Yarkon, 2002-2005
Lambda Print, 99×125 cm


The most striking feature of the works of Ariel Yannay-Shani, (I.S.H.) is their astounding tenderness. That tenderness can so astound is mysteriously puzzling.

I.S.H. is softening the mercilessly bright Middle-east light as if he were a Low-Country artist painting in mid-autumn; he is purifying the most disturbingly ugly corners of our concrete-and-asbestos city, Tel-Aviv, as if they were the melancholically pretty cityscapes of a 17th century Amsterdam. And he chose the camera, that mechanical box of glass, metal and plastic, as his subtle, fine, painting brush, producing exquisitely faint silver threads of lace and clouds

I.S.H.’s works are an invitation to ponder upon this tension.

For he is anything but a spontaneous, intuitive artist. His technique indicates deliberated precision and extraordinary restraint, which can only be accomplished by hours upon hours of tedious self-cultivation, inspection and reflection.

Why, then, did he choose to so painstakingly refine the brutal Israeli light, to make rough cityscapes into their reflective sublimations, photographs into oil paintings.

To those who do not ponder this tension through and through, I.S.H. may seem to be a European aristocrat somehow permanently combating a Levantine landscape, assiduously telling the story of his own (existential) exile. He does not seem to belong here: he treats gravel stones as if they were Platonic ideas and tree branches as if they were delicate charcoal drawings.

To ponder this tension through and through, however, is to discover I.S.H. as successfully capturing the exact opposite: his total and complete commitment to the artistic act, forever celebrating that which lies between assimilation and seperation between faithful representation of concrete objects and their subtle subjective abstraction. For art is the tension between suspension of judgment and suspension of disbelief.

I.S.H.’s self-portrait captures this tension perfectly: it is a portrait of oneself, as a faded image.


 I.S.H. are the initials of Ariel-Yannay-Shani’s Hebrew name. In Hebrew “Ish” literally means “a person”, “a John Doe”.

Nimrod Bar-Am

Self Portrait as a soldier

Posted in and tagged with . RSS 2.0 feed.