NULUBAZ, Cooperative Art Space, Tel Aviv Curator: Nogah Davidson

Installation view

Installation view




How Things Work is the name of a series of books from the sixties that has been lying on the shelf in Shony Rivnay’s studio for many years. It is also the name of Rivnay’s solo exhibition at Tavi Dresdner Gallery, Tel Aviv in 2008. There are many differences between that early show and the current one, both materialistically and stylistically. However, his decision to use the same name, with the addition of the date- 2018, is an indication that his work is in continuous progress- a series of chapters, volumes or editions- developing certain concepts.

The original book series, which Rivnay comes back to time and again, belongs to the literary genre of popular science. As such, it includes a broad scope of illustrated explanations designed to feed the average reader’s curiosity about the mechanisms of natural systems, machines and vehicles. Similarly, Rivnay’s creative practice demonstrates a basic urge to observe the world, dissect it into particles and understand its inner logic.

Rivnay’s interest in science is connected to a biographic element of his life. His Father, Professor Yehezkel Rivnay, was an Entomologist- a researcher in the field of insects and an expert on the impact of pests on Israeli agriculture. The father left behind a collection of impressive study drawings, in which he divided the insects into small particles- tails, heads, vertebrae and tentacles. Alongside drawings describing processes of fertilization and insemination.  

Formalistically, there is a clear connection between the abstract paintings of Rivnay Jr. and the elementary shapes that appear in his fathers’ sketches. The arrangement of formalistic   forms such as circles, lines and curves, may be seen in both father’s and son’s works. However, in the son’s paintings, these organic elements are in such an extreme microscopic close-up, that they lose any specific identification of representation.

In addition, one may say that there is a methodic influence between father and son, in the sense that Shony Rivnay’s work is structured within a set of self-afflicted rules, like a series of experiments- he confines himself within regular formats, canvas sizes, materials, shapes and patterns- which he repeats in different variations, time and time again. 

If we consider the basic framework which both scientist and artist work within- it may be said that they both need a certain structure from which they can begin to experiment and research. What they also need, is a healthy amount of creativity, to allow them to think outside the box and reach new revelations. What distinguishes the artist from the scientist, is the measure of creative freedom. While they are both driven from a similar impulse to observe and reflect on the world- the artist has no obligation to stay true to life or work according to empiric study. His personal perspective, his subjective experience and his ability to play with the facts- are liberties that set him thoroughly apart from the scientist.

The artistic angle from which Shony Rivnay chooses to study “how things work” is thus fundamentally different from the scientific standpoint: it is essentially based on free- play. His artistic method may be seen as subversive to the scientific stance. It strives to dissociate the mind from reason or rationality. His painting is performed with zeal, with joy, with spontaneity. It is compulsive, visceral, primal. It aims to connect to the instinct and to the innate wisdom enfolded within the movement of the hand and the body; the compositional balance (or optical harmony) which the eye instinctually recognizes, if it rids only itself of the minds’ artificial noise. His is a conscious choice of irrationality over reason- out of belief that in effect, it is the true way to inner wisdom. And it seems that his conclusions- his so called “research findings”- as manifested in his paintings, are that in the realm of the unconscious everything is naturally intertwined and there is no separation between the small particles that construct all worldly existence.

The abstract forms he creates in his paintings, like the flickering light forms that appear when you close your eyes, are distant echoes. Impressions of light that the retina registered while the eyes were still open, amorphous shapes floating in the mind’s eye, the space of consciousness, abstract interpretations of life as it is. Shony Rivnay’s formalistic deconstruction seems to dive into the conscious being and beyond- into the depths of all matter. Going deep within, into the atoms and the molecules that draw together by electric force. His vision spans through the micro and the macro. The microscopic and the telescopic. His is a vision that offers an inclusive image of the world in which everything is part of the same entity. It is his realization that everything is made from the same miraculous physical matter and that the constituents of existence are the same.