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Ilan Ben Shlomo / Haifa Artists House

Ilan Ben Shlomo holds his first ever solo exhibition at the Haifa Artists House, a significant milestone for this artist, who is by no means a newcomer to the Israeli art scene, but in his prime and a creator most his life. Over the years, he has studied long with the best of teachers, and learned much from his predecessors. His point of view is highly critical, and the prism through which he sees art is quite rigidly defined. With very low tolerance for mediocracy and gibberish, as he puts it, no wonder he aspires for the highest standards in his own work. He doesn’t give in to others, or to himself, and his commitment to excellence is evident in his body of work. He struggles with the colors he applies on the canvas, as is evident to the appreciative viewer.
The artist’s palette leans towards the dark tones, mainly darker blues and deeper greens, with lighter touches of white and gray, as well as flashes of vibrant colors bursting from within that monochrome. The intense brushstrokes of his multi-layered canvases leave highly energetic impressions in the work itself. It is not dolled up and overstated art, but the aesthetic side is impeccable. Colors are perfectly coordinated to make a coherent statement, with an agreeable flow within the work itself, from one point to another. The use of dark colors, approaching but not quite reaching monochrome, is elegantly and seamlessly done.
Ben Shlomo never stumbles into the pitfalls of dichotomy so prevalent in the art world. He is very different also in his personal views and choices. His art touches upon the abstract, without being entrenched there - some of his work has clearly identifiable objects and figures. The artist does not feel the need to limit himself to rigid definitions, but always seeks his personal language and the best way for him to express his ideas. He shows no qualms when he etches into the drying paint an image that in his eyes belongs there, or adds identifiable objects to an abstract, turning it into a semi-abstract “landscape”.
Ben Shlomo’s imagery is based on that of many others, his predecessors and those who have paved the way and put forth groundbreaking ideas decades ago. He pays tribute to artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, and all the major strides in art after his publication of On the Spiritual in Art: “Each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated. Efforts to revive the art-principles of the past will at best produce an art that is still-born.” And in Israel, to the New Horizons movement which dealt with the abstract from different angles. Many of Ben Shlomo’s predecessors were fertile ground for him to grow, giving their seal of approval to the forms and language he adopted over time. Embedding objects and/or figures in some of his canvases allow for a conceptual dialogue with himself and his many teachers.
As stated, this might be his first big solo exhibition, but he is a mature and accomplished artist, reaching out to his expanding audience in the prime of life. Such profound and exceptional works of art warrant an appreciation for this mature artist, with his extensive knowledge in the art world. And such a first “taste” generates great expectations for his future in the Israeli art scene.

Hana Barak Engel
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