Gal Weinstein, Jezreel Valley in the Dark, May and July 2017. Israeli Pavillon, Venice Biennale. Courtesy the artist.
Gal Weinstein has long worked with depictions of the Valley of Jezreel. Also referred to as the Valley of Megiddo, this region in the Galilee is known today as the cradle of modern Israel due to its lush beauty and productive modern agriculture. Weinstein’s work challenges ideas of what the valley represents, by transforming it through camouflage and using natural materials. Indeed, materiality is often a tool used to convey meaning in his work. In conversation with Shifting Vision, the artist elaborated on his process over the course of lockdowns and his re-imagining of the valley given the forced change in routine.
On the topic of materiality, Weinstein discussed the floor installation of Persistent, Durable, and Invisible, part of his Sun Stand Still installation at the Israeli pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia in 2017.
‘When I exhibited in Venice there were a lot of visitors. After two weeks, some parts glued on white plates on the floor pieces of the work started to come off. I was looking for something to fix it but I didn't want to work with synthetic colour. Part of the ethic of my work is to use an ethical framework as modernist sculpture, so I'm always working with the identity of the material,’ Weinstein says.
Gal Weinstein, Persistent, Durable and Invisible, 2017. Israeli Pavillon, Venice Biennale. Photo: Claudio Franzini.
‘Rather than mix a colour, I began to put steel wool in vinegar and it slowly started to rust, and then I had a colour that came from a chemical reaction. Then I put bronze wool in the vinegar and it became green. It’s like a watercolour, but it’s a steel colour,’ he explained.
‘This gave me another tool — changing the state of metal to a liquid. I like the idea of sticking to one material and then seeing the different options I can make with it. I find this process meshes with the concept of Shifting Vision, ’ Weinstein said.
‘I like working with tough ethical rules — and then seeing how many options I can create. I call it reverse engineering because I never plan it. Working on the colour problem suddenly gave me a completely new way of working with the same material.’
Preparatory work for Persistent, Durable and Invisible, 2017. Courtesy the artist.
Jezreel Valley in the Dark was made using black coffee poured into molds shaped to look like the rolling landscape of hills and fields. Weinstein then covered the coffee with coloured felt; the result is a depiction of an agricultural landscape, built from organic materials and processes.
‘I think it's interesting to take an image of a place like the Jezreel Valley, something I have been working on for 20 years, and changing the material that depicts it. I relate the valley to a physical body. The image is the same, but like our bodies, it changes all the time,’ Weinstein says.
Gal Weinstein, Sun, Sand Still, 2017. Israeli Pavillon, Venice Biennale. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Claudio Franzini.
Thinking about the work in this way lets the viewer join in the experience of how time changes everything, Weinstein says. ‘What I’m trying to do in my recent work is a “shifting vision” of the same image.’ In life we have “shifting visions” all the time, but we don't always have such a clear-cut distinction between the past and present. When vision shifts, the same object can get a completely different interpretation. Today we’re living in a crisis with a clear line — between before Corona and after.’ said Weinstien.
‘It’s always a question when you are trying to present new works: How does the past get inside the new works, how do the layers of the past and the current experience of the viewer get inside the work?’