Making more mistakes
Natan Pernick (born 1980) was born in the Kfar Mordechai moshav (a farming settlement), graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, spent 2 years (from 2002 to 2004) in New York as an assistant of Mark Kostabi, a well-known modernist who, aside from the art itself, is famous for two things: a virtually manufactory way of artwork production and politically incorrect statements.
Pernick’s first appearance as a self-contained artist did not take place until 2009, five years after he had returned from the USA, when he participated in the Tel Aviv Artichoke festival of the new art; later the same year he appeared at the National Portrait Gallery of London, as part of the BP Portrait Award. By that point he had become a hyper realist artist, the visual precision of his images having been raised to that of a photograph.
Hyper-realistic portraits and Israeli desert landscapes comprised Pernick’s first solo exhibition, the Opening Statement (2010). They are somewhat different from his later works, but a kind of sereneness and detachedness close to those of Zen Buddhism could already clearly be seen there, the one that was to manifest itself more prominently in the artist’s subsequent projects, that feature as key characters wrinkled and wet pocketbooks, fritted plates, grimy spoons, broken pegs, and other objects having forfeited their functional purpose and floating in the vacuum of the airless space.
The ruined objects as a metaphor of the human existence is no new theme, neither in the art generally, nor, particularly, in Israeli art. Another Israeli, the hyper-realist Eran Reshef, exercises the same compulsiveness to capture the remains of the old Tel Aviv. Since Israel began to develop at a fast pace, the symbols of the passed time, the things gone out of use, have become an object of reflection for those who can recall the country as a small provincial state. Yet Pernick’s nerve is in leaving reflection outside of the art. The artist transforms in a detached way every pictured object into a sense-bearing unit of his visual language, and analyses the relations between these units and the three worlds: the real, the imaginable, and the symbolic one.
This is a phenomenon that Georges Bataille described in his 1948 lecture, The Surrealistic Religion: “In a modern person, a longing for the myth is intrinsic, and we should add to that an awareness of being unable to reach the state in which one would be capable to create a proper myth. This lack of myth can happen to be extremely more inspiring for the one experiencing it than those everyday myths of the past.” Pernick makes up for the lack of mythologizes by relocating the signs of existence, their meaning being lost, into airless spaces, to which they are connected through nothing but a vague shadow. If painting is in charge of the semantics here, that is of the relationship between the signs, into which the objects have been transformed, and their meaning, then the installation puts the spectator into the space of pragmatics, that is the relationship between the signs and their users. This combination of media seems to enclose an attempted answer to the question posed in the exhibition title: what if we are making one more mistake by considering a symbol that has lost its functionality as the end point, what if the fatigue of the material is just the first step towards a renewal?