The Art of Avner Sher

Written by the curator Hagai Segev

 

Sacrifice, 2007, Scratching, etching and engraving on cork and wood, 47"*31" / 120*80 cm
Sacrifice, 2007

The art of Avner Sher is a universal in nature. His works combine Pre-historic motifs and elements with child-like symbolism and style. At the same time, it is a sophisticated art of a well trained architect that retains the freshness of autodidact artist.
At first, the dense and overpowering effect of the works sends the viewer to Horror vacui Greek vase paintings, while the style of the lines and stains remind Pre-historic cave paintings. One can say the overall combination of these multitudes of styles and elements could only be born because of the amalgamation of associations from varied sources of inspiration, the kind one can find in the multicultural setting of Israel in the Levant – on the border between Western and Eastern cultures.

Jewish influences based on the format of the Gemara page layout in the graphic sense, are prominent too. Jewish elements are found in the names and themes of some of the works, but these are an addition to the universal statement which is not solely a Jewish one.
As an Israeli and a Jewish artist Sher draws his themes form the history of his family and culture. This, however, is not the most prominent element in the works, and thus they can also be read as universal work of art addressing the status of men in the universe.
Some of the images and scenes the works reflect his childhood as the only son of holocaust survivors. Sher’s parents wanted him to have a “normal” childhood so they concealed their painful past from him. Having no relatives other than his parents and then losing his mother to cancer in his teens, he realized he knew nothing about his family background and roots. “I’ve always felt isolated and disconnected because of that, like a leaf detached from its tree and its roots”, he says.
Some of the work have hints to the Sher’s orthodox background. “I grew up in a religious household and although I’m not religious anymore, I’m still very affected by my memories from the synagogue, the bible stories and my studies of the weekly Torah portions [Parsha]. Many of my art works are inspired by these memories and contain biblical scenes, images and quotes”.

6 Days (Amirey Zichron Yaakov Ltd Collection, Israel), 2013, Scratching, etching and engraving on cork and wood, 71"*71" / 180*180 cm
6 Days (Amirey Zichron Yaakov Ltd Collection, Israel), 2013

 

The composition of the works is an over-all dense and hectic composition which covers almost the entire surface of the cork sheets on which Sher works. They seem ridged and simple in craftsmanship, although the outcome is a fruit of hard labor and mastering of the unique technique developed by the artist.

Sher’s works are the result of a very physically demanding process. The injury to the cork surface forces him to invest a great effort in the creating process. “Blood, sweat and tears literally go into the work as I struggle to burn scratch and create total chaos on the surface” Sher says.
Finally, the work is ultimately an expression of hope that out of the destruction, a new life can emerge. The fact that he reconstructs the art work from the initial chaos made during the artistic process represents the faith in the human kind’s ability to overcome all difficulties and rebuilt life again; always hoping for a new and better world. This resilience and hope is very “Jewish” but it is also very typical to all humanity in general.