Rouge, Esther Schneider's first solo show at RawArt Gallery, comprises paintings in black ink and watercolors on canvas. On one of the gallery's walls, Schneider opens a gate to a transitional zone: black velvet embroidered with threads and tassels turns into an architectural element with anthropomorphic objects inspired by golem-like creatures hanging from it – sculptures made of black clay.
Schneider's paintings are abundant with symbolic systems of bold colors, signs, and figures. Flowers, thistles, and wings are some of the recurrent motifs, as well as the drop shape that appears as teardrops or drops of rain or blood, at times becoming a decorative circular structure surrounding the painting. The drop also reflects the nature of the watercolors, which are trapped under their surface tension, and then spread randomly through the canvas.
Schneider delves into the deep and excavates layers of visual signs from ancient cultures. Through the act of painting she recreates attributes of the outer shell: a detail, a gesture, a composition, and thus the artist connects to a sequence of painters that had come before her and brings forward, with their help, personal and collective materials that are beyond the realm of the visible, the conscious, or the defined.
In each of Schneider's exhibitions there is a key figure of a woman creator. In the current show, she is embodied in the one with the mane of black curls who sits upon a lotus flower, her head down in an Art Nouveau-like distortion. The spiral decoration on her face is influenced by aboriginal body painting. She is crying, and her tears form a vase – a vessel that is her body – and trickle into it in a self-sustaining cycle.
In the show, lips are always painted red. The word “rouge,” the title of the exhibition, means red. The Hebrew translation of the word, אודם (odem), can also be translated as ruby, the first precious stone in the breastplate of the High Priests in the Temple, which is associated with magical powers. The painting and decorating of the facial features transforms the body into an art object and a medium for connecting - or perhaps separating – what transpires within the soul and the ordering of the surrounding social world. The words 'cosmetics' and 'cosmos' share a common root in the Greek word κόσμος (kosmos), which is defined as both the ornamentation of the body and order and harmony in the world.
The body is also present in the exhibition through the physical gestures of the hands, which penetrate the lumps of clay with symmetrical motions, moving in waves on the surface of the canvas to create the curling lines that drive some of the paintings. The ink creates a grid of sorts that serves as a foundation for the painting, through which the abyss can be observed. At times heavy locks hang from the grid, barring the world below.
Ester Schneider (b. 1978, USSR), lives and works in Tel Aviv. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. Schneider is the recipient of the Ilana Elovic-Bezalel award for excellence in art (2016), the Givon award (2012), and the Young Artist award (2011), as well as excellence awards from the Advanced Studies Programs at Bezalel and Hamidrasha - Beit Berl College. Schneider has had solo and double shows at the gallery of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary art, the Midrasha gallery in Tel Aviv, and at Artists' House and Artists' Studios in Tel Aviv. Her work has been shown in many institutions around the world, among them the eTel Aviv Museum of Art, Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Eretz Israel Museum, Al Hatefer Museum, and Triumph Gallery in Moscow. Her works are included in the collections of the Tel Aviv Museum and Ha'aretz, and in private collections in Israel and abroad.