Adam Sher’s Perspective on Art & Life

by on May 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Through fashion maven and start-up founder Daria Shualy, I was introduced to Israeli artist Adam Sher, who came to Israel when he was 19 from Russia after serving in the “Red Army.” He brought with him his animation style of art, where he has done an entire series of Disney characters in realistic form.

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In Russia, realism is much more popular than it is in Israel where artistic expression is much more free-form, a style he says he now prefers. He is now working on more abstract pieces. Of the pieces in his southern Tel Aviv studio, my favorite by far was this self-portrait painting he did of himself with his son.

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I was able to spend time with Adam in his studio before leaving Israel earlier this month. Here’s the result of an interesting back and forth dialogue about his life, his ‘coming’ to Israel and how he paved the way for a career as an artist.

Renee: When did you know you wanted to paint? Was it a particular incident or did you always just know?
Adam: I started to paint at a very early age; I always hold a pencil or brush in my childhood memories . I grew up in small village in the Ukraine, where there were no conditions to develop my skills, nor was there any real support from my parents, so it was a hobby until later on.

With pressure from my family, (like a good Jewish boy) I chose to study medicine and after 4 years, I went to serve in the Soviet Army as planned. During my army service (that’s a different story?), we left. After moving to Israel in 1990, I went to college for graphic design and illustration studies and since then, I’ve been an graphic designer and art director.

I have a friend who studied in New York and took me to some of her classes. Here, she showed me what canvas and colors are and the rest is history?

Renee: You speak of traditional realism in Europe, particularly in Russia which is not so much the case in Israel I understand from you and also a friend of mine in Tel Aviv who is an art curator. What are your feelings about both and the value of both?

Adam: Traditional realism wasn’t really accepted here in Israel, maybe because the country is only 60 years old,. After WW2, realism was objected by new art movements. Israeli people tried to build a new society that ignored any tradition, thus influencing the art scene here?

I feel lucky that I didn’t study art seriously in Russia since they focus mainly on technique, and less on creativity.

I think that I’m still a “stranger” here, standing a bit on the outside of the local art scene. Most Israeli artists deal with these main themes: the Middle East conflict, the Holocaust and “self observation”.

I deal more with the aesthetics of average every day things that surround us. Here is what Israeli Maayan Shelef said of my work:

“Adam Sher takes an activist approach to art, initiating artistic events, exhibitions, and community activities. In addition to personal projects he collaborates with groups of artists with a similar vision. His creative process forms a circle; he documents the daily living environment and returns to it in the exhibition stage by choosing alternative spaces that are part of the everyday experience. Galleries alongside nightlife and leisure spaces, institutions and industrial areas. These spaces are like temporary homes for the paintings, as Sher believes that his paintings are meant to be hung in a living room. There they fulfill their conceptual purpose – a connection between the indoor and the outdoor that creates the urban aesthetics. His ambition is to communicate with the viewer in a basic, universal way. His painted world is not ideal or na?ve but sober. The magic and innocence that we find in this sobriety, is what makes us connect to his paintings so deeply.”

Renee: What do you most love about the more realistic work you have done so far?

Adam: I think that my most realistic work so far is the self portrait with my 2 kids (as you saw at my studio (as also shown above) I called it “Millstone” since being a father is a very serious responsibility but it’s the most expensive and important thing you have? after a year and a half break in painting, I went back to the studio and painted Millstone in two days.

My wife doesn’t like the name, but I think it’s honest. For me, realism is not just about a painting’s technique, but its also a method to express our feelings in the most honest way.

I LOVE THAT ANSWER.

Renee: What inspired your work with Disney characters and animation?

Adam: Below Israeli art curator Nir Harmat describes my exhibition “Happy Dead End” where I presented several large paintings of cartoon characters:

“Adam Sher’s embalmed images are realistically copied from miniature Disney plastic figurines found in a dump and bought by the pound. Sher grants new strength to these images. He removes them from their natural habitat and isolates them; taking them out of proportion to a full size enlargement and having them confront the viewer at eye level. In fact, this is a conversion of the real with the signifiers of reality. That is, the images receive autonomic power and the status of functional doubles.”

Renee: What is the best thing about being an artist in Israel? the worst?

Adam: I don’t think it’s that easy to be an Israeli artist because there’s more interest around politics and less on global issues……the artists who have different styles and ideas don’t have too many options to exhibit and sell their work.

Renee: What is the best thing about living in Israel? the worst?

Adam: I’m pretty happy living here. Even though it’s a small country, I feel very connected here, and part of the western culture without an obligation to any tradition (as in Old Europe) or the limitation of being over politically correct (as in the U.S).

The big minus is the ongoing chronic war with the Palestinians that corrupts all spheres of our life here and maybe our escapisms, which is many people’s answer to the situation.

More examples of his work below:

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