Rotem Reshef: ArcadiaOctober 6, 2019 - January 26, 2020
The site-specific painting installation, Arcadia was inspired by the greenery and the calmness
of the picturesque scenery that surrounds the Katonah Museum of Art (KMA). Reshef used natural materials from the Museum’s surrounding area to create her own imaginary landscape. The Arcadia scrolls were made through a long process that included picking the materials, placing them on the canvas, choosing the paint and pouring it, then peeling off all materials from the canvas and revealing the imaginary forest that came to life.
Her work often deals with the tension between beauty and what disrupts it, the temporary existence of nature and short-lived bodily actions that left their marks on the canvas’s surface. The title refers directly to Nicolas Poussin’s 17th Century masterpiece, Et In Arcadia Ego, which ambiguously hints at the presence of death, loss and the temporality of life, within an idyllic place that suggests tranquility and harmony with nature.
Rotem Reshef is a process-based action painter. Her artistic oeuvre presents a range of bodily gestures and techniques, such as imprinting, peeling, pouring and assembling various sources and materials, that help shape the various compositions over the different canvases.
Arcadia is made of two scrolls of paintings. A longer one, the “Blue scroll,” 75 feet long,
that was made in 2018-2019, by imprinting different vegetation from the city of New York,
and the shorter scroll, the “Green scroll,” “only” 29 feet long, that was made with plants I
collected from the surroundings of the museum. Both canvases were made by creating an imaginary plant-based world, using different kinds of branches, leaves, coniferous tree needles etc., and by imprinting them with diluted acrylic paint onto the canvas.
As Reshef notes, “choices were made in all stages of the process, yet the outcome is always full of surprises”. Indeed, this process is very important in her work, in all of its stages—from collecting the
materials, to working in the studio, to when and how the work is displayed, and how it can
be shown again, in a completely different manner elsewhere.
The duration of the painting process on each section of the canvas, creating the new
composition with the existing plants, painting it, peeling off the plants, revealing the canvas
once again and connecting the new segment with the existing one – all take time and hold
the memory of the materials and the process. The evolution of it, the metamorphosis, the
duration of its creation and consumption, how it is never the same when conceived and
later perceived, are all part of it being “process-based.”
I am a painter and installation artist based in New York and Tel Aviv. My work of recent years creates a political and social commentary via immersive installations and paintings that relate to society’s effect on climate change and one’s relations to his/her private and public environments.
I use waste vegetation (branches, petals, ferns, leaves etc.), collected in the streets, parks and elsewhere in the urban surroundings, and imprint these “relics” onto my canvases, in a technique that resembles photograms.
By creating these fossil-like ghostly compositions that range from abstractions to more representational figurations, my work alludes to forms of life that existed in the world, and are no longer with us, but that get “a second chance” or a “second life cycle” via my artistic process.
Following the ideas behind Sustainability and Ecofeminism, my paintings offer an option for healing and recovery to “dead” and neglected materials, and indirectly to our world of mass consumption and the chase after the “next best thing”. My artistic practice offers "Tikkun", a Jewish term for Correction, suggesting an additional chance to what had been thrown away from our society's circulation, and is being brought back via my artistic exploration.
Explore Rotem Reshef: Arcadia
Michele Wije, Associate Curator, Katonah Museum of Art with Rotem ReshefView (PDF)
Arcadia, 2018-2019, two scrolls, each diluted acrylic and mixed media on canvas
Blue scroll – 7 x 75 ft (2.1 x 22.9 m)
Green scroll – 7 x 29 ft. (2.1 x 8.8 m)