BOY ON AN ISLAND
BOY ON AN ISLAND
In recent years, we have had the pleasure of meeting pictures of Guy Yanai abroad that have impressed and sustained us. We are all the more pleased to announce the first solo exhibition of Guy Yanai in Germany after his successful exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles as well as in Paris and London.
The motif of the invitation to the exhibition, a view of the pool side of the hotel La Colombe d ‘0r in St. Paul de Vence with its famous restaurant, is one of the mystical places of 20th century art. Up to now it is an important milestone for every art lover on his travels. Opened in 1931 in the mountains of the Cote d’Azur, it soon became a popular place for those artists who had a significant influence on the art of the 20th century. Besides Marc Chagall, who lived in the neighborhood, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Signac, Soutine and Léger were frequent guests. Later came famous celebrities like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Orson Welles, Brigitte Bardot and many others. This impressive collection of celebrities justifies to our days the allure and attraction of the place. The artists created unique commissioned works for the site those were acquired by the owner family and can still be seen there our days. Works of art disappeared and have returned in a mysterious way. Meanwhile their value is so immense that they can not be insured at their original locations. All this brings about the attraction and the promise of participation in the great past. The large Calder sculpture, one of his most famous mobiles, which can be seen in the picture of Yanai, dates back to the early Fifties. It is placed by the pool and can be found on a large variety of photographs.
After the choice of the subject questioned, the artist replies with a kind of smile: “Vacations are almost better before you are actually in it, fantasy and the preparation are sometimes much more rewarding than the trip itself. Maybe this is the reason for the “mythical” hotel of La Colombe d’Or, which is certainly half a tourist trap living off of the legend of artists. But when I saw that Calder there, I knew I had to paint it.“ Yanai’s motifs, which remind us of something that in reality has never existed in this way, convey an ambiguous promise. More focused formulated, these are images of longing. Which can emerge from dream experiences of the artist – the exhibition title “Boy on an Island” refers to such, or from found images. The individual iconography of Yanai does not include priority elitist places like the Colombe d’Or but popular objects such as sailboats, which promise carefree leisure, or potted plants which enliven as decoration anonymous places more or less successfully. Not insignificant is also the closing remark of the above quotation, which reads: “I knew I have to paint it.” It allows the conclusion that Yanai thinks above all in colors. The intensive color is counteracted by the controlled brushwork. This special constellation gives the paintings their uniqueness. His painting technique is formally conclusive and of high recognition. He applies the color “alla prima” in a continuous painting process. The brush is guided in the respective color fields as far as possible parallel. The pasty oil paint throws a bead on the edges of the paint track, giving the painting a relief-like surface. As a result, his painting is extremely tectonic. “Almost as if built with Lego bricks” – as a viewer as naively as aptly noted. The tension between the provocative austerity of the brushstroke and the joyful promise of salvation of his motifs may be irritating at first, but then dissolves as easily as a laugh eliminates tensions. It has been our experience that when you engage with Yanai’s art, you will discover a painterly ability that makes further comments unnecessary.
Walter Conrads, February 2018
„Boy On an Island“ by Guy Yanai
This exhibition begins with a failure. Mainly the one work in the show that wasn’t made. The painting of a boy on an island. This is the painting that should have defined the show. The spark that started this whole group of paintings.
Like all other projects, the paintings arrived from a strange place that does not make rational sense. A group of works that seemingly don’t have much in common and don’t really relate to the name of the show.
This one started with a dream. Of a small boy stuck on an island where there is no money and no need for clothes. A place of total freedom, but one that became a jail. In the dream I volunteered to go to the island and return the kid back to the “real world”, our world. I entered the other world of the island and located the boy, he was only wearing a brown rag around his waist. We walked around the island in search of money, as somehow the only way to leave the island was by paying. Finally, in what seemed like a really long day we arrived to find some gold coins and were able to leave. The boy was safe in our real world. Upon returning colleagues, friends, and family told me that I had been away for 7 years! I then rushed to my computer and put a status on facebook: “back!”. Strangely there were no comments or likes, no reactions at all. I found that bewildering and puzzling. I then checked the date, and to my utter shock and surprise the year was 2007; meaning ten years before I left to retrieve the boy, and 17 years behind what it should have been.
As usual with dreams, even with the most powerful, upon trying to communicate them they become banal and like yesterday’s newspaper. But this image of a boy alone stuck on an island was very powerful, and I wanted to do a show about this sensation.
What remains is a painting of the mythical La Colombe d’Or hotel. Leaves falling from trees with Lucy van Pelt and Charlie Brown. A plant from an old Vitra catalog that I have cherished for years. A portrait of me in the soccer team of the suburbs of Boston. A black void from a perfume store in Milan. And what seems like endless images of boats.
The boats are this certain nostalgia for something that I never experienced. Something like stealing memories. All of these images are very personal, of people with whom I have no relations, appropriating memories. The atmosphere and sources in the paintings are very far from the Mediterranean sea from which I know, also far from the scorching sun of the lake of Galilee. They seem to me to be nowhere, a sort of North American nowhere though.
Upon moving to the Boston suburbs from Haifa at age seven in 1984 everything seemed foreign and distant; somehow now I have a deep nostalgia for that feeling of strangeness and alienation that I saw in Massachusetts in the 1980’s.
When choosing the images I had no thought or idea about any of these sentences, it was something intuitive, a leap of faith, that this little lonely boy on an island will seep through these images which are incoherent in their relations with each other.
The painting of the boy, sitting alone facing the sun with his back to us, that work was not realized.
Guy Yanai, February 2018