Curator: Ilan Wizgan
3 Jun — 12 August, 2023
Ilana Hamawi’s exhibition “Construction Works” consists of layered drawings on paper, created over the course of four years, during which she repeatedly photographed landscapes in a demarcated area of Jerusalem. Documenting the conquest of the forest and nature for the sake of construction and road paving, the photographs inspired the drawings in the exhibition, with the depicted landscape moving farther and farther away from the photographic source, and manipulated over and over, slightly shifting the gaze or the focus each time. The featured body of work can be divided into three “states of aggregation,” which describe the changes that occurred in the landscape during the artist’s visits to the place: in the first, nature is still virginal and wild; in the second, signs of culture appear amidst the tree branches in the form of infrastructure, houses under construction, or electric wires crossing the sky; and in the third—construction at its peak takes up the entire sheet.
As time passed and the works progressed, the artist was also pushed away, as if she had been banished from Eden, from the area that was an abundant source for photographs and ideas for her work. This image is addressed in a series of works, to which Hamawi gave explicit titles, such as The Expulsion from Eden or Open the Gate for Us. The series of drawings features a curled up tree, ostensibly bashful. The tree is likened to Adam, naked in the Garden, and perhaps also to the serpent. In these drawings, the three elements of the biblical story—the tree, man, and the serpent—seem to merge. The coiled tree evokes early paintings from the history of art, which portray the act of temptation, often showing the serpent coiled around the Tree of Knowledge.
Hamawi’s approach to drawing is almost sacred. The drawing hand is led as if by itself, controlling and being controlled intermittently. The drawings are reminiscent of romantic paintings from the first half of the 19th century, where the artist replaces the archaeological relics, which stand out in the natural landscapes in paintings from that period, with new houses under construction—a future archaeology. In the meantime, the past, the present, and even the future are elucidated. Hamawi explores notions of birth versus wilting, construction versus destruction, and the cyclicality that characterizes both nature and human development. Her gaze is compassionate, and at the same time realistic, seeing the process taking place in front of her as painful, but necessary for the sake of human survival and prosperity.