by Ross Belfer
It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise inspiration behind Jennifer Abessira's artwork. Collagist, observer, anachronistic collector, photographer, mixed-media artist—Abessira is influenced by and works with almost everything and anything. Over the past year, the French-born, Tel Aviv-based artist has emerged as one of the city’s most genre-bending and thought-provoking creatives.
Just last week, Abessira unveiled “We Live As We Dream, Alone,” her first major solo exhibition at Tel Aviv’s Artstation Gallery in Tel Aviv’s Tachana (or Old Train Station complex). “We Live as We Dream—Alone,” is a quote taken from the famous novella by Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness,” and resonates with what the artist describes as a "self-sustenance and comfort with being alone as a form of inspiration rather than loneliness."
The exhibition features a collection of diptych photography (pairing found photos with her own original images) and mixed-media works from Abessira’s Elastique project, (which started out on Tumblr) as well as new collage pieces and bold, bright imagery. Abessira spoke with CH about her creative existence in the Israeli city.
You are soon to complete your MFA at the highly esteemed Bezalal Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem. How has your formal education affected your work?
My fascination with art and photos began at a young age, when I would tear through magazines and piece together my own designs that perhaps made no sense at the time. The education at Bezalel has given me the formal background in art and design that I lacked until now. However, similar to all of the artists that inspire me, I tend follow my own path and creative process without regard to popular opinion or dissent.
What elements of your work are inspired by Tel Aviv?
I love Tel Aviv and could not imagine living anywhere else. I’ve heard from friends and critics that my work feels more LA or Paris than Tel Aviv—and that they might be better locations to be based out of. However, I love my studio in south Tel Aviv—one of the grittiest neighborhoods in the city, close to the wacky Levinsky Market, Central Bus Station and odd locations from which I gather inspiration.
Your photography balances highbrow culture and random objects. How have you developed this sense of perception?
Cinema has had a heavy role in the development of my sense of artistic perception. I have had the most profound dialogues with myself while I am watching films. It was Eric Rohmer (the French director) who influenced me the most—through his visual world, his long philosophical dialogues, his unique way of telling a story. The thing that I admire the most in Rohmer's movies is the holiness of the daily living in his movies. With the years I can say I'm still restless, but can much more appreciate the simple things in life. I have found beauty almost everywhere because his movies have taught me how to look deeper at life. Connecting the so-called "high-brow" to random objects is the result of this process I've been going through since I was a child, still trying to understand life one day at a time. This is my definition of myself as an artist.
Is there a theme that you wanted to run through all the diverse works displayed in “We Live as We Dream—Alone"?
The exhibition is about my passion for everything in this life. Life is hard and sad, but totally worth it all. I feel it even stronger after a life-threatening accident last year. While creating my piece "Candies on Picasso," I remembered that the great artist once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." For me, there is no separation between my life and my art. I live the way I create: intensely. “We Live As We Dream—Alone” is my way to share myself to the world. I pray that I will always, "Stay hungry and stay foolish.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist thus far?
For sure this show, "We Live As We Dream—Alone." Yves Saint Laurent said that the greatest encounter in life is the encounter with oneself. This quote has resonated with me for the last four years, and not a day has passed without thinking about the big question: "Why am I doing this?" The current exhibition is definitely the answer. Every morning when I wake up, I find deep meaning in creating, exploring and living as intensely as I can. Seeing my works displayed on the walls of the gallery gives me a satisfaction and thirst for more.
"We Live as We Dream—Alone" runs through 16 August 2014 at Artstation Gallery, Tel Aviv.
Gallery image courtesy of Artstation, all others courtesy of the artist