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Nogah Engler Paintings


Dedicated to my Parents Gideon Engler and Maya Engler-Spector

p3-p10 / Studio Installation View p7 / Hidden Ground / 2012, oil on canvas 42x56cm


Nogah Engler Paintings Circles of Time

With essays by Jennifer Thatcher / Ashes on the Tuileries Gardens Antje Southern / The sustained pleasure of looking

Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art


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Ashes on the Tuileries Gardens / Jennifer Thatcher In the opening pages of The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald recalls his late

As with Flaubert, Engler’s paintings and drawings draw power from the

epitomised all that is great about the nineteenth-century French novel,

disquiet. If she continues to use the forest as a motif in her recent

university colleague Janine’s passion for Gustav Flaubert, who she felt with its predilection for obscure detail over intellectual hubris. As regards detail, Flaubert was, according to Janine, obsessed with sand and its capacity to conquer everything. He was crippled by phobias about his writing and the world around him, the effect of which he likened to sinking into sand. Sebald quotes Janine: ‘…vast dust clouds drifted

through Flaubert’s dreams by day and by night, raised over the arid plains

of the African continent and moving north across the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula till sooner or later they settled like ash from a fire on

the Tuileries gardens, a suburb of Rouen or a country town in Normandy, penetrating into the tiniest crevices.’1

paintings, its fairy-tale seductiveness is always undermined. Trees are

barren, with dark, mostly branchless trunks that show possible signs of

having been scorched. Engler’s close cropping of her horizons that leaves very little sky visible – no guiding sun or moon – contributes to a feeling

of being trapped in the scenes. I am reminded of the landscape in Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel The Road, in which nature takes on the

allegorical qualities of despair and brutality: trees are described as ‘limbless’ and, in an extreme version of Flaubert’s dust clouds, ash has covered the entire country. ‘Barren, silent, godless’4 is how the boy describes the scene before him in the opening sequence.

Flaubert’s poetic vision of a grain of sand, travelling across continents to

Engler exploits the classic technique of chiaroscuro to juxtapose areas of

gardens in Paris, resonates strongly with Nogah Engler. In that vision,

suggests, in Emergents most strikingly, that we are looking at the

fall by beautiful coincidence on the elegantly manicured Tuileries

Flaubert pits the natural against the manmade, chance versus order. The analogy between sand and ash from a fire adds a morbid note: the idea of burned matter surreptitiously invading our everyday surroundings, of the

dead mixing with the living. Indeed, Flaubert’s quote is given greater poignancy when we remember that, between Sebald writing notes for his book while recuperating in hospital (from some unspecified condition

that he puts down, in part, to ‘the paralysing horror … when confronted with the traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past, that were evident even in that remote place’2) and his assembling them a year later,

Janine had died – and this not long after her close friend’s (another university colleague) sudden death . It is as if a shift has occurred during 3

these recollections, and Flaubert’s fears have come to represent Sebald’s.

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tension between their surface beauty and an underlying sense of ominous

dark, impenetrable shadow and swathes of eerie, bleached white that

aftermath of some mysterious, destructive force (A fire? A bomb? An act of God?). Yet the stark effect is always softened by the addition of warm

flesh tones and muted pastel shades in grey-blue and green. As well as the forests, Engler’s new paintings contain a number of more abstract scenes,

which, for the purposes of this essay, I’ll call ‘interiors’, although their lack of explicit, real-life reference implies that these are allegories –

interiors as metaphors for psychic space. In some of the interiors, such as Belongings 3 and The Corner (all works 2012), the pink skin-tones dominate as if channelling the sensuous Rococo excesses of, say, Boucher. Yet there are no lusty nudes here, no people, only the remnants of civilisation.


Beauty, for Engler, has lost its innocence. It is no longer possible to

aesthetic state that came to be so appreciated in Western art. Two world

history. Instead, she collages passages of beautiful landscape from the

together with low-cost, flimsy architecture have created the sensation of

re-create the idealised forms of beauty that have dominated Western art heydays of the Renaissance and Romantic eras, which she borrows from the masters of the genre – Lucas Cranach, Bruegel the Elder, Leonardo

Da Vinci, Caspar David Friedrich – as if beauty can only be quoted rather

wars accompanied by technological advances in military equipment, an accelerated mode of decay. ‘We live now, though we might say that we have always lived, in a time of ruination,’ writes Dillon.6

than directly represented. Yet Engler is compelled to sully even these

Rebecca Solnit, included in Dillon’s volume, makes the connection

tangled abstraction into which figurative elements collapse or become

imperfect, always falling into ruin; but the ruins themselves, like other

quotations: by patches of over-painting or by adding her own passages of fragmented into a Cubist kaleidoscope of entropic matter.

between ruins and memory: ‘Memory is always incomplete, always traces, are treasures … our guide to situating ourselves in the landscape

of time.’7 She cautions against attempting to erase those ruins (as she

There are few signs of life in Engler’s work, other than the occasional

claims America does), which would be to ‘erase the visual public triggers

through the forest soil in an otherwise inhospitable landscape. Instead, we

Indeed, in Engler’s paintings, ruins are not memorialised or torn down

(Emergents and Hole in the Fence) or, in the case of the interiors, empty

absorbed by the surrounding nature. Like memories, they never disappear

glimpse of a deer or bat, or an unexpected burst of new vegetation poking

find traces of ruins, shells of buildings just glimpsed among the trees rooms or shelters where the barrier between inside and outside has collapsed – trees grow among the stacks of objects in Belongings 2 and

Belongings 4; one of the walls is missing in Belongings 3, as if to suggest an open stage-set.

If the animals and new shoots symbolise the cyclical forces of nature, the ruins likewise have their own cyclical logic: they remind us that all

human activity will eventually fall into ruin, and that all ruining will be followed by re-building or new growth. As Brian Dillon points out in his ‘Short History of Decay’, the introduction to his edited volume of essays on ruins: ‘The ruin, despite its state of decay, somehow outlives us.’

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What is significant about our recent times is the speed at which ruins are

created compared to the centuries it took for classical ruins to reach the

of memory; a city without ruins … is like a mind without memories’.8

but left to rot. They become skeletal, ghostly, but are never totally but continue to haunt even as they grow less tangible.

Returning to Sebald, Engler is drawn to his skill at mapping the complex web of individual and collective memories, at recording how the trauma

of historical events (particularly those of twentieth-century Europe) have

left their marks on all our lives, whether directly or indirectly. As we saw

earlier, it is extremely tricky to paraphrase Sebald: as soon as you try to explain a passage of his writing, you realise how far you need to re-wind

in order to make sense of it. In his books, voices and time-frames shift

constantly and become entangled in a cumulative knot of coincidences,

memories and histories; everything is connected, everything has

consequence. The title, The Rings of Saturn, is typically Sebaldian: it

relates to the fact that the frozen crystals and meteorite particles that make 12


up the planet’s rings are actually ‘fragments of a former moon that was too close to the planet and was destroyed by its tidal effect’.9

Likewise, Engler’s paintings are difficult to fully apprehend at one

glance: in some, the large scale is such that the edges fall into our blind-spot; in others, paths in the landscape (as with Passing Through) seem to lead us in different directions, to lose us in the forest. There is no

fixed focal point; our viewpoint is continuously fragmented as in a dream or fractured memory. Moreover, it takes a while for all the elements (Flaubert’s obscure details) – a bat, a building, a suggestion of a figure

bending down but which may just be a piece of old cloth – to reveal themselves in among the different strata of the painting. Could we be

In Sebald, all paths eventually return to thoughts and memories of exile

and the Second World War, whether walking along the east coast of England in The Rings of Saturn, or meeting fellow exiles in The Emigrants, or, like the protagonist in his last fictional book, Austerlitz,

following a trail of photographs for clues to his family’s past. Like Sebald, Engler is compelled to revisit her family’s tragic history during

the war, the trauma coalescing around one particular site that recurs in many of her works; either literally as the dense, brooding forest or abstracted into the psychologically charged interior scenes.

looking at different topographical layers, or different moments in time

The forest echoes the landscape around the town of Kosov in what is now

work could be variously interpreted as paintings, placards, mirrors, panes

years and eventually escaped the Nazi occupation of the area during

represented simultaneously? In the interiors, framed images within the of glass or portals into another time or place. Sometimes, there are

recognisable glimpses of quotes from Western art history – a section of a Roman frieze and a Poussin painting in Belongings 3 – but mostly there

are only suggestions of figures or landscapes in the same way that she offers suggestions of previous events or traumas. As Engler says, her

intuitive approach, continual layering and fragmentation produce suggestions of definitions.

In Sebald, memories are reported not just first-hand by the author or

second-hand by his acquaintances, but third- or even fourth-hand as these

acquaintances recount other people’s stories. In this way, memories are

kept alive but mutate and become tainted with others’ agendas as they become increasingly disengaged from the original source. Holocaust

Ukrainian Galicia, where her father, grandfather and uncle hid for two which thousands of Jews were murdered, including her grandmother. Engler eventually went to track down her family’s hiding place in 2005,

relying only on word-of-mouth recollections. Having built up the place in her imagination through a lifetime of being told about it, she was

surprised by the reality she found: it was visually less dramatic (the mountain was not as dominant as she imagined), and life seemed to go on

there as if nothing had taken place only one generation ago. How could people, so apparently hospitable, have been party to such barbarism? That

duality of human nature, the propensity for man’s inhumanity to man (a constant preoccupation of Levi’s, too), finds its visual equivalent in the

dichotomies present in all Engler’s paintings: beautiful/bleak, light/dark, nature/manmade, interior/exterior.

survivor Primo Levi knew only too well the dangers of the mutant nature

Engler’s vision of Kosov is not only mediated through other people’s

‘The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do

history and photography. With hardly any family photographs of the area,

of memory when he wrote in The Drowned and the Saved, his last book:

they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or 13

even increase by incorporating extraneous features.’10

memories, her own imagination and later experience, but also through art

Engler’s imagination had been free to fill the visual void. But the fact that


she took 600 photographs during her visit suggests that it was somehow

or might it instead refer to the hiding place of Engler’s relatives? The

tempting to see those areas of light and dark in her work as the painterly

forgetting, a pit of shame, a godless abyss or existential void. It takes a

impossible – too late – to compensate visually for the earlier void. It is

ambiguity points to a metaphorical reading: the black hole of memory and

equivalents of photographic over-exposure or under-exposure – the

while to notice the presence of a second pit further away – a spectral

failure of photography to adequately capture reality or memory.

double or mirage. These voids are everywhere, unavoidable, threatening to swallow us, our memories, our images. Philosophers from Heidegger to

Engler works through the problem of memory through the difficulty of its

Derrida use the ancient Greek word ‘khôra’ to describe this type of

visual representation, both on the level of an individual trying to find an

in-between, womb-like space that is able to receive all but paradoxically

image or visual locus for a traumatic family event, and, on a wider,

defies meaning.

philosophical level, as a means of sharing experiences collectively and

empathetically. Her paintings often contain traces of an underlying

In Memoirs of the Blind, Derrida proposes the idea of the ruin as

landscapes, a grid is created through the deployment of linear, leafless

always already an act of memory; an ‘impossible self-portrait whose

geometric or grid structure that provides an illusion of order. In the

self-portrait. For him, the act of trying to capture one’s own image is

trees that act as symbolic markers of depth and space. In the interiors,

signatory sees himself disappearing before his own eyes the more he desperately tries to re-capture himself in it’.11 For Engler, memory defines

order is created through the arrangement of existing infrastructure and

us. Perhaps it is not coincidental that she chose to borrow a semi-circle

objects – like corners, rugs or panes of glass – or the introduction of a

from Rembrandt’s self-portrait as an artist approaching old age and facing

geometric shape like the semi-circle that bisects Belongings 1 and neatly

his own mortality. Although Engler never explicitly portrays the human

contains all the elements below it (an idea borrowed from one of

form, her work is always an attempt to capture the bitter contradictions of

Rembrandt’s last self-portraits, Self-Portrait with Two Circles, 1665-9).

being human and the final, impossible task of depicting memory.

These grids suggest the process of mapping: not just geographical space or the changing of scale, but – as Sebald tries to do with words – the

Jennifer Thatcher is an art critic and lecturer based in Folkestone.

process of translating memory into another, more fixed, concrete form.

Engler talks of her grids as relating to the archaeology of the painting, as

if the painting were an area marked out for a dig, each square waiting to be combed, its contents exhumed. Areas of densely worked surface invite

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the viewer to imagine what lies beneath; the swirl of mysterious matter

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to imply that the process of excavation had already begun, that a layer had

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that dominates the foregrounds of The Corner and Emergents would seem

been peeled back and we were faced with its as-yet unidentified contents.

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In Hidden Ground, a large pit appears in the middle of a clearing, at the very centre of the painting. Could it be the foundations of a new building

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W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, Vintage, London, 2002, p. 8 ibid, p. 3 In fact, Sebald was also to die unexpectedly, in a car accident in 2001; this English translation was published posthumously the following year. Cormac McCarthy, The Road, Picador, London, 2007, p. 2 Brian Dillon, ‘Introduction: A Short History of Decay’, in Brian Dillon (ed.), Ruins, Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, London, p. 11 op cit, p. 10 Rebecca Solnit, ‘The Ruins of Memory’, extracts from Storming the Gates of Paradise, 2007, in Dillon, p. 151 ibid quote from Brockhaus Encyclopaedia, opening page of The Rings of Saturn Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, Abacus, London, 1989, p. 11 Jacques Derrida, ‘Memoirs of the Blind’, extract from ‘Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins’, 1993, in Dillon, p. 43

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The sustained pleasure of looking / Antje Southern Nogah Engler’s enchantment with landscape painting inherently links her

Jewish population during World War II. Following her visit to Galicia in

breaking artists of the Renaissance created realistic scenes with spatial

beauty of the land that hides the agonising memory of human atrocities.

work with a powerful tradition in the western canon of art. The ground-

depth as a backdrop to transmit a religious or historical message. The Netherlandish artist Joachim Patinir pioneered panoramic aerial

landscapes in which he narrated allegories of the pilgrimage of life. Leonardo da Vinci injected landscapes with atmospheric moods that gave

This act of remembrance is intimately charged by her grandfather’s very personal story and a collective memory shared by all linked through generations to the holocaust.

psychological insight. In the 17th century the expansive views of cities,

Without a narrative or human presence to direct the viewer’s attention,

pride of a nation that celebrated its independence as a republic. By the

image is determined by the artist’s decision on where to place the bounda-

farmlands and windmills painted by the Dutch masters evidenced the 18th century, landscapes invited the viewer to participate in the recreational pleasures of nature whereas the large canvases a hundred years later of the American Hudson River School glorified their own emerging

nation by celebrating the immense beauty of its countryside. The modern era saw artists questioning modes of perception. Cezanne’s views of

Mont Sainte-Victoire did not take traditional methods of picture-making

for granted and initiated a movement that deconstructed our notion of art as the mirror of nature. In a conversation in 1902 Cezanne remarked: ”Today our sight is a little weary, burdened by the memory of a thousand

images… We no longer see nature, we see pictures over and over again”. Studying the art history of landscape painting exposes a kaleidoscope of

aesthetic, historical, geographical, political and emotional responses that guided and inspired artists.

Nogah Engler’s landscape paintings are motivated by deep personal

memories and historical knowledge. The current series of paintings is

inspired by the beautiful Galician landscapes in the Ukraine with which she has a strong sense of affinity. This troubled region was her family’s

homeland where her grandfather and father escaped the massacres of the 15

2005 her work addressed the stark emotional contrast of the peaceful

the construction relies on the framing of ‘a good view’. The power of the ries of the scene and where to position the viewer. The largest canvas in this body of work, Emergents (2012), physically envelopes the spectator

in the midst of a dense forest. The thick lower body of a tree trunk in the foreground determines the trajectory whereby the eye is drawn into the depth of the forest by rows of slender, leafless trees. A restrained palette

of modulated whites and blacks dominates the nostalgic mood; it is difficult to glimpse the grey blue sky through a horizontal, velvety band

of deep blacks that obscures the distance. A bright mountain painted in

grey white hues towers in the middle distance and pushes the viewer’s attention back to the foreground littered with an expanse of debris that

dissolves into fragmented planes of opaque, colourful brush strokes. This painterly abstraction deliberately renders the foreground unrecognisable

and commands the viewer to use their imagination. Everything would add to a growing sense of unease were it not for the lone figure standing

amidst this area of destruction looking into the distance to the right where a deer has just turned its head. The deer has stopped and is standing in a brightly lit space in which the warmer yellows, oranges and pinks become

more noticeable and alleviate the feelings of darkness. The animal’s alert brown eyes and taut, muscular body radiate purity and life energy. The


gently organic curved tree branches closest to the picture plane almost

figures dwarfed by the massiveness of trees and the sky obscured by the

brushstrokes weave across the canvas, softening the vertical tree trunks.

main subject matter, and contemporary Northern Renaissance humanists

form a circle. This tender energy of scribbled branches outlined in soft

Nogah Engler’s landscapes are carefully composed and purposefully guide the eye through the panorama. Her visions slowly emerge out of

built-up layers of paint that partly cover and partly reveal nature. The trees can be read as a vertical lines and the branches as circles, as if nature

is ordered into a geometrical structure, thus creating both depth and meaning. Gazing for longer, the viewer sees the structural elements grow

fainter and gradually disappear into a blur of paint, and begins to lose

density of entwined foliage. The Danube school elevated the forest to its

wrote about the purifying power of nature to renew society’s declining

morals and values. Altdorfer‘s understanding of this belief is reflected in

the contrast of scale between the tiny figure of the saint amongst the tall trees. In this instance Saint George finds his divine purpose as the slayer

of evil in the wilderness of the forest. In the canon of western art the paintings of the Danube School are among some of the most imaginative displays of man’s belief in the restorative power of the natural world.

grasp of reality. Engler initially reconstructs the illusion of depth on

A sense of lightness and anticipation of its regenerative force infuse the

Elementary outlines of trees remain but the perspectives shift constantly,

phere of purity and other worldliness that is enhanced by the presence of

canvas and almost simultaneously starts to deconstruct the forms.

inviting the viewer to adjust their way of seeing and interpreting the landscape.

mood of White Night (2012). The expanse of whiteness creates an atmos-

the stag in the distance. The viewer’s gaze is drawn into the centre of the

This slow and measured painterly technique is a fitting simile to the evolution of thought and memory in one’s mind. Her choice of the forest

has symbolic importance; it is an archetypal image that occurs in literature and art to reveal underlying states of awareness. In medieval thought, the darkness of the forest represented not the absence of light but the absence of humanity.

In fairy tales the forest is unknowable and has the power to transform.

Hänsel and Gretel lose their way and emerge wiser from the forest. The verdant forests from the Danube River region inspired Albrecht

Altdorfer’s lush wooded landscapes. The viewer is completely immersed

in the deep wood in his 1510 painting of St George in the forest, the

Nogah Engler / Passing Through / 2012, oil on canvas, 150x120cm

Albrecht Altdorfer, St George and the dragon, 1510, oil on parchment mounted on linden wood (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) © Bridgeman Art Library, London

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deep forest and closes in on the lower tree trunks. These are dispersed and

the multifaceted layers of what it is to be human.

Patches of soil emerge with sprouting grasses and small plants and evoke

It is important to remember that Engler’s paintings are based on real

forest’s ability to cure is not just confined to legend and art but also

remembered memories taken from recordings and spoken accounts from

reveal large areas of forest ground concealed by soft white brushstrokes. this belief in the revivifying power of the forest. The concept of the

features in early medicinal texts. Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th century polymath and Renaissance woman ahead of her time, wrote groundbreaking scientific texts. In her work on the healing properties of plants and

herbs she identified the oak bark (a source of aspirin) to relieve pain and cases of rheumatism. This evocative power of the forest landscape has not

members of her family who witnessed and experienced the terrible past. This has shaped her vision of these landscapes to which she gives expres-

sion through the interplay of the focused and fading rendering of shapes and forms.

faded within the imagination of contemporary artists. When the atrocities

While the larger paintings command the viewer’s entire spectrum of

the darkness of the memories of war through his haunting paintings of

invite a more intimate response. Similar organic and linear motifs are

of World War II were too painful to confront, Anselm Kiefer addressed

dense forests and bloodstained ground. Joseph Beuys positioned himself

as a redeemer and set out to plant 7000 oaks as a healing act to encourage social and environmental renewal.

Within this tradition of landscape painting Nogah Engler’s enigmatic work continues to explore memories of a personal and shared history for which no reasoned explanations can ever be sufficient. Although human

life seems absent in these images, the man-made structures that partially

vision and engage at an epic and universal level, the smaller canvases explored but the range of atmospheric changes becomes more distinctive and intense. Hole in the Fence (2012) elicits pensive and thoughtful

resonances, achieved by subtle changes of colour tonalities that appear to

dissolve space into abstraction and attain precisely this interplay of focusing, blurring and fading observed in the forest paintings. The sky and foreground merge into reflections of one another and the houses lack solid ground, seeming to float in the liquid turquoise hues of air.

emerge are evidence of a human presence in the past. In Belongings 1

The carefully choreographed interplay of in and out of focus sequentially

wooden barn are revealed underneath coatings of white impasto paint.

tries to hold on to a discernable shape it starts to slide away.

(2012) the rectangular shapes of a low stone wall and the edge of a

The permanent linearity of the architecture contrasts with the fluctuating

requires the viewer to adjust his or her own focus, for as soon as the eye

organic quality of nature. The perceived eye contact between deer and

By contrast, Fading Shadows 1 (2012) shows an expansive panorama that

brushwork across the canvas creates a sense of movement, expectation of

in several places at once. The distant vista that goes back in space can

viewer is only momentary. The blurriness of the outlines and fluidity of progression and the possibility of change. As the eye adjusts, more and

more paint layers of different hues and intensities become visible. Engler’s painterly technique here is akin to a slow process of unpeeling

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places she visited in Galicia. They have become a visual extraction of

is constructed with different viewpoints and assumes the spectator to be

only be experienced from an aerial perspective whereas the close-up

detail of the grasses and plants in the foreground can only be seen from a grounded position.


Northern Renaissance artists developed this dual perspective in order to

Dürer drew especially for this purpose. Each grass and weed is observed

managed to introduce the dimension of time into their narratives. For

dandelion. The realism of the vegetation in Fading Shadows 1 (2012) has

tell different elements of a story within the same pictorial space. They thus

instance, Patinir’s Landscape with St Jerome (1520-24) depicts several episodes from the saint’s life across the panoramic landscape. Fading

Shadows 1 (2012) draws on these compositional rules to evoke the

with such botanical detail that are all identifiable, including burdock and a comparable effect in grounding the viewer in order to provide a sure footing from which to contemplate the misty distant landscape.

passage of time. Like ruins, some fragments of drapery suggest faded

In deliberate contrast these elements are reversed in The Corner (2012)

deliberately uses these different strategies of perspective to picture

describe the confines of the space: the corner of the wall, skirting board

figures that once stood amongst the vegetation in the foreground. Engler

realities from different times and places simultaneously. This technique makes it possible to simulate the evocation through memories of concur-

rent experiences converging from different events to a multilayered single moment in time. In this sense, her paintings guide the viewer’s attention to a personal, internal involvement.

As each of her works transforms the Galician countryside, Engler convinc-

ingly manages these dual modes of estrangement and familiarity. The leaves and grasses growing out of the soil in the foreground of Fading

Shadows 1 (2012) attract the attention of the viewer, offering familiar

feeling and calm access to the image that then seems surprising and even

which zooms into the detail of a lower corner of a room. Receding lines and tiled floor. However, this solidity disappears into a swirl of fragmented brushwork. The hues of the warm rust tones that define the

wall merge with whites, greys and brighter blobs of yellow and turquoise,

adding to the dissolution of the foreground. A grid drawn by pencil is still visible underneath the layers of paint, revealing the carefully measured

construction that underlies this composition. It gives an insight into the artist’s decision-making process and heightens the contrast between the

order of a linear composition and the apparent chaos of painterly marks.

The conflict of attraction and repulsion rule the experience of the space. Again the starting point is concrete; a geometrical grid structure is given

unsettling. Engler’s practice is to start her painting with something

concrete, ensuring herself a solid foundation from which she can begin to transform the image.

The realism of the carefully observed grasses and plants conjures up a sense of here and now. In the same way Dürer, Holbein and their northern

contemporaries painted detailed naturalistic grasses and leaves in the foreground to transport the viewer into the location of their setting in the

same way. The aim was to create a believable scene that the contemporary viewer could recognise and in which to persuasively tell sacred and

classical stories. The Large Piece of Turf (1503) is a watercolour sketch

Nogah Engler / Hole In The Fence / 2012, oil on canvas, 36x46cm

Joachim Patinir, St Jerome in a Landscape, 1520-24, oil on panel (Prado, Madrid) © Bridgeman Art Library, London

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In contrast to the open spaces of the landscape paintings, these intimate interiors invite active introspection. They are painted on board which creates a smoother and softer surface and encourages a calmer reading,

unlike the vigorous and more animated landscapes where the uneven, woven surface of the canvas is revealed.

Albrecht Dürer, The Large Piece of Turf, 1503, watercolour (Albertina, Vienna) © Albertina, Vienna

only momentarily and then the space collapses into untidy brush strokes of paint. As soon as the eye holds on to something it slips away. This

reconstruction and deconstruction makes the experience of the space precarious and brings out the fragility of the moment.

Nor do any of the other small interior panels allow the viewer to experi-

ence the comfort of a securely defined space. These are filled with painted canvases placed in different places around the room. Visible from

Northern painters such as Patinir appropriated wide panoramic

landscapes as a stage on which to picture successive stages of human existence. A striking example is the story of St Jerome who spent part of his life as a hermit in the desert. The saint’s intellectual output inspired

some of the most exquisite interior scenes of the Northern Renaissance.

In Dürer’s engraving of St Jerome in his Study (1514) the figure of the wise saint is seated in the back of a room, removed from the viewer by a

geometrically foreshortened space. The focus is on the inner contemplative life as opposed to the active life led outside. The objects displayed in

the saint’s study illuminate the internal thought processes that are revealed in his writings.

different angles, their positioning defines the spatial depth of the room.

Within the space there is fluidity between inside and outside, the walls of

the interior are almost translucent, and sky with projecting corners and a

tree in the middle of the room add to the bewilderment. In the viewer’s mind the stylised flower pattern on the carpet appears almost as real as the plants in the landscapes. Boundaries are consistently smudged. In one work, a room within a room distances and excludes the viewer. In

another, a dark backdrop creates an intimate space that makes the viewer feel very present. These rooms are filled with canvases that seem to be

from a bygone era with motifs that appear and disappear in front of one’s eyes. The images on the canvases are almost recognizable, similar to personal memories that are hazy and transient, and consequently too slippery to be held onto.

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Antonella da Messina, St Jerome in his Study, about 1475, oil on lime © National Gallery, London

Albrecht Dürer, St Jerome in his Study, 1514, engraving © British Library, London


Antonella da Messina pictures St Jerome’s study as a small space and

how to create spatial depths on a two dimensional surface convincingly.

sense of the separation of interior and exterior space. Views of distant

Over the last five hundred years similar methods have been used by artists

tion that existed in the Renaissance mind between the private world of

viewer’s suspense of disbelief. The frame itself is a fitting metaphor for

places it in the midst of a cathedral-like interior to convey a real physical

landscapes can be glimpsed through the windows to emphasise the distincinner contemplation of truth and external action represented by scenes from the outside world.

to conjure up their visions of the real world, seeking to capture the

fixing a viewpoint and gently reminds the viewer of the power illusion holds.

This measured Renaissance division between interior and exterior is

Engler pictures scenes that can be grasped momentarily and almost as

tions also invite reflective contemplation but the confines are deliberately

between the moments’. As soon as the subject becomes almost decipher-

examined by Engler’s high entropy paintings. Her spatial interior composiblurred. Traces of the natural landscape subtly merge into the interiors. As

if to bring the natural world inside, sunset, forest and landscape scenes can be made out on the canvases propped on the floor in Belongings 2

(2012). The reference points that are clearly given in the old masters are being constantly shifted and moved in and out of focus. For the Renais-

sance spectator, the image of St Jerome deeply absorbed in thought encouraged a kind of inspection of the self. In contrast Engler’s manifold

perspectives and blurring outlines challenge and play with the viewer’s perception.

The way in which Engler builds her compositions partially around the

quickly slip away which she describes as capturing that ‘moment

able it fades into painterly marks made by loaded brushes softly dragged across the surface, pulling the attention back to the picture plane. This

sensitive mark-making seems a deliberate reminder that personal engagement with the subject is forever a kaleidoscope of constantly changing

sequences and configurations. The longer the viewer allows this aesthetic engagement to continue the more is revealed. This makes Englers enigmatic paintings an intensely rewarding experience and in this respect she defines anew the process of looking.

Antje Southern is an art historian who lives and works in London.

rules of geometric perspective and then proceeds to dissolve, induces the

viewer to reassess their own way of looking. In this context the depiction

of frames in Belongings 2 (2012) are intriguing. The motif of frames

invite the viewer to consider that multiple realities exist, each of which has different associations, depending on how it is framed. These rectangles are reminiscent of the Renaissance drawing frames used as aids to

transfer the spatial depth of three dimensional space convincingly onto the flat two dimensional picture surface. Dürer illustrated some of his experiments in his book ‘On Measurement’, which were intended to explain

Albrecht Dürer, ‘Unterweysung der Messung’ (trans. 'On Measurement'), 1525, woodcut © British Library, London

20


Belongings 1 / 2012, oil on board, 90x120cm

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Belongings 2 / 2012, oil on board, 60x80cm

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Belongings 3 / 2012, oil on board, 60x80cm

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Belongings 4 / 2012, oil on board, 60x80cm

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Belongings 5 / 2012, oil on board, 60x80cm

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Belongings 6 / 2012, oil on board, 60x80cm

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Silent Voices / 2012, oil on board, 60x80cm

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The Corner / 2012, oil on board, 90x120cm

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Emergents / 2012, oil on canvas, 170x211cm

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White Night / 2012, oil on canvas, 158x163cm

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Fading Shadows 2 / 2012, oil on canvas, 60x80cm


Fading Shadows 1 / 2012, oil on canvas, 60x80cm

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Nogah Engler Born 1970, Lives and works in London.

Education 2002-2004

M.A. in Fine Arts, Chelsea School

2010

The Armory Show, NY, Noga gallery,

1996-1999

B.A. in Fine Arts and Art

2009

Wondrous Worlds – Five Woman

1992-1996

of Art, London

Education, Hamidrasha-Kalmania

Obsession: Contemporary Art from the

phy, Tel Aviv University, Israel

2008

University of Leeds, Leeds

2001

2007

Endless Night and Day,

Nowhere is Here, Aspex, Portsmouth,

2005

New works on Paper,

Fruehsorge contemporary drawings,

2003

Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel

2010-2011

Transscapes,

Tel Aviv, Israel

Antwerpen

Ritter/Zamet Gallery, London

Looking in Looking out:

The Window in Art, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Beholder's Share Mummery + Schnelle Gallery, London

Gustafsson, Beijing, China Lokaal

01_Breda,

2007 2006

Wood for the Trees and Falling Leaves, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London International

Castellon

Painting

Prize Exhibition, Museo de Bellas Artes de Castellan, Castellan The

Disenchanted

Forest,

Israel

Museum, Ticho House, Jerusalem

Territory, The University of the Arts, London

London

Fair,

Masters,

Noga

Art

Gallery,

Fortnight,

Art Cologne, Ritter/Zamet, London

Zoo Art Fair Ritter/Zamet, London School of Art, London

The Colour of Water, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

Julie M Gallery, Tel Aviv Israel Can Art Be Moving?,

The Pyramid Gallery, Haifa, Israel

Art Gallery of Ramat Eliaoo, Rishon

The Drawing Room, London, Berlin

Art

MA Fine Art degree show, Chelsea

The Aerials of Sublime

Tracing Echoes, Noga Gallery,

Ritter Zamet gallery, London

2004

2002

2009

Tel Aviv, Israel

Berlin

Young

Beijing Biennial, curated by Roger

Circles of Time, Noga Gallery,

Zoo Art Fair Ritter/Zamet, London Tel-Aviv

Lodeveans Collection, Burton Gallery,

2012

Selected Group Exhibitions

47

Paperview, John Jones, London

B.A. in History of Art and Philoso-

2005

Painters, Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Helena Rubinstein Pavilion

College of Art, Kfar Saba, Israel

Solo Exhibitions

Tel-Aviv

Lezion, Israel 2000

Beit Riback, Petah Tikva Israel

Art Gallery of Ramat Eliaoo, Rishon Lezion, Israel


Bibliography

Catalogues 2012 2009

Nogah Engler: paintings

Israeli Art Now, edited by Iris Rywkind

Ben-Zour

and

2008

Revital

p. 64-66

Ltd., pp.34-35,

2008

2006

July, pp. 4-5

Barry Schwabsky, Nogah Engler,

ISBN 978-965-7161-86-9

Nowhere is Here, edited by Kate

ArtForum, February , XLVI, No. 6.

Drawing

Room,

2007-8

Forest:

Nogah

2007

London, ISBN 978-0-9558299-0-1 Disenchanted

Next Saatchi?, The Times, T2, 20

Online Critic’s Picks, July

Tel Aviv Museum of Art, pp.16-24

The

Sarah Vine, Fancy Becoming The

The Drawing Room (review) Artforum

5 Artists - Wondrous Worlds,

The

2004

Chris Fite-Wassilak, Nowhere is Here,

ISBN 978-965-7141-13-7

Macfarlane,

Engler (interview),

Art World, October-November,

Alcalay, Modan Publishing House

2009

PaulCarey-Kent, New Work: Nogah

Engler and Orit Hofshi, edited by

Timna Seligman, The Israel Museum,

p. 301

Paul Carey-Kent, Nogah Engler, Art World, Dec 07 – Jan 08, p. 132-3

JJ Charlesworth, Nogah Engler: Endless Night and Day, Art Review, issue 17, Dec, p. 129

Jerusalem

Sarah Andress, Nogah Engler, Time Out, October 1-23, . No. 1939, p.49

Sofie Van Loo, Nogah Engler: Trans-

Scapes of Langs-Schappen: Kosmiche

Selected Periodicals 2011

2009

Abstractie in Figuratieve en Abstracte

Tamar Yogev, Prihat Mohot,

Erev-Rav Magazine, www.erevrav.com, Jan 14

2005

Michal Oren, Hameshicha Hahasera, The Unrevealing Brush Stroke, Ma'arav Calture Magazine, maarav.org.il, May 17

2004

Kunste, THRU, February

Gallerists’ Choices: Nogah Engler, Spike Art Quarterly 03, Spring, p.82

Art Review supplement, London’s top

25 New Artists, July-August, pp. 16-17 Art Review supplement, London’s top

25 New Artists, July-August, pp. 16-17

48


Acknowledgments To my dearest - Amos, Lia and Ori Gersht With special thanks to Olle Borgar, Jason Woolgar, Yasmine Datnow, Andrew Mummery, Ruthi Helbitz Cohen, Luci Eyers, Simcha Spector, Neta and Moshe Gersht, Ayala Haskel-Linav, Nechami Gottlib, Adina Alshech, Antje Southern, Jennifer Thatcher Photographed by: Ori Gersht Design and Production: Ayala | Graphic Design Measurements are given in centimeters : height x width Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art 60 Ehad Ha'am st.Tel-Aviv 65202 Israel Tel +972 3 5660123 e-mail: info@nogagallery.com www.nogagallery.com Š 2012, Nogah Engler nogahengler1@me.com gonestudio@me.com



Noga Engler Paintings