Back in February, the Israeli creative duo Wyse + Gabriely filled a tiny gallery in Shoredtich with their mind-awakening pictures. Three walls and two weeks were enough for these award winning artists to put some heads to think about the role and the representation of the female body.
It was fairly shocking to enter the Neu Gallery and realising that the two facing walls featured contrastingly different art works. On one side, six full-colour compositions with a lady in the centre; on the other, six black and white pictures with six different naked ladies; in the centre, a wall-big black and white collage. While wondering how the duo worked (did they create together or did they just share the interest in the female body?), that central collage became a soft transition between the colorful irony and the chiaroscuro introspection.
The work of the artist is successful when the viewer leaves the venue with an active mind, when their work awakens something in the mind of the other. Although very different, the joint work of these two ladies, is nothing but an exercise for the mind. The concept of just-looking vanishes when confronting these twelve pictures and videos. A mutilated woman with a bearded face sits down peacefuly while another lady with enormous breasts made of rocks stares at the camera, Gabriely is all about the conception and mutilation of the contemporary female body. In front of them, gardens and wardrobes make the framework that surrounds naked girls, real girls with no clothes on; Wyse is a raw mirror of reality.
Each of them has her own technique and prefered subjects. Gabriely is the protagonist of her pictures, Wyse asks strangers if she can photograph them. Colour versus black and white… There are many differences to point between these two girls works, however, the views and depictions of women by them both are not only different but complementary. While Wyse appeals to a subtle intimacy, to the naked body within its comfort zone, Gabriely makes us wonder, with an ironic blink, what the body is in these modern times.
My first reaction to your exhibition was to relate your pictures with fashion photography, was that on purpose? Is a criticism to fashion photography one of your intentions?
Gabriely: I don’t see the transformations of the body appearing in my work as an attack to the fashion and beauty industries. I do hope the images bring up more that that, I feel it would be a narrow prism through which the work might be read. I’d rather conceive these practices I see in the fashion world as options that can be applied to this instrument- the body- in order to expand it, to liquidate it. Then, I adopt them, even embrace them. The work is well tied to the world of commercials; however, the connection is basically aesthetic: like an advertiser, I try to create very appealing images that have some kind of perfect visibility in order to first entice the viewer, and then, the theme may possibly hit him for it does not fit with his normal mental patterns.
Wyse: I do find inspirations in the aesthetics of fashion mainly of the 1950’s fashion photography. I don’t feel I have direct criticism to the fashion world, it is not my motivation. I work with all kind of women, real women, but not in a way of trying to rebel against the beauty industry. I’m not just representing women, I’m actually trying to represent a deeper view on human beings.
Both of your creations are provocative, what unifies them besides that?
We are not actually trying to provoke but rather to arouse an emotional reaction. Provocation is not our main goal. We can only hope for people to have an intense and memorable experience while facing the images.
Besides the joint video performances, each of you presented their own 'oeuvre', how does that make you a creative duo?
In the videos our line of thoughts meet and get a concrete expression. As for the stills, the connection exists on a more conceptual, even spiritual level. It looks as if our works had been created in a complete separation, but it is actually an action-reaction process. We understand each other's work very deeply, we work and talk about the materials for instance, then we keep on working, and later seek for the other’s advice, then we work and again talk... Our discussions bring up future ideas and help our body of work evolve.
You are the main characters of your video performances, why is that so?
We wanted to experience that act on ourselves, so the thought of working with others as “actors” didn’t even cross our minds.
When watching “Spitting” I had to stop after 12 seconds and then start once again, what were you looking for when you created the concept of the video? What does it represent to you?
It might sound weird as the visual is quite vulgar, but it is actually a statement of love. It expresses unity, the infinity of the endless mutual processes of mankind.
Did the general public react differently to your exhibit in the different countries you are touring?
In London, we noticed, the connection of our work with fashion had been brought up again and again. The work was read in connection to contemporary culture conflicts as well: ideal beauty concepts, fashion industry practices and so on… Such a connection didn’t happen as much before.
From your viewpoint, does living in Israel influence your art?
Yes, very much so. But not the Israeli political environment as much as the spiritual traditions we have. We have both been going through a real journey during the past years, and while trying to find answers, we found ourselves going back to the roots, to the essence of ourselves as vessels to a higher energy of being.