The Studio: Paintings 2005-2011
Curator: Emily D. Bilski
10 Sep — 22 October, 2011
Debbie Margalit’s paintings depicting interiors, figures, and still life compositions suggest an entire world of complex feelings and human relationships. Her work is distinguished by an insistence on remaining within the confines of the artist’s studio, in contrast to venturing forth into nature or the city. She relies on two favorite female models and a narrow repertoire of props, furniture, and objects. Remaining within this restricted space paradoxically frees Margalit to explore a wide range of emotions and situations. Loneliness, irony, longing, tenderness, and conviviality are some of the moods she evokes.
Depicting the models Tal and Lison in a variety of contexts, Margalit explores the expressive possibilities of the figure. By means of modulations of pose, color, the relationships among the models and between the models and the surrounding space, quiet dramas are enacted. At times these compositions are painted on tiny supports, which nevertheless possess the gravitas of much larger works. Often the models’ faces are rendered without features, compelling the viewer to pay careful attention to details of stance and setting, of pigment and brushstroke.
When she presents the figures against an unbroken wall, Margalit emphasizes the studio as a closed, hermetic space. Elsewhere, in contrast, she incorporates the windows and glass doors of her studio. Windows mark the border between the private and public spheres. Margalit’s windows convey a poignant yearning in the tension between inhabiting the shelter of the studio and aspiring to the uncharted territory that lies beyond the glass.
Prominent among the objects depicted in many of Margalit’s works is a plastic skull that the artist has dubbed “Gertrude.” The presence of the skull signifies that we are inside the world of the studio, and also serves as a reminder of life’s transience and the inevitability of death. In many works, however, Gertrude is not immediately recognizable as a skull; with her undulating surfaces, she is simply a rewarding object to observe and record under varying conditions. As Cézanne, who created numerous still life compositions featuring skulls, noted: “A skull is a beautiful thing to paint.”
The recurring motifs of windows, mirrors, easels, models, and artist in Margalit’s work constitute an ongoing meditation on the act of looking and of the artist’s metier. In the monumental painting Summary, Margalit depicts herself at work, but she has chosen to show herself observing her subject, rather than holding a palette or applying paint to canvas. Thus she emphasizes looking as the central act in the making of her art. The process of translating focused observation of the artist’s material reality into the physical substance of paint on canvas in order to reveal aspects of the human psyche and spirit – namely the vocation of the painter – is an underlying subject of Margalit’s work. The studio, her chosen domain, is the site where this alchemy takes place.
Emily D. Bilski
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue