Scars of lace: RED – an exhibition by Hadar Gad
Hadar Gad’s red paintings are unprotected. They lack the layer covering flesh and soul, leaving viewers mesmerized as they observe the conflagration with a precise sensation of flames and perhaps fleeting illusion of sound. Gad’s paintings beat like a heart in pursuit of who knows what…
Gad expands the concept of landscape painting, reshuffles categorization into genres, and reinterprets the French tradition of painting outside en plein air. Gad brings primed canvases to her painting sessions outside, the surfaces already covered with red oil paint, sometimes adding yellow to the red. The smearing of the oil paint with her bare hands, part of her practice, has the quality of a ritual. Although a personal act, it resonates tradition and ritual. The smearing of the paint brings to mind the blood of the Paschal lamb painted on the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes in Egypt so that the Lord would pass over their firstborn sons as He smote the Egyptians’ firstborn. In this case, the red blood is the tool of deliverance, one step towards freedom.
Blood red initiates references to the blood of Jesus, martyrs, and blood covenants, a sign of sacrifice and redemption. Gad’s reds also refer to the abyss in which red signifies pollution, as in menstrual blood. In this space between the sanctified and the impure, Hadar Gad’s paintings create a new space which is breathtaking to the point of pain.
Hadar Gad, diptych. 16×20, 2017
Gad’s depictions of landscapes are far from innocent. The paintings on view in Red are of views of Kibbutz Ein Harod and Sha’ar Menashe mental health center located in a pastoral area, not far from Kibbutz Ein Shemer (and from Gad’s home). Although the artist has a close and intensive relationship with Ein Harod, having been born there to a family of founders and members, and as an artist who has been painting there for years (with a large one-person exhibition at the Ein Harod Museum of Art in 2009), she has never visited the Sha’ar Menashe hospital. She observes from the outside, behind the fence surrounding what looks like a small rural settlement.
Kibbutz Ein Harod lies in the very heart of the Israeli consensus, while Sha’ar Menashe is the rejected and repressed. The “New Jew” which the kibbutz sought to shape, the model of the ideal sabra, was supposed to be mentally healthy without psychological complexes. Sha’ar Menashe makes present the distance between the ideal and the real. Yet despite this, the views from both locations are so similar that it is nearly impossible to detect whether the painting is of the kibbutz or the mental health center.
On the red canvases which stand out from afar in the dusty greenish landscape, Gad sketches in pencil. She marks out structures, fences, groups of trees – the components that create the transformation into “landscape painting.” The outcome is a surface of fragile lacy patterns of memory more than of presence.
In the studio, Gad uses a box cutter to create her works, playing with the concept of danger associated with her choice of the color red, a universal sign of warning, signaling threat. She scrapes into the layers of paint as if removing coagulated blood from a car while seeking the light within.
The search for light may be said to encapsulate the entire history of painting, the major theme in this series, as well. Light is metaphorical “good,” whether religious or political, while red is associated with the Communist utopia (with “Reds” referring to Communists and Socialists). Communism, like others before it, used the image of light and sunrise to symbolize the promise of an ideal life. Gad reveals light by using her mat knife to lighten portions of her painting, following or diverging from her drawing. She sculpts into the rough material surface creating a feeling of internal combustion.
The quality of the flame and high temperature of the color operate like an entity independent of the images. The latter contains a secret, seemingly pastoral, yet transformative and disturbing: a thorny fence stands in front of shingled houses, among the trees villages gradually reveal themselves.
The longer we observe Gad’s paintings, the somewhat Romantic quality in the paintings fade and the urgency, power, pain, and splendor of what is below the surface erupts in its terrible beauty.
Curator Dr. Smadar Sheffi
The Rothschild Fine Art Gallery, Tel Aviv