Noemi Tedeschi Blankett “Sinopie”

14, June 2010 · Events / Exhibitions

“Sinopie” – studio drawings. Curator: Zahava Levi
“The Red House” Gallery, Tel Aviv. Opening: 17.6.10

Closing: 12.07.10

In the exhibition “Sinopie”, Noemi Tedeschi-Blankett presents sketches of nudes done weekly over the last few years. These sketches are for the artist an intimate everyday action, like brushing of the teeth, running, or morning gymnastics. The persistence in model drawing strengthens the “artistic muscles” and doesn’t allow them to become weak and flabby. Sketches done consistently are first and foremost for the private use of the artist: it his/her kitchen or, if you like, the bedroom, where strangers are not allowed to enter. But in the case of Noemi Tedeschi-Blankett, removing them from the private space and presenting them for all to see – which stands in sharp contrast to the privacy and intimacy of the drawings – is justified, not only because of the high standard of these drawings, but also because they confront the viewer with difficult questions pertaining to tradition, continuity, and the present.

The accepted view is that the avant-garde, in its desire to leap forward, completely cuts itself from tradition in order to invent something new, whereas the conservatives try to preserve the past heritage and cultivate it. In fact, this is not so. The conservatives guard the empty family tomb. It is the conservatives who are the real enemies of tradition because they love it only when it is dead. Thus all talk about classical art in opposition to contemporary art are banal clichés. Art is always implanted in the present. Classical art is necessarily contemporary art and if it is not, it is not classical ! The enlightened person usually looks forward and not backwards. But the future is empty, whereas the past has content and meaning which nourish the heart and the head. The revolutionary artist, the avant-garde, is like the crab: it moves forward but its gaze is directed backwards. Innovation is nothing but tradition’s magnificent gift to the artist: it reveals its hidden side which until then was obscured from mortals, and the artist endangers his soul to reveal it. An outstanding example of this is well-known: in all the history of French art there was no more loyal slave to tradition than “the wild beast”, the innovator, Henri Matisse.

In the case of Noemi Tedeschi-Blankett, it is clear that the artist is connected by a blood line to the long and noble tradition of Italian art and this fact turns her “scribbling” into an artistic statement. One aspect of this tradition, which reflects a fascinating side of Noemi’s work, is the ancient romance that Roman-Italian tradition has with death. “Rome is ruled by its dead” – these words were said by the man who molded the Italian people together with Dante (by the way, The “Divine Comedy” takes place in the next world). He is, of course Federico Fellini. The “rule of the dead” did not begin yesterday. What is the classical Roman portrait (the only achievement of the Romans in sculpture), if not the attempt to defeat death or at least to save the memory of life from oblivion?

Noemi Tedeschi-Blankett was born and grew up in Genoa, a city with the famous cemetery of Staglieno. In Israel she settled in Jerusalem, another city where (what a coincidence!) the dead rule, according to Meir Shalev. Reviewing Noemi Tedeschi-Blankett’s work there is a basis for suspecting “necrophilic” tendencies, or at least for not dismissing offhandedly the large number of coincidences related to death. These are still-life paintings (nature morte) from the early stages of her work, an endless number of dead hens, fish and fishbones. Some of these motives also recur in her more recent work.

“Sinopie”, the name Noemi has given to her latest exhibition is completely justified. Sinopie (*) are preliminary sketches, buried under the layer of plaster of a wall painting. These sketches (like Noemi’s drawings) were meant for private use. These sketches were exposed for the first time to the public eye in 1944, when, as a result of the bombings, a layer of plaster with wall paintings collapsed at Camposanto in Pisa. The tragedy that destroyed the masterpieces of the Quattrocento paradoxically revealed another masterpiece that had been hidden from view for centuries – the lightness of line, the virtuosity, the intoxicating freedom of the sinopie. And the Camposanto is, of course, a cemetery, and not just any cemetery, but – and this is the last detail in our mosaic – a cemetery whose soil had been brought from Jerusalem.

By virtue of her origin, her education, and her talent, Noemi is unconsciously conducting a dialogue in her drawings with the foundations of the Italian tradition. At first, the drawings do not seem to have any connection with each other, except for the desire to examine the human body in detail. However, they actually create a row of images reminiscent of a known archetype in Italian art – the “procession”. And this gives the drawings meaning that goes beyond mere “anatomical sketches”. The beginning of the tradition of this carnival procession is lost somewhere in the distant past, where among its shadows we can discern ancient friezes and contour lines of Centaurs and Lapiths, heroes and noble women from Roman sarcophagi, and sophisticated magnificent “grotesques” from the house of Nero (Domus Aurea). Closer to us there are the mysterious figures from Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii, and even closer, the macabre frescoes from the Camposanto of Pisa, and the glowing frescoes from Arezzo by Piero della Franscesca. And really close, one can put out ones hand and touch, the bottles and boxes of Morandi, the secluded man of Bologna. In this procession, a variation of an eternal theme, the drawings of Noemi Tedeschi-Blankett naturally take part.

Sasha Okun

(*) Sinopia – the term is taken from the name given to the brownish-red colour that was used for the preparatory sketches of frescoes. This colour was produced near the Black Sea in a district called Sinop. In these areas that used to belong to Russia, there were several settlements of people originating in Genoa. And so – this undefined and subtle connection between the artist and the author of this text provides the latter with a vague sense of pleasure.

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