Spaces of Memory | Paintings 2007 – 2010
Curator: Emily D. Bilski
5 Feb — 12 March, 2011
In the series of paintings exhibited here, Orit Livne seeks visual equivalents for the processes of memory. Her luminous canvases express the complex relationship between present and past in the life of the individual. Livne explores the ways in which memories of places inform our experience of the world.
Orit Livné’s subject in this series of paintings depicting landscapes and interiors is the way in which memories of places inform our experience of the world. In luminous canvases, she expresses the complex relationship between past and present in the life of the individual.
Though born in Israel, Livné spent most of her childhood in France, and the influence of its distinctive climate, topography, and architecture is evident in these paintings. Elegant European parks and dense forests, shimmering Gothic interiors, and a medieval chamber, are spaces of memory that evoke a range of moods: peaceful, mysterious, ominous, or comforting.In Bois de Boulogne ou le temps perdu, a grisaille palette and the blurring of contours recreate the misty atmosphere and faint sunlight of a late autumn day in northern Europe. As we approach the canvas, we become aware of a delicate tracery pattern that covers the entire surface and creates a veil through which we view the scene. Livné has developed this formal structure – a layering of images – to mediate between the past and the present, as she seeks visual equivalents for the processes of memory. She meticulously renders a repeating pattern on the surface of the canvas, through which we peer into a receding space as if entering through a window into the past.In La prisonnière, the darkness of an empty Gothic interior is mitigated by passages of delicate tracery executed in subtle pastel shades of pink, light blue and pale yellow. This pattern, which resembles the design of Gothic rose windows, was created using a piece of lace, hand-made by Livné’s mother, who was hidden as a child in a convent in France during the Second World War. This lace, a tangible relic of the past, becomes the prism through which we view the scene.
Livné’s engagement with her childhood and family history constitute the immediate context of the paintings, but these works resonate beyond her specific biography. We are all formed by memories of rooms inhabited, of landscapes traversed, and of the climates of childhood. At the conclusion of Marcel Proust’s novel, A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), which inspired the titles for several paintings here, the narrator comes to realize “this notion of Time embodied, of years past but not separated from us,” and of “the whole of that past which I was not aware that I carried about within me.”
Emily D. Bilski