Michelle Littauer Gavrielov
Observe, capture, reinterpret, catalog.
These are the pulsating beats of my creative process, my own private dance with art.
Whether I am in the streets of New York, Tel Aviv, or India, I observe the expressions and figures of passers by. I look at total strangers and try to imagine their lives and how they relate to my own. I try to feel what it would be like to be in their skin. I gravitate toward those who are on the periphery - the anonymous, the mundane, the undistinguished, who often go unnoticed. But I notice them, even if they only pass me by for a split second.
I take photos of these people wherever I go.
Later, in my studio, I immortalize them in my paintings - just as they were, in that fleeting moment when they crossed my path, never to be seen again.
Splitting my time between a Tel Aviv, Israel, and East Harlem, New York, my exhibitions showcase reworked snapshots of refugees, homeless people, and other marginal groups. Together, these reinterpreted portraits create a sort of community which has its own collective strength and power. I use the photographs as a basis from which to grow and add layers of acrylic, which affords me spontaneity, freedom of movement, and boldness of colors: vibrant orange, bright pink, sparkling yellow.
This mental and photographic catalog evolves in each one of my works - photographs and sketches combined in mixed media on paper and canvas - that together compose an ongoing archive that is both the artistic process and the work itself.
My cross-disciplinary practice originates from my studies, which span from the rational (law, criminology) to the creative (history of art, photography and art) as well as my professional background as an agent and producer of films, TV, and theatre. The juxtaposition of the practical and the abstract, of business and art, of the concrete and the elusive- has guided and shaped my work and my vision of the world.
Also, the figure of my grandfather plays a role: a scientist and photographer, he was born in Berlin in 1893 to a well educated and wealthy family, traveled to Palestine in 1913 and took many photographs. He also served as an officer in the military in World War 1.
For years, he tirelessly took photographs of people in all these settings, piling up a stunning archive that is a source of images for me to elaborate upon today. I unravel his sensitive and vast documentation of a world that no longer exists, enlarging and reprinting the photos on canvas. I leave in the original scratches, cracks and flaps made by the passage of time, so that they remain just as I received them.
Like me, my grandfather was interested in people, and was preoccupied with questions of identity and history. I am now continuing his linage and his quest, and so I have added my own photographs, printed on paper, using this fusion of generations and techniques as a point of departure to a new creation.
One of my main influences is American photographer and painter Richard Prince, famous for his re-photographing, and for the way he blends the photographed image with painting. He is very focused and strict in his technique, and I am more free and instinctive, but we are both influenced by another great artist- Jackson Pollock, and his visceral journey into the subconscious. This is why some of my works ends up being no more than preliminary sketches which do not mature into fully realized paintings.
Like Pollock and Prince, the spirit of alienation and the quest for solitude are a driving force in my creative journey. Just as they both moved to small remote towns where they could work in peace, I have uprooted myself form my former high-powered job, form my country, my family and friends, in order to find solitude. I find that isolation helps me find my center and my focus. I am able to paint for hours and hours, forgetting myself in the process.