top of page

Primal Scene

Jonathan Hirschfeld

Curator: Moran Sulmirski-Noam

31.1.2019 - 17.3.2019


Primal Scene ​ There are ghosts within us, such as the ones that come into being in children’s rooms and playgrounds. They whisper our dark, sexual, perverted, and bloodthirsty secrets to us with pleasure and desire. There is no doubt that they exist; they are as inseparable from us as the shadows our bodies cast in daylight. Hirschfeld does not battle his ghosts, but gives himself over to them and takes pleasure in his pain. Submissive and obedient, he provides them with contour and body, exposing his forgotten secrets. These are the memories entreating him to return to the Age of Innocence, of purity and naïveté preceding the bite of the apple. The images in Hirschfeld’s drawings are made of patches of color, almost Rorschach-like blots, like primitive, primordial paintings. In some of them, he is the hunter, while in others – the hunted. The delicate drawings of the inferno delineate horror: ghosts look straight out at us from slashed portraits; words, smears, and stains are whispered by him and sketch his secrets, guilt, and sin crouching at his door as well as his desire to be redeemed from them. We are invited to wander through the drawings and trace the line and stain that remember his past. What seems at first glance as the hubris of omnipotent dreams also embodies existential anxiety. The artist’s creative power that creates and destroys, draws lines and patches, then scratches and erases them, re-draws and destroys, and so on. On one hand, the artist wishes to go back to become what he once was and is no longer, while on the other hand, this means waiving one’s present being. Hirschfeld’s early drawings rip open a slit into the depths of his soul and consciousness, exposing us to something faceless and wordless. In the artist’s feverish effort to find and invent his identity and figure, he presents us with drawings upon drawings: images of lost presence told forever. Moran Sulmirski-Noam ​ Hirschfeld’s phantom pain ​ In Jonathan Hirschfeld’s early works on paper, line delineates form, while abstract paint spots stain, dirty, and deconstruct it.  In contrast to the line’s precision and the accurateness of the word, the function of the patch of color is to deconstruct and challenge meaning. If the line is the “head,” then the stain is the “geranium,” according to Raffi Lavie. In the drawing after Michael Kohlhaas by Kleist, the horse stands to face a large masculine erection, as a metaphor for the very masculine, purposeless vengeful pursuit of justice by Kohlhaas that would bring disaster upon him. This hints that the power of drawing and painting is not located in the realms of justice, revenge, or the destructive force represented by the phallus pursuing his stolen horse. The salvation of painting, if at all possible, is found precisely in the wounded and limbless places that reveal the blurring of the boundaries between line and color stain, and between meaning and meaninglessness. Thus this drawing reveals an ars poetic and allegorical dimension of the very meaning of the act of painting. These works by Hirschfeld remind me that from our geographical location on the margins of the West we grasp at western beauty and aesthetics not based on ancient tradition, but nourished from books, reproductions, and visits to Europe. We grab on to beauty, swallowing it voraciously but also vomiting it up like a pack of dogs: beauty is beyond our grasp. Our only chance as artists is to attempt to create visual meaning through a bulimic process of swallowing and vomiting – we are not part of that very same glorious western tradition of aesthetics. It is only through the stump, only through the phantom pain of the severed limb of beauty that we are missing that we are able to touch upon deeper meaning – meaning beyond the aesthetic. Asaf Rahat ​ Photography by Tziky Eisenberg

bottom of page