Call My Name by Tal Yerushalmi

Photo Credit: Youval Hai
Asylum Alum Tal Yerushalmi reflects on her most recent solo exhibition, “Call My Name” which was on display at Maya Gallery in Tel Aviv in February 2020. In this article, she’s asking what yields a painting to become and take its final shape? What are the forces that make an image emerge?
The Snake isn’t Coming, Oil acrylic and soot on canvas, 160×220 cm
I watched the fantasy film The Neverending Story innumerable times. The protagonist is a boy who fights against The Nothing, a dark, abstract force threatening to overtake a dream world called Fantasia. The only way the boy might save this world is with his heart’s wishes: the more he will enunciate new dreams, the more he will endow them with a name and form, Fantasia will continue expanding and will defeat The Nothing.
Sometimes I think that the act of painting is a way of enunciating my heart’s wishes, a way of naming them. Any image I will endow with form will come into existence; any color I will lay on the canvas will become a creation that will save the painting, the earth, and the world, from The Nothing that seeks to annihilate them. All that is required is for the image to be new, to present an invention and express my heart’s wish.
install view
Installation View, Maya Gallery, Tel Aviv
I light a flame in the dark of The Nothing. What will I see in its light? Who is asking me to call it by its name? Is it a dove, a spider or a flower? Is it a rock, a necklace, a knife or a rope? Soil, water, the Judean Desert, the State of Israel? Anything that I will wish for, big or small, will be there; anything I will imagine and paint will come into existence and will be present in the painting.
But The Nothing refuses to yield. It has its cunning ways of sneaking back in, to prove to me that this is only an illusion, that no matter how many shapes or colors, animals or objects, countries or universes I will create – they will not be real. They are mere paintings. The three-dimensional rock that I chiseled in matter and paint is completely flat. The scythe threatening to harvest the objects in the painting is an empty space. A ghost of a scythe. The taut leather is only paper. The star lighting the skies of the Judean Desert is The Nothing incarnate. Everything is falling apart: the painting, the desert, the sky, place and time.
install view
Installation View, Maya Gallery, Tel Aviv
I do not let go. Maybe if I cut the objects out of the paintings they will become things in the real world: hanging, laid down, present. I cut out a drawn rope and place it in space. I paint a match so I may rekindle the fire. I burn a painting and make a real hole in it. You can pass your finger through it.
But everything collapses once more. The magic of the art of painting is lost, the illusion gone: the rope looks like a snake’s slough, the net becomes a shell; the painting is riddled with burnt holes. What will I do with a burnt painting?
A line emerges from the burnt hole. Who is it? A snake? Are you sure that I called your name? The snake crawls toward the burnt holes, swallowing them one by one. Perhaps the snake was hungry and came over to eat a few eggs. I can paint a bird that will lay a few fresh eggs instead of the ones devoured. Perhaps this time a snake will not appear, maybe I will not light another fire. I will draw water just to be on the safe side.
With a heart and brush, I will return to yet another round in this lost battle.
I paint a bird.
Untitled, oil, acrylic and soot on burnt canvas, 100-120cm, 2019
* The film The NeverEnding Story is a cinematic adaptation of Michael Ende’s German fantasy novel produced in 1984 and directed by Wolfgang Peterson.
Photos credit: Youval Hai
Text translation: Orr Scharf


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