Untitled, 2008, dry flowers and insects scanning, watercolor drawing,
124 X 150 cm, courtesy of the artist and Chelouche Gallery for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv
Michal Shamir's collections include leaves, thorns, flowers, birds, insects, cobwebs, mold, stamens, earth and ashes. Acts of gathering, classifying, drying and scanning characterize her compassionate treatment of these vestiges of life. The artist gathers and orders them delicately in a scanner, arranging them into garlands or scattering them across the surface. The scanned images call attention to the astonishingly real-looking details, to which the artist sometimes adds watercolor and pencil drawings based on plant and insect handbooks. The final digital prints are reminiscent of flowers dried among the pages of a book, or of 17th-century Dutch still-lifes. Here and there, the spaces between the natural vestiges and their painted representations are filled with insect joints, cobwebs or grains of sand. As "nature" is transformed into "culture," the vitality of the represented specimens is diminished, and death shines powerfully upon the white photographic paper. In these works, Shamir continues to probe the vanitas tradition, which countered human vanity with reminders of the ephemerality of life. The beauty and freshness of the flowers contains their future dissolution, and their detailed, pseudoscientific display underscores their withering, rotting and dissolution. Shamir walks the thin line between attraction and repulsion, confronts living beauty with its fragile and ephemeral essence, and highlights the romantic quality of death and the melancholy of dissolution.
Born in Tel Aviv, 1957; lives and works in Givat Nili, Israel