Black and White and Not Much Else

Artist Tama Goren shoots for minimalism, sparseness and heartrending expressiveness.

Ellie Armon Azoulay
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Ellie Armon Azoulay

Tama Goren's exhibit at Tel Aviv's Mika Gallery doesn't have a title, or at least not one that can be said aloud. It's simply a symbol: a hyphen. And the sketches - 14 works in black ink or oil paint - are also untitled.

"From my point of view the drawings are part of a work in progress. I didn't title the exhibit because I felt it would be wrong. I didn't want words or other aids for the images," says Goren, 34, a former model.

In the show, Goren abandons quantity and detail in favor of the general gist: black lines on paper. Her figures are generic in form but emotionally expressive.

The pieces start out as cut paper. Unlike Goren's previous work, the paper is free of decorative elements. And Goren has switched to ink.

"When I look at my earlier work, it looks childlike to me. It's distant from me. I've undergone significant processes in my life, and they've influenced my work," she says.

"I missed brush strokes and wanted to free myself from the rigid medium of paper cutting, which has a violent aspect. The knife dictates the language; there is less freedom and more planning. I wanted something softer that would suit the message I want to convey."

Goren's preoccupation with couple relationships remains but receives a sharper expression in her drawings, as do her self-portraits.

"I draw myself," she says. "I'm not the kind of artist who observes others from the side and has pretensions of political or social criticism. I deal with my personal life, my soul, [and] relationships with my daughter Lily and my partner."

Goren has no studio and works at night in the living room of her Tel Aviv apartment. First she draws on postcard-size paper and then, when she feels confident, moves on to a larger format.

"A studio isn't right for me," she says. "After all, I'm dealing with personal life, and home seems the right place for this. It's harder now that my works have gotten bigger, since my apartment is small. So I've begun to sketch on the floor."

Her first piece was a sort of self-portrait in bed with a pillow and a blanket. Crouching men with their backs to each other and a woman with a wreath of flowers on her head - who is either startled or suspicious - figure in other works.

It's hard to ignore the close resemblance between Goren's art and that of Yoav Efrati: minimalism, black lines, sparseness and heartrending expressiveness. Goren, who studied art on her own, says she only recently viewed Efrati's work, after she had begun her own.

"Our summarizing and language are similar, but nothing else. When I worked in cut paper, I was compared to Kara Walker, but her pieces are huge, with shadows. They offer social and political criticism, while mine are highly personal," she says.

"In general I'm an outsider because I didn't study art. At first I felt I was being punished for this, instead of seeing it as an advantage. I have nothing against studies; they can give you a lot. But there's also something very pure in the place I come from, something many artists lose along the way."

Tama Goren. Credit: Daniel Bar-On
A work by Tamar Goren. First she draws on postcard-size paper.
"Untitled" by Tama Goren.Credit: Tama Goren