The Israeli-born artist Drew Tal currently lives and works in New York. Since an early age, growing up in Israel, he was fascinated by the multiplicity of ethnicities, religions, and cultures surrounding him. This background is an essential component for understanding his artwork, which is centered on the human figure. Combining photography with digital media, his portraits are both realistic and surrealistic. Their uncanny and dramatic beauty is doubled by a network of socio-political meanings and messages. Tal’s works have already been included in the permanent collections of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL, the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT and – recently - of the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, KY. They also have been featured in many solo and group shows, as well as in major art fairs in the U.S.
Worlds Apart consists of a series of works especially designed for the artist’s participation in the Istanbul Biennial 2013, in Turkey, in conjunction with his new solo show at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York. On the one hand, the works of this series were symbolically inspired by the famous Silk Road - the ancient network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass. On the other hand, after having focused mostly on Asian figures in his previous works, currently Drew Tal has a particular focus on Muslim figures. From his childhood memories, the artist recalls: “Israel was a colorful collage of ethnicities from North Africa, South Asia, and Eastern Europe, each with its own distinct facial characteristics, its specific culture, customs, and costumes.” This fascination with the ethnic face never left him and it has been the nucleus of his photographic art for the last 10 years. In this context, Worlds Apart appears as another reflection on his major theme, with a special attention to Muslim women and their place both in Western and Arab-Islamic societies; nonetheless, the artist does not want to take a critical stand and to arrogate himself the status of judge of a socio-political crisis. In his own words, his works should be seen differently:
Besides the main ethnic theme, the works of the Worlds Apart series belong to three sub-themes in the show: Light from Within, Infallible Symmetry, and Veil, Unveiled.
Light from Within features a series of portraits rendered in the chiaroscuro technique, putting the spotlight on the subject's eyes. In this regard, the artist declares: “I am enchanted by eyes, and in this series, I highlight their shape, expression, depth and beauty. I focused the light predominantly on the subject's eyes and let the shadows fall on the rest. My intention is to grant the illuminated eyes an unspoken voice and let them tell their most intimate of stories.”
The portraits of the second sub-theme, Infallible Symmetry, are entirely covered by vegetal and geometric patterns (both Islamic and Indian), like an ornamental epidermis which resurfaces from the background to the human faces and to the veils surrounding them, alluding to the prohibition of figurative elements in traditional Islamic art, but also to the secret geometry of the organic and inorganic universes. “The infinite symmetry found in these intricate patterns is considered to be divine. The result is a seamless union of the human and the divine, celebrating and complimenting each other's essence”, confesses Drew Tal.
Veil, Unveiled is a compilation of images of women cloaked in the traditional “hijab” (veil), while praying, meditating, celebrating or protesting. It raises the controversial issue of the Islamic veil, without giving an answer to it: “In my art I do not critique the practice, as it is an integral element of my subject's identity and uniqueness. I prefer to leave the purpose of the veil's presence up to the viewer's interpretation.”
Drew Tal’s new body of work has a magical, hypnotic, and mystical effect on the viewers, inviting them to conceive possible answers to leading questions about their own existence in a multicultural and globalized society.
Worlds Apart will run from October 10th to December 14th 2013, an opening reception will welcome you on Thursday, October 10th from 6-8PM.