Guy Ben-Ari is an artist working in New York. Guy studied painting in Jerusalem and in London, and has recently graduated Columbia University’s MFA program in visual arts. Guy had received the Loren and Mitchell Persser Award for Excellence in Painting in 2009, and is one of the recipients of the ARTIS Grant for 2012. His most recent solo show, “Yes to Burning Eyes”, has just opened at Vox Populi gallery in Philadelphia, and he is working towards his upcoming exhibition in Tel Aviv. AICF had the opportunity to hear from Guy about his process, ideas and experience as a visual artist.
1) What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
I was interested in art from a young age. My school and academic education, along with continuous work in the studio, refined that interest into painting and the art I’m making today. I’m influenced by my colleagues, mentors and many of my teachers, both from Israel and from New York. I’m deeply interested in postmodern philosophy, psychology and semiotics, and most of all in ideas following the work of the influential 20th century French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.
2) What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?
Currently, I’m working in my new studio in Brooklyn and have a show up at Vox Populi gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The exhibition, Yes to Burning Eyes, will stay open through January. I’ve recently graduated from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York City, where I completed my MFA in Visual Arts. Before that I studied Fine Art at Bezalel Academy for Art and Design in Jerusalem. During my time in Bezalel, I took part in Bezalel’s student exchange program with University College London where I studied painting for an incredible semester at the Slade School of Fine Art.
3) What do you need as an artist today?
Most of all, I need my close friends and colleagues. They are my audience and who I have in mind while making my work. As a painter, it’s important to have a studio and the facilities to make the work possible. Time is also crucial – enough to dedicate to the studio, while still being able to enjoy everything the city has to offer. The support that organizations such as ARTIS and AICF provide to emerging artists like myself is crucial in order for our exhibitions and projects to be realized.
4) What creative project are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a new group of paintings towards my upcoming solo show at Hamidrasha gallery in Tel Aviv. This exhibition, which I’m very excited about, will be curated by the artist Boaz Arad and will open on the first week of March, 2012. I’ve recently completed a group of works for the exhibition Yes to Burning Eyes at Vox. This project is generously supported by ARTIS Contemporary Israeli Art Fund. They have really made this project possible. I’m showing three large paintings and several small ones, all oil and acrylic on canvas or panel. The paintings are all based around the idea of the gaze of the “big Other”, the father figure or the authority in our lives, and how that gaze defines us.
5) Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years?
In 10 years I will find myself in the studio, working. Hopefully, by then, my studio will be much bigger. I would like to be showing my work around the U.S. and Israel. As an artist, I hope to be making work that continues to surprise me, and that teaches me something new about art and about myself.
6) What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?
That’s a tricky definition. Lacan asked “What does it matter how many lovers you have, if none of them gives you the universe?”.
7) What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?
The AICF could be a valuable supporter for Israeli visual artists. I appreciate the foundation’s effort to introduce Israeli artists to new audiences across the U.S. The AICF assists Israeli artists in America to connect with one another, and spreads the word about upcoming exhibitions and events. Support from organizations such as ARTIS and AICF makes it possible for artists to focus on their practice and make their work, especially in a city like New York.