Stuart Shils’ 2009 Essay
I can still feel the resonance of visual delight from four years ago when I first encountered a painting by Yael Scalia. Stopping unexpectedly in front of the most curious composition, I lingered at the wall where the muted tonal poem hung, asking myself who could have made this painting and why something so small and so unpretentious wouldn’t let go of my eyes. Everything about the image spoke eloquently. Neither superficially deft in execution nor bravura in spirit, it was characterized by a distinctively honest perceptual clarity that was refreshingly self-effacing yet provocative.
Since then, whenever I travel for teaching, I always take along (among other reproductions both historical and current) a printout of that painting to show students. And no matter where I am or with whom, every single time I’m asked the same three questions: whose painting is that, can I please see it more closely, and why am I not familiar with her work?
Over the last few years I’ve seen much more and have had conversations with Scalia as well, and she continues to make compelling paintings. From the current show, the apparently minimal House on Rehov Tzfat is so seemingly restrained in its scope, so limited in quantity of information offered, yet so potent within the context of its internal visual ambitions. It is brief and compelling—a chunk of building, a weird piece of tree, a sliver of sky—not orchestral or ornate, but we are pulled into the spell of recognition.
Scalia understands that the ordinary is anything but that. New to me, the still lives are an enormous surprise and are among my favorites of this collection. Still Life With Rosebuds and Still Life With Coffee Bag and Lemons read as shrewdly understated complexity and deeply felt mystery. What we are seeing here is not nature per se, but the nature of a painter looking. To paraphrase the words of Paul Valery, Scalia is a painter who has made us feel what she feels before nature, and in painting nature has painted herself. -Stuart Shils
MOMENTARY BRIGHTENING, by Dror Burstein
In a new art gallery on Rothschild Blvd. a first group exhibition is being shown. A few words about one of the paintings which unfortunately is not part of the show but which is in the gallery and appears in the catalog of the show, a landscape by Yael Scalia. The first thing which draws my eye is the progressive lightening of the sky from the left side to the right. The paint suddenly becomes a bit thinner and light breaks through and fills the painted world. How exciting it is to see that white spot between the trees, to understand that its source is the same burst of light which is only hinted at above. This light falls on the house, falls on the wall on which the house is “built”, which is to say is hidden by, and it washes down, in a kind of triangle which sends us immediately out, to the margins of the painting, and in a horseshoe turn into the left margin, up to the sky. Look what this almost unfelt avoidance does, this one silence in the painting, a little less paint which all at once causes so much thought, brings the whole painting to life. And then we see how the wall quotes the command of this sky, is also opened, illuminated, peels, closes but wants to open, how the light of the triangle whose point is down answers the triangle of the roof.
And there’s something else here—a black spot on the right side. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t ask. Maybe it’s just the echo of the door of the house, something unnamed but which holds the gaze, as if the right eye of the viewer depended on it, and the left eye depended on everything else: the house, the trees, the wall. I look at it again, this spot, and see that it has a kind of twin: the high note of the white spot, a kind of square whose shape is similar, but which ”points” in the opposite direction. And between the black spot on the right and the blinding white spot, right in the the middle, stands the bright wall of the house, and in it the opening which cannot really be seen, and the roof, from which shines and rises the same momentary brightness of the sky, a curtain which has been opened to show what there is.
Translated from the Hebrew, from his blog “Under the Table” on August 20, 2008, about the painting View of the Walls of the Old City
Link to 2011 Interview on Painting Perceptions with Larry Groff
- 2009 Yael Scalia Recent Work, Rothschild Fine Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
- 2011 Nahlaot to Toscana – Landscapes, Gallery Livia, Jerusalem, Israel
- 2015 Delight in All Seasons – New Work, Rothschild Fine Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
Yael Scalia is represented by Rothschild Fine Art, 48 Yehuda Halevi Street, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Tel/fax +972 77 5020484, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rgfineart.com