By Hagai Segev, 2014
“Up until two years ago, my father, Yaakov, had an agricultural mechanization workshop. Every time I visited the workshop, I found myself entranced by the power of the iron boards and the pile of black and rust colored iron pipes of different diameters, waiting to be used”, Simcha Even-Chen reminisces.
“When I saw the call for entries for the contest and exhibition at Kapfenberg, Austria, entitled “At the Moment”, I decided to use these memories of my father’s workshop. This was the birth of “A Moment Before…” a work I created in 2009, which has since led to the growth of a whole body of works”.1
The memories that awakened this body are the evolution of the artistic research Even-Chen had been immersed in during the period of 2006-2009. This group of sculptures, entitled “Illusion”, was exhibited at The Fifth Israeli Ceramics Biennale at The Eretz Israel Museum (2008), among other places, and even received the Gold Coast International Ceramic Art Award. The article that appeared in the biennale catalogue read: “Simcha Even-Chen creates arrays of objects, reminiscent of game pieces. The pieces and geometric shapes simulate complex mathematical relations, based on scientific principles of simplification, alongside an awareness of the complexity of the game”.2
In her works from the period of 2009-2010, as her research progressed, the cubic shapes and structures gained a softer sculptural presence. They were positioned on solid, dominant foundations, where the first, barely noticeable signs of a light, flowing motion began to appear. In a piece named “Triple Balance” (2010), the massiveness and relatively harsh geometry of the top object is softened somewhat by the gentle presence of the foundation, which seemingly serves as only that, but its connection suggests an integrated statement, alongside a message of contrasts. This piece was featured in important exhibitions in Italy and Korea.3
In the piece entitled “Motion” (2011), all the elements of movement and flow can for the first time, be seen in the object itself, while the pattern printed on the object surface continues to explore the geometric shape, namely, the grid, which stands out against the background of evenly hued material. This piece was awarded first prize in an exhibition in Slovenia.4
“My decision to add the element of movement to the existing physical balance gave birth to the open, broad, flowing motions and expanded the variety of imaginary shapes”, says Even-Chen. Her intentional break-away from defined shapes gave way to a new abundance of form, organic and free. The well-defined lines of geometric shapes were unleashed, and became the flowing lines that outline the movements of a dance, in which the body of the dancer is pushed to its limit. The flowing lines move in circles, twist, constrict and expand again. They face the material’s ability to carry itself to the limits of its natural properties.
While her earlier works studied the foundations of the material, these works examine its potential to reach infinity. Even-Chen’s work tests the material’s point of collapse, asking which points need to be supported to prevent the structure from breaking down or falling. This constant fear of collapse can be seen even now, when the sculptures are fired and stable. Their fragility is present in each and every moment. Within this fragility lies a hidden power: the almost inconceivable resilience of gentleness.
All of Even-Chen’s works address the tension between that which is planned and that which is not; between the expected and the unexpected. Inside the scientific thought-process, the basis of Even-Chen’s thinking, there is also a search for an emotional balance – an important element in her life, which has now found a clear outlet. But at the same time, these works continue to manifest their scientific foundation by dealing with the existence of movement within the limitations of the material.
Even-Chen’s study of the materials she has elected to work with reveals a search for release from familiar outlines. Her dealing with organic shapes is an expression of her search for freedom within the framework of her beloved material. The conceptual framework, too, leans on that, which is known, or can be derived from accrued knowledge; or on a memory that surfaces from time to time. But this reliance is but a starting point, a jumping board towards new destinations, which may not be as familiar, but are certainly more intriguing.
Balance in Motion is on view through July 5, 2014, at the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center, in Tel Aviv.
Even-Chen’s sculptures are autonomous bodies that stand independent of narrative or objectification. They have no practical use; one can only gaze upon them and marvel at the tackling of space, sculpting and aesthetics. In this aspect, they are unique in the field of applied ceramics. Their intrinsic presence allows the viewer to disregard the personal and psychological associations and examine them as autonomous bodies, existing in a sculpting space, evoking thoughts of an object’s place in the universe and raising for discussion values that stand apart from the body of their creator, if only for a moment. This possibility offers many different levels of coping with the artistic creation: a sort of Möbius strip that leads the eye and the hand in a seemingly paradoxical trajectory that cannot exist in the real world.
These abstract qualities, the flow of curves in the ceramics, raise associations of the enormous sculptures of minimalist sculptor, Richard Serra. In his colossal, steel structures, Serra managed to formulate a refined minimalistic presence that has a profound effect on viewers who walk in their vicinity. Dwarfed by the presence of these monumental pieces, the viewer is invited to follow their outline and form sequential shapes, as he strolls between them or alongside them. The active walking and touching of the fierce metal bodies make the viewer a participant in the physical experience of sculpting.
Even-Chen’s ceramic sculptures may not allow a tactile experience of this sort, but they do encourage the viewer to follow the outlines of the shapes with his gaze. They induce the meditative, spiritual state that plays such a significant role in the experience of being part of the artistic act.
The relative intimacy of these swaying sculptures is an important accomplishment, for it is a conduit for the pieces’ innate power. This is the same power Even-Chen harnesses for the creation of perfect, flowing shapes; both stable and fragile at the same time. These shapes have human dimensions, and can serve as expansions of the personal thoughts and feelings within each and every one of us.
1. All citations are based on conversations and correspondences between the author and the artist, in preparation for the exhibition; 2014.
2. Hagai Segev, curator, Clay, Sensation, The Fifth Israeli Ceramics Biennale, Eretz Israel Museum, 2008, Page 16e.
3. Keramikos, Ceramic Art International Festival, Artidec Gallery, Bracciano, Rome (2010); 39th Gangjin Festival International Ceramic Exhibition, Korea (2011); The piece is kept in the collection of Ganjin Celadon Museum, Korea.
4. XIIth International Ex-tempore of ceramic, Obalne Galerije Piran, Slovenia (2011).