Three-dimensional works

Hagai Segev

Einan Cohen is known primarily for his virtually abstract landscape paintings, the bulk of which were exhibited in the comprehensive exhibition “Nofim” (landscapes) at “Beit Haomanim” in Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv Artists House 2001, curator Michael Kasus, Catalog). These remarkable landscapes, painted in acrylic on paper or cloth, evoke primordial memories of an endless expanse of perfect and flawless virgin landscape. It almost seems that the pleasure Cohen derived from the erotic qualities of the paper and colors did not fall short of the sensations he felt when painting the landscapes.

For many years Cohen occupied himself with these paintings in endless variations, yet remained unsatiated. His passion for the surface of the painting, especially for paper, engendered unique paintings in which the paper gradually took on a sculptural quality and became an essential component in the physical sensations of the entire image. Einan wet the paper before painting on it so that it took on a wavy shape – some parts sunken while others rising – creating a living, breathing topography.

It is perhaps at this stage that Einan became familiar with the special plastic qualities of paper and discovered his desire to rise above a two-dimensional surface. About three years ago Einan began to sculpture using papier mache, and in recent years went on to create dozens of sculptures and objects from paper. These works can be divided into two groups – works deeply rooted in the abstract world, and those that reveal a completely unknown dimension of his work – sculptured objects of flowers, images, body parts, and more. The second group of works exposes a humoristic and ironic aspect in Einan’s personality, moments in which we see an entirely different artistic persona. Does this reflect his return to his past as an animation film artist? Perhaps.

Einan recounts that alongside his paintings he always sculptured, creating objects from concrete (none of which remain), and from wood. The current transition to sculpting with paper seems entirely natural to him, a direct continuation of painting on paper – that which he loves most in art. The bulk of the work involved in creating the objects centered on building molds into which he poured the paper mache. This process in effect embodies a tenacious struggle with the material in order to create a solid form from the soft and unstable texture. To achieve this Einan uses two methods: the first, pasting the paper on a structure made of another substance or on a net, and the second – placing the sheets in many layers and using glue to strengthen the structure.

The transition from painting to sculpture in Einan’s work does not only entail a change in artistic medium, an overall conceptual change is required. Unlike painting when the artist can work intuitively, without thinking in advance about the concept, and flow with the landscapes and views, in sculpture the artist must focus on an idea as early as the initial stages of the artistic endeavor – even before beginning to work with the material itself.

Einan is one of many artists and meisters that alongside the paintings for which they were recognized also created important sculptures of different types. The most well known of these artists are Picasso and Miro that used ceramics to create sculptures and many other works of art. While among the young generation of artists inIsraelthere are those that work with several mediums, sometimes simultaneously, the transition from one form of art to another is not as common in Einan’s generation.

Many of Einan’s sculptures are round or oval in shape. Einan emphasizes their lack of functionality by creating small ruptures in their texture. He creates openings by lifting certain segments above the surface, thus underscoring the segment and the importance of the paper in their creation. The oval shapes and the openings also arouse images of pleasurable erotic contexts that once again underscore the vibrancy of paper as substance of passion that invites the viewer to look beyond the visual to the sensation of close contact.

Most of the objects created by Einan, similar to his landscape paintings, are situated on the border between real objects that can be identified, for example a mask or a plant, and objects that cannot be precisely defined and maintain a degree of abstraction. This is a game at which Einan excels – attracting the spectators’ attention while at the same time confounding them. Einan’s game of seduction is the game played by art in the 20th century that moves along the axis between narrative and abstract, substance and spirit.

May 2006