Belle Shafir or the Immobile Wonderer
A rare and singular, plural and multiform type of artist, Belle Shafir is in a permanent crossing of the worlds : crossing of territories, of language and speech, crossing of destinies and History but also the crossing of forms, modalities, of the reality of the materials as much as the mystery of Immateriality or Unearthly things.
Steady and precise, she throws her rays, her strands, such as a spider preparing the weaving of its web. She structures and plans her cobweb in a clever manner, with wisdom but, at the same time, she deploys her threads, her colors, her forms while improvising lively, as a virtuose, and manages to build absolutely unexpecteded architectones and somehow unspeakable.
The material/ the weave:
Belle Shafir’s favorite work material these days is the thread, but not any random one: a thick thread both rigid and flexible soft and hard, covered with wax.
The use of such material is not accidental; it stems from previous works used as ready made element, in which Shafir made use of pre-existing elements – used as ready-made – present in scientific and medical research, taken from the unique world of the laboratory, in which Belle sees the instruments of work as useful to her not for their purpose, but for their essence. She combines them in shapes, textures and thickness of material.
After her plunge into the organic, microscopic, molecular and cellular dimension of bringing life to an artwork, Belle Shafir has chosen a new material – the thread, and a new technique – weaving.
We know that weaving was invented sometime in the Stone Age, which sets it earlier on the timeline than humans’ migration to live in structured dwellings. At that time, such activity meshed together with the nomad lifestyle of moving from place to place early humans had had, though the art of weaving thread remained even after humans have adapted a settled lifestyle.
The tool, the method/ the thread, its symbolism
As far as the crochet needle is concerned, the origins are unknown. It is said it arrived from China via the Silk Route, or from Peru, Tunisia, Egypt or from Denmark. No one can pretend to possess the knowledge and the answer is, without a doubt, in all given answers. On the hand, what is certain, is that this art of crossing threads, weaving, of the weft and of the grid, could not leave Belle Shafir’s desire, subconscious, thought and will uncaring as an Artist.
In fact, we know that the symbolic meaning of weaving transcends the borders of culture: it is ancient and modern, multi-lingual and of many forms.
In the ‘Old Testament’, it is the scarlet thread – used later by the Kabala – in Greek mythology it is the thread of Adriana and the Fates. In India it is the thread which unites all levels of existence. In Buddhist texts, such as the Sutras, it is the centric thread which connects this world and the next. In Chinese and Japanese folklore it is the encounter between the weaver and the peasant, the thread and the ploughed furrow, which represents the uniqueness of the contrast, the Yin and the Yang. The thread represents connection to the Sun – Osiris, Helios and Apollo – but it is also the linen cloth which wraps the shrouds and mummies and weaves the robes of the children of Israel.
Therefore, the choices she had made were neither neutral nor at random.They reverberate through Belle Shafir’s life, through her biography. These choices stridently resound with her as Subject.
For if it is true that a thread can be smooth and soft when made of delicate silk, it can also transform itself into a threat when it is made of sharp metal becoming barbed wire.
Sharp wire used for penning cattle, used to separate but to protect as well. Barbed wire that later will be used for penning humans in concentration and extermination camps and which purpose is not anymore to protect but to for purposes of separation, ostracism, and finally, annihilation.
Belle Shafir was born in a small village in Bavaria
She left Germany as soon as she was 19.
The shapes/ Biomorphism
Using thread, weave and crochet needle, Belle Shafir uprises organic forms which rise from the material that defines them. Again and again, with a single gesture and a perpetual and continuous movement, the artist weaves bio-logical forms tending to the large scale. While using an expansion process, she produces global forms – or Gestalts – in motion, while accepting the unpredictable of the material she uses managing to rein in the entropic tendency of it.
In this project she is not afraid to anchor the lack of definition for the shapes standing in space which she had positioned – in this context – what creates neither a straight line nor a clear geometric curve, but what constitutes a geometrical-like process of life and evolution. She plays with the weight of the substance and projects more or less regular and constant curves as well as definable ones. She creates forms of life, biomorphic patterns – Gestalts – in a tense relationship between name and object, movement and static stillness, solidity and liquid. She creates elements to be hovered and which are evocative of the slackness and lassitude of the body, even of a sort of sensual lasciviousness and desire which is certainely not characteristic only of the feminine.
The texture/ the touch
Working on the formal dimension, Belle Shafir also works on the facet of texture unfaillingly embedded in special material she uses purposefully. You might as well say with premeditation. Due to this amazing fibre, she reveals before us an experience which allows us to feel the sensuality of the material and, at the same time, the sensuality of the idea itself. She takes us to a place where, while we believe that we see, we actually touch, where we believe we talk we actually are silent, and where we believe to be mute, we actually talk. She permits us to experience a place where word and touch are interconnected. She allows us to be within the motion which brings the word and touch closer together, and in the end, allows us to traverse from one to the next. Stoke of genius, unquestionable master-stoke of cleverness.
The color/ the hues
So Belle Shafir decided to leave.
From her little Bavarian village she setteld in Israel
– in the Middle East.
Since then she did not stop travelling, moving, and expanding her worldview: India, Italy, France, Thailand, India again and all the Elsewheres. From all her travels – real therefore imaginary- from her forays out into the world, among territories, languages and cultures, she brings combinations of tastes, smells, sounds and colours.
FUCHSIA – GREEN
ORANGE – BLACK
BROWN – BLUE
RED – YELLOW
She invents a true alphabet made of emotions, correspondances and connections. She creates chromatic scales, many hues and signs which work as a tribute from an artist to another one, as reminiscent of Arthur Rimbaud’s poem “Voyelles”, which constitutes also an artist journeying around the world, around distant countries and mythical places. Though his travels are different from Belle’s, also stamp forever names of exotic places upon the consciousness.
From the first amazement of her first visit to India, Belle Shafir first discovered the power of the monochrome: an unexpected and paradoxical discovery. But it is in India she also came to realize the full power of colors and started harnessing them, using the power of opposition in their diversity, in their light, violence and contrast and in their infinite nuances.
The sound and polyphony
Like a musician, with the colourful purity of a virtuoso, Belle Shafir treats her colours like saying a rosary, like singing a psalm or a litany. She plays her colours the way a man plays an instrument. She uses repetition, but also points of silence, the interval, the emptiness which says nothing. She focuses on breaths and plays with the sacred word “Aum” whose power stems from its vibrations.
She is a creator who is enchanted with the variety of form, material and beat, as an artist who is in the midst of polyphonic work, and in research, production of nets, fabrics and tonalities. An artist who is both serious and childish, always alert, whose personal journey attests upon an eagerness to meet, an eagerness for hybridness, composite and for materials in all states.
So today with the needle, the thread and the fabric, Belle Shafir creates and displays her hovered elements in a surprising fashion in infinite space: elements which move from empty to full, from external into internal, the defined and the undefined, the abstract and the figurative. Thanks to the repetition of the same motif and same gesture, always the same and always different, she manages to turn centre into fringe and fringe into center.