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Exploring the relationship between humans and animals leads us on a path that goes back to the beginning of mankind. In 1974, Joseph Beuys spent a few days living with a coyote in a New York art gallery. Earlier in the first half of the twentieth century, Balthus painted the happy lives of young girls with their cats. Further back comes the epoch of fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood from Charles Perrault and beyond that the devils and chimeras ornamenting Gothic cathedrals. Travelling back even further in time takes us to Greek mythology in which we meet with Centaurs and to the Egyptians who associated dogs with gods. Our journey finishes in the dark caves daubed in prehistoric paintings. In short, our connection to animals has been an endless source of inspiration for artists: it is present in religion, literature, society and even our dreams.
The painter Zohar Fraiman (born 1987 in Jerusalem) has, since 2012, been examining the interrelation between humans in combination with figures of devils and, more recently, wild animals. In her most recent paintings, wolves co-inhabit the world of young women almost happily. Sometimes, the wolves and women merge to create hybrid figures. If one searches for a clear common thread connecting the paintings thereby creating a fairytale, one will only be mislead. The story is fragmented, from one canvas to the next, without any linear order. One can of course try to build up one’s own narrative but Zohar Fraiman’s paintings are more than a simple illustration to an untold story.
Instead we are left, as in a play, with scenes involving different actors that will, from one tableau to the next, live out their lives and their relationships. The principle of theatre echoes within Zohar Fraiman’s world. Many of her paintings are composed with mountain landscapes that resemble a backdrop, whilst figures stand on the proscenium waiting to give their final bow. One must only look in Koo Loo Loosh (2017) at the four men who stand contemplating a stage in the distance where indistinct characters move whilst bananas float into the sky, to understand that all what we see in those paintings is a mise-en-scène.
In all the paintings from the exhibition Die Bösen dürfen nicht weinen [The bad ones may not cry] the border between humans and animals is blurred and the roles are constantly shifting. Women are victims and suddenly take power; wolves guard their territory together but also decide to eat each other; brides appear without telling us if they are willing to marry and, sometimes, it’s even fun to play guitar. It’s a game of domination and submission where — from one painting to the next — characters change their social and sexual roles. Indeed it is this constant role change that impedes any symbolic interpretation in Zohar Fraiman’s work. What is left is a world that more or less resembles our everyday where the enemy from yesterday is the hero of tomorrow, where good intentions create failures and strange stories depict a damaged reality.
Die Bösen dürfen nicht weinen Zohar Fraiman