Secret- A new solo exhibition in Tel Aviv

Avner Sher debuted his new creations in his Tel Aviv solo show at Hangar 2 in Jaffa port.

The new obelisks created by Avner Sher were debuted for the first time at the Secret exhibition
The new obelisks created by Avner Sher were debuted for the first time at the Secret exhibition

Avner Sher / Secret

Curator: Daniella Talmor


Over the past two decades Avner Sher has been producing two-dimensional works on cork boards. Held in an expansive hangar in Jaffa Port the exhibition Secret, comprising large sized works, is being shown concurrently with Sher’s other exhibition Jacob’s Dream at the SCOPE art fair, New York. The aesthetic of these free works, at the center of which the artist places man, is to a great extent wild, almost primitive, but bears a richness of images and symbols side by side with texts from the Scriptures and from Western culture. Integrating a unique style with their content, these works afford an interesting contemplation of the existing interrelationships of the human soul and man’s ambient society and culture.

Avner Sher is a leading architect who long ago made his mark in widely acclaimed ambitious projects. He acquired his training in painting and art at Haifa University and at the Haifa Technion. His works have been exhibited and highly praised locally as well as in New York, Miami, Paris, Monaco, Belgium and Holland.

Sher is a multidisciplinary artist who gives free rein to boundless imagination in his art. The large works presented in the exhibition comprise physical symbols incised in cork, signs of presence appearing as existential evidence. The free images he creates by a technique of scratching to which he adds spots and lines together, fashion a new system of relationships that acquire a life of their own. Even though Sher’s images have a body, it is their spirituality that evokes an impression of depth and interest. His images appear in diverse situations alluding to their inconclusive creation and their ability to undergo infinite metamorphoses.


Secret, the title of the exhibition, hints at the covert repressions that afflicted the artist as a youngster and only child: second generation of Holocaust survivors with father from Vilnius and Dachau Ghetto and mother from Kovno and Stutthof Ghetto. Both parents, survivors of the inferno, had no family and led a life scattered like branchless, trunkless, rootless leaves. They kept the terrors of the war sealed within them. Sher reveals that outwardly all seemed well, but the uncles and aunts were never really blood relatives – they were just other survivors. Only after he grew older and persistently questioned his parents did he discover the enormity of the horror they had undergone, with the greater part remaining shrouded in secrecy.

Raised in a religious home, Sher sometimes combines in his works texts from Biblical stories, poems or sentences that run through his mind, as well as plastic representations created by scratching and spots of color. In order to illustrate the written contents he sometimes uses abstract elements – muddy black spots that create an abstract aura of chaos. His symbolic language serves to reflect linear movement in the life of man.


Secret exhibition, Jaffa port, Tel Aviv


The monochromatic works in the exhibition, seemingly spontaneous at first sight, are in effect the product of a line-and-scratching Sisyphean task. Tracing their laborious slow work process is interesting. Initially the boards are aggressively disfigured by rending and dirtying the cork. Sher scratches, burns, cuts, digs, scorches and destroys the panel surface with knife, screwdriver, saw and electric burner. During the ravaging procedure he douses the cork boards with organic materials such as wine, coffee, iodine, ketchup, mud and food scraps. The freedom of this creative process enables him to give rein to repressed feelings and impulses that leave behind a trail of total destruction. After completing the ruination he searches for the secret concealed in the lines. A contemplation of the chaos drives him to discover and draw forth hidden significances. An unconscious force leads him to enhance certain lines that sometimes hint at facial features assuming various faces. From this point the artwork process develops in an unplanned manner. The work is supposedly self-created with a new life abounding in images rising up from the boards. An observation of the line-engraved images on the cork reveals that they appear angry, clenched teeth, hotheaded or sad and never smile. Sher maintains that their anger originates in recollecting the chaos from which they have emerged and perhaps also in contemplating our marred local reality. Nevertheless, these fantastic creatures also engender hope for a new world, like the phoenix rising from the ashes. Like the destroyed Jewish nation rising anew, Sher builds from the ruins.

The religious and cultural contents revealed in the works of Avner Sher indicate landmarks not only in the life of the artist but also in the Israeli, Jewish and universal experience. The wealth of vibrant living images in his cork works incorporate Biblical quotations, threatening images and fragments of memory of the home in which he grew up. In these works the madness of destruction turns into a harmony of composition rich in expression, into a complete creation embodying the whole world.


Daniella Talmor                                                          March  2014