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Simcha Even Chen

The Dance of Infinity

Article 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

Simcha Even-Chen Contemporary Ceramics

A moment before…, 2009, Mixtures of stoneware and porcelain, 11.5 x 30 x 24 cm.

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

Simcha Even-Chen Contemporary Ceramic art

Motion, 2011, Mixtures of stoneware and porcelain, 25 x 46 x 25 cm.

“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.

Simcha Even-Chen Ceramic exhibition at Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center Tel Aviv

Balance in Motion is on through July 5, 2014, at the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center, 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.

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  • Simcha Even-Chen: Balance in Motion / Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center, Tel Aviv

    Simcha Even-Chen exhibition at Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center, Tel Aviv

    Simcha Even-Chen: Balance in Motion / Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center, Tel Aviv
    May 15 - July 5, 2014

    Curated by Tirza Yalon Kolton

    A general overview of the exhibition takes us on a stroll through an avenue, with structures on either side. It is a walk between the fine elegance of geometric shapes, and the almost smug solidity and sensuous texture of the surface of the material, scorched by living flames.

    In his book, “Species of Spaces and Other Pieces”, Georges Perec describes his journey through space, and the sensations it awakened within him: “Our gaze travels through space and gives us the illusion of relief and distance. That is how we construct a space, with an up and a down, a left and a right, and in front and a behind, a near and a far”.¹

    In my meetings with Simcha, in preparation for the exhibition, we frequently discussed the sensations that works of art induce in us: opposites, balances and imbalances, floating… The work of sculpting the massive clay matter sends a message of stability and a sense of floating in space. I am fascinated by the duality of the interaction between softness and harmonious flows, between the ascetic black and precise, repetitive patterns that speak of uncompromising harshness.

    In her works, one can trace the evolution of a language that expresses and explores the relationships between “free” three-dimensional space and the open and twisted, two-dimensional, geometric surfaces planted in it, giving it visual meaning without restricting its movement.

    Simcha Even-Chen focuses on the balance between motion and stability, and searches for the relationships between mass, volume and balance. She concentrates on simple and harmonious architectural shapes, and uses black and white colors. Borrowed from graphic paper, the grid-like pattern that covers her works offers a precise, scientific result on top of the harmonious, elusive bodies. Her works appear to be floating in midair, lacking any center of mass; while the black color, formed during the firing process using the Naked Raku technique, which allows the artist to control the absorption of the smoke by the surface of the piece, bestows the illusion of gravitational grasp. The geometric coating and the interplay of smoothness and roughness on the surface create a breathtaking tension.
    —Tirza Yalon Kolton

    ¹ Perec, Georges. Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, ed. and trans. by John Sturrock, London: Penguin, 1997 (Page 81.)

    Simcha Even-Chen was awarded her PhD degree in 1990, in the field of Biology at Tel-Aviv University. She held a Project Manager Position in a Biotechnology Company till 1993. During the period of 1994-1996 she has taken night courses in ceramic at Rehovot Culture Foundation parallel to my Post Doctoral position at the Medical School Biochemistry Department, the Hebrew University Jerusalem. Most of her ceramic knowledge is from the literature and self-thought.

    In 1996 Simcha established her own studio and later on she gained a position of Senior Scientist in the Medical School, which she has held till May 2013. In 2011 she was elected Member of the International Ceramic Academy (IAC).

    Since 2000 her works have been exhibited in Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Korea, China, Romania, Italy, Croatia, USA, South Africa, Australia and Israel. She won Awards in Australia, Spain, Korea, Slovenia and China and has works in major museums and private collections in an increasing number of countries.

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  • Simcha Even-Chen

    Simcha Even-Chen's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

    In my recent works I use ceramic sculptures to investigate the elements of ambiguity and dynamic of opposites.  Ambiguity is express by the contrast between appearance and reality. Looking at the precise shapes that enclose and contain space gives the impression of solid and massive bodies when they are in fact, surprisingly light and delicate.
    The dynamic of opposite is express in a way that juxtaposes the precise and controlled building and graphic design of the ceramic work the unpredictable firing technique of “Naked Raku”.
    In these works I’m dealing with issues such as tensions between polarities, with fragmentation and constructions and with illusions. These concepts are guidelines for my treatment of space in the context of surface-volume relationships. The division of the body surface between white and black, as well as the use of lines softens the shape, simultaneously placing the grid or lines on the edge of the shape, so that they follow the shape, completely dissolve the hard lines. Viewing from different angles, surface and volume are blurred, giving an illusion of flatness.
    This idea is strengthened and extended by working with pairs or creating a composition of a few units, where new volumes and planes are achieved by way of the lines or grid are virtually joined; the ratio of parts to the whole is changing and two and three dimensions are played against each other in a sophisticated manner.

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  • Simcha Even-Chen: Rhythmus - details

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Steady State

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Square Variation

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Square Enigma

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Motion #2

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