Retreat to the thing in itself


Hadar Gad regards the essence of the things before her. Her realistic paintings are precise close ups of details and sights which make up our lives in their silence, and carry traces of us within themselves. The paintings give voice to the many through that of the one, the voice of the artist; a private, quiet voice which arises and comes into being following her gaze. In slow motion her gaze moves from one detail to the next: from rock to leaf, from a forgotten pipe to the root of an ancient tree, from the edge of a gravestone to that of a lone porcelain vase. In the course of this motion, seen through a monochromatic palette, the material is transformed into the abstract and then again to the material.


Simone de Beauvoir has written: "It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living." These words, small handwriting  in a note several years ago on the wall of Hadar Gad's studio, express the way in which the artist follows the conditions of her life through the work of art. In the past this was in a series of paintings focusing on the most mundane objects - toothbrushes in a glass, scattered underwear, an ashtray, a saucer with used teabags, dirty dishes in the sink. In the paintings, the objects were transformed into sites of personal memory, pain and joy, containing within themselves the experiences of people as such. Thus too in another series of her paintings from several years ago, which dealt with objects apparently trivial but symbolic, such as a salt shaker on which was written "salt of the earth," an Eastern European silver platter with bills and coins, a milk carton and jar of honey from Pardess Hannah placed on a small map of Israel, portions of gefilte fish on porcelain plates, compositions of eggs and a small scrap of white cloth bearing two narrow blue stripes. All these works were ironic and lyric at once, and created a portrait of "Israeliness" through a precise and witty "I."


About five years ago, Hadar began painting in the cemetery of Kibbutz Ein Harod, where she was born. Her grandparents, Arieh Gad and Esther Budko,, sister of artist Yosef Budko, are buried in the cemetery. Galia Bar Or has written, in a text accompanying Hadar Gad's exhibition in the Ein Harod museum in 2009: "The cemetery is the boundary, liminal space which society has set forth, a region intended to fortify the distinction between death and life, between that which was and that which is – a built up region drawing order over chaos, with block, site, and row." Hadar transforms this orderly public space into her own. She takes the personal life stories preserved in the cemetery, along with the historical memory and loss, as well as the faltering ideals of settlement, of the pioneer spirit and of sacrifice, and spreads them out into her daily presence in the place, week after week, year after year. Each time she arrives she sketches the place in oils, infinite sketches through which she views the cemetery anew, creates it as a space of becoming and of disintegration, of growth and of death.


The continued stay in this loaded place enables her to establish a different gaze which takes place not only in space but in time. This gaze succeeds in trapping the tiny, elusive meetings of rock with dry twig, of stone with a cyclamen petal before it wilts, of one clod of earth with the next. The works spread before us a gaze turned downward for the most part, towards the earth. It follows the touch of the material itself – in which light is trapped, in which the spirits and souls of people are trapped. Each touch breaks it up further, up until the nearly total abstraction of stain and rhythm. But it is nearly total. The breakup is not complete. The material does not lose its grip and its infinity. It can not, for it hides within feelings of despair and destruction alongside an incessantly rustling vitality. The Cuban poet Jose Lezama Lima has written in his 1972 poem "Retreat:"  I retreat to the edges of the stone/ where it ends with borrowed sunlit eyes./ Opening the eyes breaks in two./ I retreat to the place where the stone is closed." ("Wild Bell: Selected Latin American Poetry of the 20th Century," taken from the Hebrew translation by Tal Nitzan-Keren, Kibbutz Meuchad Publications).  In her paintings Hadar Gad attempts to retreat towards the thing itself, to its material self doomed to destruction. The retreat entails constant watching, and this brings understanding through art of the conditions of life.


Irena Gordon


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