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Installation view



The "Conversation Piece" is a genre of informal group portraiture that was popular especially in 18th century Britain, and depicts a high-society gathering where family or friends indulge in fashionable pursuits. Often the paintings were relatively small and the sitters were encouraged to engage in genteel conversation or some activity so as to appear more natural. The group could be united in conversation about an object, which would typically be an item linked to science or art. The phrase "conversation piece" later came to refer to objects that were perceived to be interesting enough to spark conversation about them. Originally the word "conversation" had nothing to do with talking. Literally the Latin word means "to turn about with" somebody and so came to mean "to live together". It was only in modern times that it developed its meaning of talking together.


Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life 2011 evoked scenes of chaos and absurdity, blurring the borders between East and West, high society and the working class, the central and peripheral, to the point of juxtaposition. The paintings were taken off their stretchers and nailed like huge patches onto the walls, hanging from the ceiling all the way down to the debris-covered floors, as if sprouting from wreckage. They extended onto the walls, transforming into graffiti-like markings in Hebrew and English.   


Reminiscent of the Israeli landscape, the paintings are executed to varying degrees of detail, some multi-layered, with intricate under-painting and glazes, others half-painted with unfinished priming and semi-erased charcoal sketches. They echo the unfinished houses seen in many Arab settlements in Israel and Palestine, which stand for years with their bare outer walls and exposed foundations, grouped together in disarray, unlike their neat and pristine Jewish counterparts, uniformly designed and executed to a high finish.


Conversation Pieces: scenes of Unfashionable Life pieces together a myriad of sources and places them more or less in the same hierarchy, without any real intention of making sense or generating a 'solution'. Inspired by images from the British and Israeli media as seen in the morning papers and on the internet, everything is spread out for the viewer with similar urgency; so that a rocket exploding in Gaza may feature next to an article about Madonna opening a new studio. Loss is reduced to a hollow icon; even war becomes pornography.


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