my drawing tools. Associating the bodily constraints (speed, shut eyes) with both material and conceptual ones helped me differentiate my work from mere technicalities associated with mimetic tasks, knowledge, and conventions of taste or art history.


Having started with the enormous capacity of the camera for detail – far beyond human vision - made me understand better my non-analytic concern regarding the nature of the choices I was to make in the selection of postures for my descriptions of the roll's duration. An aspect of that non-analytic approach surfaced almost immediately in my disregard for any 'classical' anatomical or motion investigation. Beyond my strong desire to see into the horse's wallowing about on its back, which impressed me by its freedom, I did not have a certain 'artistic' program. I certainly did not intend to learn how to describe horses 'correctly' ... Duration and freedom, I think, pushed this preoccupation, and my marvel at the wonderful movement of the animal. During this period I drew or painted nothing else.


The camera provided boundless data of the horse's frictional, convulsive movement. But I preferred those dark or blurry shots, in which the distinctions between volumetric characteristics and the outlines of shapes were hard to discern. Likewise, I preferred data in which the horse's body appeared very contorted, swollen, its volume deformed, and its shape defective, impaired or 'poor'. Meeting these features with the speedy drawing line was a complicated task, especially so because of my solid inclination to let my line address only that which preserves none of the traits associated with the magnificent, familiar, and well-admired symmetry of the horse; at times it let the level of deformation destroy its identification altogether.


 Rolling on its back is a great pleasure for the horse. It throws itself on the ground, farts, snorts, and occasionally defecates, all in the brief course of the roll (about 25 seconds), which appears to the eye as a bizarre mix of polarities: at the same time being swift and slow, light and massy. For the domesticated and castrated beasts, I have been looking at it was also a moment of elated freedom; an animal all to itself, after and out of any service to humans.


I noticed that the roll of relaxation has never been a theme for the artistic gaze, nor an item in the enormous dictionary of postures associated with the iconic status of the horse. This was an important discovery for me.


My wish was to create a line capable of pointing at and showing, in a vital manner, the tie between comport and comfort - supreme comfort - that is pleasure -  a line becoming that tie, so to speak. Or, one could say that I have settled in the twilight zone between the looks of a cadaver and the sight of brief delight.  


The second phase of the project was invested in painting, in 'rolling a painting on its back', so to speak. The six Hēliotropion's canvases form one complex composition, planned in advance in great detail on a computer.


I enhanced my concerns with deformation by developing forms of utterly imaginary mutations, bigger than life in size, their inner scales in conflict. They comprise a beast (the horse), a plant (a sunflower), and a man-made object (the writing table), joined to form arbitrary clusters, set together on some fictional orbit.


In clear contrast to the rapid drawing, the huge painting was slow work. As with the drawings, the constraints of production propounded content. Since the hand cannot perform the continuum of a line encompassing a shape that huge, the size of the horses dictated its segmentation, and the rest - the tables and sunflowers – were carried out by squeegee, wood, cork, and cutouts, and by a mason's plummet, an exceptionally slow process. These tools create bodily concerns - painting stoppages - as I have often phrased it in the past, and now, after having long busied myself with the horse's roll, I felt I found a way to approach them anew, figured in these giant floating barriers.


The entire installation, with its strip-painting and drawings, I have called hēliotropion - facing the sun. There is a story about the sunflower's ability to lean towards the sun from sunrise to sunset. It is not true. The geometry of the arrangement of the seeds on their orbits in the sunflower's scalp is described in Fibonacci's Law, which meets the arrangement of stars in our galaxy with same accuracy. And that is said to be a true story.


The 12 horse-table-sunflower units (all 'on their back', or turned over) form a continuous strip-painting enclosing a free-standing rectangular space - a stable of sorts - beneath the cast 'tabernacle' ceiling of the right wing of the Ein Harod Museum, by the architect Bikeles. Each unit in this chain embodies another arbitrary deformation of its components, while the entire scarecrow-like arrangement reveals  -like in the drawings, I hope -  some of the magic with which Painting may confront its stillness versus the flux of life.


The word 'Ethos', in Greek, comes from the word  'ethea (ἤθεα)' the meaning of which lies in the question, where does the horse feel good, comfortable, at 'home'? This idea, so categorically different from our use of the word,  both in a moral sense and as judgment, tugs somehow at the heart of this entire project, touching upon its initial sentiment: " For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity."   


I have wanted, and wanted again, if at all possible, to find an ethical formulation for my Painting, from within, from the work, outside of the familiar parameters regarding actuality, questions of society, and cultural identity. This issue, which, in my experience, does not yield itself to resolution, has been hard for me and had bothered me all these years. I have always found myself full of suspicion or boredom in the face of works that fulfill the habitual 'ethical' expectations, and no less skeptical of those dismissing any thought of the question. And perhaps, if the paintings succeeded in formulating something about the magic I have mentioned, then I really earned the ethical place of my painting; It seemed to me that to mark a painted space by questions of comport , comfort and pleasure might at least address an ethical question in proper dimensions. 


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