Young Masters: Dialogues presents Contemporary works inspired by the Sphinx Fine Art Old Master Collection. Each artist invited to participate in the exhibition has had the opportunity to explore the works in the Sphinx collection and either pair an existing piece of work with an Old Master, or make an entirely new work in response to a piece of their choice. This challenge has been taken up by artists including Yigal Ozeri, in response to Benedetto Luti’s ‘Portrait of a Young Girl’, by Ghislaine Howard, who has transcribed ‘The Sacrifice of Iphigenia’ by Giovanni Andrea Carlone and Shane Wolf who has made a partner piece to Ribera’s portrait of the ‘Philospher Thales’.
Q&A with Yigal Ozeri
Yigal Ozeri is an Israeli painter living and working in New York and is one of the finest photorealist painters working in the world today. Here he tells us more about his work, which will be shown as part of the forthcoming exhibition ‘Young Masters: Dialogues’ at Sphinx Fine Art, 12 – 24 October 2015.
What most interests you about the concept of Young Masters?
The concept of young masters is most interesting, in my opinion, because it is a genuine link to art history. For years young artists resisted the idea of history and its added value. Artists in general have to relate to art history because we don’t operate in a vacuum. We’re like relay race runners, in the sense that every artist has to pass his baton to the next one. Meaning, each artist has to both carry the legacy of his past predecessors, while pushing forward adding unique contribution to the mix called human civilization.
Can you explain to us what your work is about and tell us more about the work you will be showing at Sphinx Fine Art in October?
I see myself as a figurative artist. In general I don’t feel comfortable with labelling and with my present grouping as a photorealist artist, even though I see myself as part of this genre. I feel that my contribution to art history are my works on paper. In my works on paper I accomplish an impossible level of information. More than expected from works on canvas in my genre. Generally speaking, artists work on paper with media such as charcoal, water colours and gouache. But I treat my paper as if it was canvas with oil colours and thus my paintings on paper are like other artists’ on canvas. I like to say that my works on paper are the epiphany of the illusion. Furthermore I think that my past as an abstract painter brings forth a different approach to the treatment of the primary surface. I work on it in a free painting technique, whereas most photorealistic artists work on the far and the close with similar level of accuracy and assessment. As a result in my paintings the space that is the background in my work is an abstract with a lot of movement and dynamics, in sharp contrast with the figure that is an exact representation of the reality. My works celebrate nature in its glory, figures of young women in search of their life path, returning to nature and freedom both literally and figuratively.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
It’s hard to talk about one artist that inspired me, but the American artist Andrew Wyeth is an artist that I appreciate because of his use of small brushes, the shift from the centre to the periphery and the return to the intimacy in painting. The later contribution is most important for me. This is a theme that interests me. Andrew Wyeth was an artist that didn’t pay attention to the banality of the art scene, but rather he created his own centre based on the appreciation that his works generated from collectors, galleries and museums. He ignored the politics of art, concentrating on the artistic content.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I think that an artist is born with raw talent however, that needs to be developed sharpened and cultivated. I was born in a small town in Israel to a family with no connection to, nor understanding in art. But my family noticed (especially my father) my propensity, and as of the age of 10 he would take me to paint in nature. This period in my life shaped my future with love faith and trust. In retrospect, I know that that’s where that decision took place. I attended art school in Israel, but I believe that I am an auto deduct. I copied classical; masterpieces, contemporary pieces until I developed my own unique style.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
If I were not an artist I would have been a singer. I love singing. I had a band as a teenager. I could have also become a football player, I dreamed of becoming one as well. But at the end of the day, I understood that painting is a very significant and fundamental part of my life and gradually I gave up music and was left with art and football. My son is more talented than me in football and he is currently playing professionally in Argentina. I, on the other hand, am painting in my studio in New Jersey at the Mana Contemporary, an art centre that I founded together with Eugene Lamey.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
My greatest achievement as an artist up to date is being on the cover of the historical book by Louis Meisel Photorealism in the Digital Age, published by the prestigious art publisher Abrams. This is an important genre in the art world today and I have a significant part in its contemporary evolution. The fact that my painting is featured on the cover of Photorealism in the Digital Age represents my incredible journey from Israel to New York City. From dreaming about becoming an artist to being a prominent artist in the leading edge of Photorealism worldwide, with artists such as Chuck Close.
What are your plans for the future?
I am very excited about new venues that are coming to fruition in the near future on top of my existing schedule of exhibitions and participation in art fairs worldwide. The first is being invited to participate in a number of museum group shows in the United States. And the second is featuring in several books, both concentrating solely on my works, as well as books where I feature together with other artists.