Neither Inside, nor Outside
...of a memory


In 1997 I was introduced to Lihie Talmor’s artistic production, and had the opportunity to research it, while working with her personally, to write about a magical collection of photo etchings and sculpture that she was presenting in the museum of the city of Coro, Venezuela, a satellite of the contemporary art museum, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Sofia Imber, of Caracas.

At that time, I became absorbed by her work for its intensely process-oriented nature, inevitable perhaps with a printmaking process, but which she seemed to accentuate further in the manner that she dealt with her subjects/ objects, concepts and contexts, transforming them like a prestidigitator into something like distant memories, or even recollections of another life through hypnosis. I wrote then, by way of introduction, “Lihie Talmor seduces us into a realm of blurred images and echoing forms. We are attracted by the challenge to decipher their content and meaning, sensing that there is something to be found deep within that we can closely relate to, that will conjure personal histories and memories. We set forth to satisfy our curiosity only to discover multiple levels of significance as image and form continually repeat and metamorphose”.

The seductive quality and meditative effect of Talmor’s work have only intensified in the last decade, and it envelops us further in mystery-laden images, fragmented within deep inks, sensual lines and scratches, and smoky layers, like a dense fog that surrounds us on a twilight walk: while we enjoy the sensation of mist on our faces, the eerie halflight, stillness, and isolation, we may also despair, become anxious, feeling no end or possible exit from this white silence, that may become like a deafening noise in our heads.

Such emotions are elicited with Lihie Talmor’s recent body of work, composed in this exhibition of three series of photo etchings and two videos, all interrelated and inter-referential, as her artwork always is. Each series, titled Password, Near, Far, and Confines respectively, alludes to the content of the video works, Penelope and Unfolding,Talmor treats subjects, objects, and surroundings in a manner that refers to the perception and sensation of labyrinths, both internal and external. There are repeated motifs, behaviors, and patterns, and these elements relate to doing and undoing, to the real and imaginary, and to endless beginnings and ends.

The artist captures images from her immediate environment, both in Israel and Venezuela, at home and on the street, and translates these into works that transmit mystery, time, memory, and the infinite. The critic, Abdel Hernandez San Juan writes, “the work of Lihie Talmor is not a window refracting reality as its reference, nor a simulacrum substituting reality”; neither obvious representation nor statement is pursued. Even when she portrays herself in a video, performing and repeating quotidian tasks, as in Unfolding, it is in the process of their realization that she, in her own words, “creates paths, leaves traces, and creates her own personal labyrinths”.

This is the true essence of her artwork, as in the photo etchings that portray repetition and fragmentation –of objects, landscape, interiors—, so that the viewer must look, and look again in order to perceive the elements and decipher them. Talmor’s work is dense, but not impenetrable, and what makes it challenging also makes it intensely poetic and unconventionally beautiful. Password and Near, Far allude to the possibility of finding commonalities in differences. Password arose from photographs the artist took on the new border between Israel and Lebanon in 2001, a place where the conflicting geographic, political, and demographic conditions have made the delimitation of borders a particularly arduous, if near impossible, task. In Near, Far Talmor approaches the duality of distance and closeness, that opposition that arises between the surmountable and unreachable. Social, political, historical, and anthropological issues and current events arise in Talmor’s work, but there is never a sense of imposed narrative,declaration, or (re)solution.

The artist ultimately pursues the utopia of an image that can only be created, in the end, in the mind of the viewer. Talmor constructs a separate reality, never imposing a total history with beginning, middle, and end. The process, repetition, certain chaos, even, of her compositions, leave the work open-ended, as I described in past. This is itsentrancing power and lasting effect upon the viewer, on our memories, in the mind’s eye.

Esperanza León