Click the image to enlarge
Un_Space Mountain by Orly Aviv, 2011
Digital manipulated image, 80x40cms
Copyright the artist, reproduced with permission
A ghostly, lone figure appears out of the mist as if something half-remembered from a dream in this month’s artwork by Orly Aviv.
It’s an image with strong representational, even narrative elements; although the typography of the original location is subsumed the work manages to create a real sense of place. It is a reinterpretation of the sublime facilitated by the artist’s use of digital technologies.
Orly credits her educational background, which includes both information science and the arts, with nourishing her unique artistic vision. She says, ‘My projects are often made and conceived in 2D and 3D digital technologies.
My journeys in landscape offer me special kinds of analogies with my discipline in mathematics and computers.’ Recently graduated from the Master of Fine Arts Media art programme at the Slade she also holds a degree in Mathematics and Political Science and an MSc in Information Systems.
Un_Space Mountain is one of a series from the ongoing project Un_Space (begun in 2004) of digitally manipulated images which use as raw material photographs taken by the artist during her travels.
Photography is here used as a medium to interpret and to narrate reality. Although we feel that the image must belong to a specific place located somewhere, in fact the compositions are built up with layers of imagery from different times and places, fostering an atmosphere that is mysterious and enigmatic.
Orly explains, ‘I am especially interested in the eluded transformation of the scene to the ‘un_seen’. For me, capturing an image is like freezing time and space. I take a specific scene out of the context of its place and time and give it an endless lifetime and a multitude of possible interpretations.’
For the artist this process is akin to building a bridge between the outside world - the scene (or seen), and her inner world - what she terms the ‘un_seen’. She believes the images can be seen as intimate reflections of her in that the ‘real’ image evades its original place and becomes her personal interpretation.
The Un_Space series contains images immediately readable to the viewer as they are based on pictures recognised by our unconscious; the artist adds details according to her state of mind, depicting dreamy, magical or supernatural themes, ideas from ancient myths and legends, as well as depictions of modern day life.
Thus the finished image is a visual translation to the public domain of her personal database of experience including that of an unconscious level and as such spans the scene/seen and the un-seen.
Orly also harnesses the power of the sublime. This follows in the tradition of nineteenth century Romantic landscape painters such as Caspar David Friedrich and John Martin, who painted allegorical landscapes often featuring contemplative figures in nature silhouetted against massive mountains or big, star-studded night skies.
They sought to convey a spirituality as fulfilled by the natural world. The twenty-first century reprisal of the Sublime is generally understood to refer to something breathtaking, overpowering or absolutely great. The Sublime can be a thrilling, potentially dangerous landscape that makes you feel humble and overwhelmed in its presence.
This is the raw power of nature causing a feeling of excitement and awe which the actual typography has little to do with. It’s about creating a sense of place. Orly sees working with landscape an opportunity to evoke rich associations.
‘Landscape and especially wide open places remote from human presence offers me an endless body and mind experience,’ she says, going on to state that her idea is to create ‘an illusion of place which describes a mental situation or a feeling.’
Orly’s work is highly evocative, at least in part due to a liminal quality which she manages to convey assisted by her digital technique. There is a sense that this figure is at the threshold of something, on the edge, instilling in the viewer a thought that something might happen, a transition, an encounter or a profound change might be about to occur.
In this way Orly creates a sense of place without actually describing to us the exact location of the scene. In fact the scene is constructed.
The artist explains further, ‘I love travelling to remote places where I can find nature in its pure beauty. When I am with my camera, I see the outside world around me as if in a dialogue with my interior world.’ Her art works are a collage of many images manipulated in Photoshop, each one a combination of up to twenty layers, each layer a different image from different place and time, before being printed on paper or exhibited online.
As an Israeli, resident in Tel Aviv, Orly is well aware that in Israel art and politics are bound together. And she admits that her work sometimes may not conform to standard expectations of ‘proper’ Israeli avant-garde art.
As an example she cites the forthcoming Herzliya Biennial which takes as its themes contexts relating to war, terror, death and such terrible issues. Orly wishes her work to be different and such horrors she prefers, she says, ‘to keep to the back of my mind [because] with my art I can imagine any world I want.’
Orly’s work is included in the International Contemporary Artists series of art books by Eve Lemonidou and Olga Antoniadou. Currently she has online exhibitions at the Maria Pestana Gallery and at Saatchi Online.
Catherine Mason is the author of A Computer in the Art Room: the origins of British computer arts 1950-80, published in 2008.