Leo Ray’s studio is nestled in an industrial zone in the heart of Tel Aviv, among auto repair shops and car dealerships. Don’t let the area itself discourage you, for there is nothing threatening about it; the vibe is quite low-key, with blue-collar workers milling about. In the foyer, there is no trace of the colorful richness in store at the end of the steep staircase. And yet, when that old door opens, the eye beholds dozens of paintings awaiting the visitor - or buyer. The smell wafting through this studio tells of artwork that is still drying. There is no better aroma for an artist’s work space, as it holds a promise.
And this promise is quickly realized when Leo Ray pulls dozens of works from his shelves and places them in small groups for display. Of particular interest are works of art chosen by the artist, allowing the visitor a glimpse at the connotations between them, and a fuller understanding of their cultural context.
However, the real magic in Leo Ray’s body of work lies within his naive paintings of childlike colors, and his observations on reality. The painter captures the heart with these simple-looking paintings of every day animals and our interaction with them. At times ridiculing ordinary situations and at other times embellishing upon them, he always manages to talk to us directly. A big part of his charm lies in the ease with which one can understand his art and relate to it, not to mention his ability to delight the beholder.
A large group of paintings pays homage to history, dealing with other works from the past. These works are distinctly different, their coloring relatively mild, and the magical joy of life conspicuously absent. There is no innovation in these works of art, and the question arises whether they were created to demonstrate the artist’s knowledge or intellect, or maybe to gain more respect from an art world that might otherwise erroneously belittle his simple-looking paintings with their captivating charm. Both hypotheses might well be correct, and maybe there is yet another reason behind this creative effort.
The eye and the heart are drawn back to the somewhat naive paintings, which deal with seemingly insignificant scenes from our daily lives. They beguile us with their innocence and the joy of life emanating from them. Leo Ray is a magician of the simple life, and there lies his greatest asset.
Hana Barak Engel Read more
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