Yisrael Dror Hemed: Painter-Gatherer
Recipient of the 2020 Haim Shiff Prize for Figurative Realist Art
Israel Dror Hemed (b. 1975) acquired his training in painting during three years of study with the artist Maya Cohen Levy. His painting centers on male figures — in some, the subject is looking directly at the viewer, but in most cases he is gazing, introspectively, past the viewer, deep in his own thoughts. Most of the men that Hemed paints he meets by chance, asks their permission to photograph them, and then paints them from the photographs. Within the common practice of painting from a photograph, he effectively endows his paintings with a conceptual stance that redeems the human figure (a male one, in this case) from being lost in an overflow of countless photographic images. With a refined sophistication, he links the eroticism of the very act of painting to the painted subjects — the objects of his gaze.
Hemed photographs his subjects with his smartphone, or a small pocket camera, and then renders the digital image in oil on canvas — at life-size in some instances, at larger-than-life in others. Underpinning his craft is a profound love of the act of painting and of the objects of his gaze. This is how his motivation may be understood as he draws out the instant glimpse provided by the photograph and prolongs the duration of observation — his, ours — of the painted figure. This suspension creates a new space of gazes and relationships, in which all those involved in the act of observation — the model, the painter, and the viewer — take part. In contrast with the immediacy, casualness, and endless surfeit of digital images, the slow, traditional, lovingly produced painting offers itself as a space of grace.
The act of painting thus emerges as a silent opposition to the militant positions of all kinds; to the tired old dichotomy between feminine and masculine; and to narrow notions of what is contemporary. In effect, it offers the traditional as a means of dismantling conventions.