Richard Bilan Exhibition

Black/White is artist Richard Bilan’s sixth solo exhibition in Israel. It runs from 19/11/2009 - 22/01/2010 at the Engel Gallery in Tel Aviv.

Bilan, whose life-story nourishes his artistic creation, lives and works simultaneously in three different centers around the world – Tel Aviv, Warsaw, and Paris. His artistic creation stems mainly from his life experience as a boy born in devastated Poland in 1946, to parents who were holocaust survivors. He was then orphaned at a young age, immigrated to Israel alone, and began his studies in Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem without knowing a single word of Hebrew. His paintings abound with colorful circus-like figures, full of action and movement, while his sculptural works are created in a process of wrapping children's dolls that he collects in shrouds.
Bilan’s paintings in the Black/White exhibition are minimalist and clean. All of them are painted with few strokes of black color on large white canvases and on delicate rice paper sheets. Besides the sparingly depicted figures, there are no other marks on the canvas, which is left white. It is not even a space, but a vacuum – a vacuum in which the figures float, or, more accurately, do not float or hover, but are detached.

'Grotesque' is a suitable term for describing these works. Not 'grotesque' in the current fashionable sense, deriving its existence from morbid descriptions, but grotesque in its opposite meaning – an existential anxiety demonstrated by comic and bizarre gestures. Awe, grotesqueness, and anxiety certainly are present in Bilan's works, but they are depicted in clumsy and even humorous figures.

It is interesting to view this series of paintings as a whole. Looking at the entire series reinforces the sense of the grotesque parody emerging from each one of them. A painting that could be interpreted as a typical work created in the spirit of World War II horrors – with all the heavy emotional weight involved in interpreting work created by an artist born at the end of the war to Holocaust survivors, and spending his childhood in a gypsy village – breaks loose from this fettering definition using humoristic but equally horrific grotesqueness that characterize other paintings. Irony is present in these paintings, communicating heavily loaded content in light comic language. The tragedy in these paintings is expressed in a kind of absurd theatre. Covering it with a layer of irony and humor makes it just as tragic as a tragedy declared overtly.

Engel Gallery
26 Gordon St.
Tel: 0305225637
Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday, 10:00-20:00
Friday 10:00-14:00