Sidelooker

2012

Gal-On Gallery, Tel-Aviv

Curator: Yaniv Shapira

In the large painting "The Cave", the centerpiece of the present exhibition, a naked man is portrayed at the center, surrounded by a number of figures.  Although the other figures seem to be somehow connected to the cave-man at the center, he remains foreign and isolated.  "The Cave" presents an image of "intimate mis-encounters" between people who remain estranged from one another.

In the present world it is difficult to keep the human figure at the center.  Humanity has become elusive and fragmentary. The loss of clarity regarding what it means to be human often leads to a preference for portraying its fleeting reflections, as manifested in fashion, the media or the news.  Paradoxically, an artist that chooses to place the human figure squarely at the center of his or her art, may position him or herself at  the margin.  Maybe one has to be an outsider, not to feel strange in the position of a humanist.  It demands a measure of naiveté to be able to cry out, as in the fable: "Look at the man at the center!  He is naked!"

The perspective of the foreigner, who sees the world as strange and surprising, is a central feature of Omer's art.  This is manifested, for instance, in the way he chooses his models.  Apparently, he does not choose them, but stumbles upon them, like someone who walks in a strange place and whose eyes are caught by a striking stimulus.  The choice however  is experienced as compelling, as is the experience of standing aside, of being doomed to looking and being looked at from the corner of the eye, of developing the unnatural, non-grammatical stance of a "sidelooker" .  However, although Omer cannot explain or justify his choice of subject matter, if one tries to challenge it or propose another, the response is clear: "It has to be this!" This refusal of accepted categories strengthens the impression of Noam Omer as a perpetual foreigner.

His lack of anchoring in established codes is reflected also in the figures or in the relations between them.  In one of the paintings, Omer portrays a man, wearing  a predator fish as a tie.  The fish becomes part of the man or his intimate companion.  The connexion seems natural, because both figures have a similar "coefficent of strangeness".  The juxtaposition does not lead to a fantastic or nostalgic feeling, but rather to an eery sense of routine.  The man who becomes mixed with the animal seems about to start a "normal day", perhaps by going to his office.

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