Alona Harpaz is a visual artist born in Tel Aviv and living in Berlin. She has studied at Bezalel and HaMidrasha as well as at the ICP center in New York. She has had solo and group exhibits in Israel, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Japan.
Her exhibit “Highway Furniture” has recently shown at Berlin’s CIRCLE 1, an exhibit space she helped found in 2013.
We are delighted to feature Alona as our Artist of the Week!
What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
I was inspired by my mother, who worked as a dancer and choreographer at the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv. I grew up there, so to speak, spending my childhood between Carmen and Madama Butterfly. I was sure all the kids had the same experiences I did and only later I discovered it’s not really the case… I can still remember the smell of the dancers’ clothes, the dramatic make up on the opera singers and the lights, which inspired me a to spend a lot of time with the lighting technician and to hold in my hands all those colorful gels that cover the spots.
What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?
My creative journey started, as I mentioned, very early in my childhood. Seeing my mother’s lifestyle as a dancer, I knew very early that I love that kind of life and the climaxes it provides. In high school I started studying photography and fell in love with art. The way to painting and art was quite fast: I started studying at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, then spent two years in NYC followed by another five years at the Midrasha in Ramat HaSharon, where I had art icons for teachers, like Raffi Lavie and Yaakov Mishori. They helped me design my way and gave me some confidence so I could trust myself as an artist.
What do you need as an artist today?
Being just an artist in not enough for me today. It took a while and I needed perspective and maturity to realize that art is not only my creation, but a way of life, a way of thinking. Today I need to see other artists and their works, to create something which is bigger than me and my art. After many years of self-centered focus, I now love the community and enjoy spreading the focus to other fields too, some of which have nothing to do with art.
What creative project are you working on now?
My biggest creative project nowadays is the trilogy “Salt”, which will be done once I’ll finish editing the last part of it. It’s a 3-part video-art, dealing with the way I react to Israel after being in Berlin for almost 15 years. This video deals with a very clear Israeli group, the “salt of the earth”, people I detected in several activities; the link to all three parts of the trilogy is my father.
I recently had the opening of my exhibition at CIRCLE1 gallery – a project space which I established with other artists. In the exhibition, named “Highway Furniture”, I show my new work – a pink neon light of the text “my darling we have reached Europe”.
“my darling we have reached Europe”; photo: Boaz Arad
Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years?
In ten years, I would be happy to be represented by a strong commercial Gallery in Berlin. In addition, I hope that CIRCLE1 gallery will grow to be an independent and established cultural center for art and events. I hope for it to expand and create a community, and to maybe establish a residency at CIRCLE1. I see myself curating more shows and bringing together artists from different cultures.
What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?
In the past I used to say being Israeli means nothing to me and that art means everything, doesn’t matter where you come from. Now I see things differently. My “Israeliness” has its meaning to me, also as an artist, but nothing too extreme or dramatic. I respond and react to the place I’m coming from and I have more material for my works, since the place I’m coming from creates a lot of interest.
What does it mean to you to have an organization like the America-Israel Cultural Foundation supporting Israeli culture in the past 75 years?
Having an organization like the America-Israel Cultural Foundation supporting Israeli culture in the past 75 years is for me a sign that people care about the culture in Israel, and I find it extremely important to the future of Israeli art and artists. I know many artists who benefited from this organization, and cherish the help they received from it. I’m glad that the organization has expanded its activities to Germany and I’m looking forward to collaborate with it and create cultural projects together.