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Venus Verspinnt,
Heinz Thiel


During the construction of this sculptural work, the artist had to listen to (and I was also involved in) a number of characteristics about the form:

The raw form looked partly like a cucumber form or like a zeppelin framework, later then covered with white fleece like a handkerchief mouse, a swaddling baby or just a cocoon. But the invitation to this presentation clearly stated that it would be a “Venus”. So misunderstandings were just a joke.

When an artist chooses “Venus” as one of her main subjects, she is certainly thinking of something different than male viewers or even male artists. "In the beginning was Botticelle," said with Belle Shafir, alluding to the famous "Birth of Venus" in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The familiar, hovering-devoted figure placed on the open shell by Boticelle—a display such as is described verbally and illustratively in the histories of Genoveva and others, naked on horseback, chest covered with long hair—this Belle Shafir reduces the figure to a symbolic elliptical shape. The object thus floats between Mae Weat's lips, transformed into a sofa, and the rough vagina scratches on walls and fences. It seems, as Belle Shafir tries to fathom just how much emotion the idea of ​​"Venus" can still endure today.

Since 1999, elliptical, vaginal forms have repeatedly appeared in Belle Shafir's work. They are the basic form of various Venus installations – dug into the ground in Scandinavia, placed on large brown sheets in Venice at the 5th sculpture and installation exhibition at the Lido, in Bonn and Emsdetten last year as feathered Venus in the heart of a labyrinth and previously placed in Israel as a thistle Venus in the landscape.

At the same time altars and labyrinths developed,

The three subjects are interwoven in Belle Shafir's work.

Under the heading:”The Path between a Maze, Sexual lust and Altar”, she writes:

“Our journey through life is an endless labyrinth in which we search for our way, our sexual identity and a way out of the walls that enclose us”.

Belle Shafir does not work with details in her art. She trusts the rough form, which is lovingly worked out, but therefore not broken down into small parts. In doing so, she also wards off everything narrative.

If narratives creep in, then in the drawings, some of which were created last year as sketches of ideas, some as playful further developments only after completion of the construction.

The circling, constantly repeating sequence of strokes creates an atmosphere that seems to suggest inner movement to us. The playfulness dissolves from the symbolic of the form. The drawings are livelier than the sculptures, objects or installations - they have movement.

The artist seems to want to grasp both: movement and static setting – flowing and resting.

Belle Shafir writes about the “discovery of a soft, feminine form” in the catalog of the exhibition in Bonn (which bore the title “Ambivalences”):

"Thoughts change, the being is forgotten, the form transfers its originality to me."

The form that shows itself in the work of art turns out to be the building block of the “artistic self” (in literature one would simply speak of the “lyrical I”).

Not only literature, but also visual art is a testing of possibilities for life, a life plan.

In her art, Belle Shafir questions essential expressions of human life: language (she developed incomprehensible language to find out whether misunderstandings can be avoided in this way), the expressiveness of hands and hand signals as a "tangible" connection between subject and object, the ego on the other, alien I, lived out nature (tree roots, dead branches, dried fruits). What has a connection to the living, to the forward-looking - that's how you can read their questions.

And with labyrinth, vagina and altar, she now presents a trinity that is literally bursting with symbolism. All three objects actually mean the same thing: the infinity of life, which is only guaranteed through death.

As a brief explanation: in Australia, the labyrinth is the path from life to death and from death to life - and that's basically also the case in Greek mythology: Ariadne enables Theseus to trick a trick with her thread, the To dim Labyrinth (by Minotauos). to beat. Before becoming the daughter of Minos in Greek mythology, she was a native vegetation goddess in Crete and the Aegean Islands.

The altar is the communicative hub between earth and heaven, man and God, and it is also the place where Abraham was supposed to sacrifice his son Isaac, who was then given a representative. The altar as a sacrificial block became the giver of life in the OT.

The vagina as the "gate of life" (seeds in - child out) underlines the understanding of the life-giver in the other two pictures.

The whole thing would be a bit flimsy if you wanted to boil it down to a woman creating a vagina symbol as an art object.

In order to be respected by the artist, one should address a level that is commonly ignored: the biographical.

Belle Shafir likes to hide behind the feminine private. On the other hand, she names the biographical very clearly if she can encapsulate it in a text.

Belle was born in Amberg/Bavaria in 1953 - a post-war child. At the age of 19 she left the city of her birth, childhood and puberty and emigrated to Israel (emigration seems to me to be the right term here compared to your IMMigration to Israel).

There are two notable passages in it: in elementary school a girl said to her "You are a dirty Jew" and her mother explained to her "She is a Christian and we are different". - Belle told me four days ago that she as child had not experienced anti-Semitism. But something was there. The second notable passage in the little story, which of course tells of “a girl” refers to the first love that is not tolerated at home – “We are different, they are different, you are not allowed to be with them. ”

Going to Israel meant (and quite understandably) a liberation from the tutelage of prohibition walls. After she had lived the normal adult life in Israel, there was again inner unrest in the story. The story ends with the sentence: "Suddenly she arrived to the land of colors and form, and she knew that she had found a new home."

Belle Shafir, who lived in Germany as Belle Berger, questions her life (probably also that of her parents) and has exhibited in Germany more and more in recent years. Maybe it's just a test of the new nationality "artist", but maybe it's also coming to terms with the adverse circumstances of life: Are there still roots today that can lie in the region, in life with neighbors, in history?

What Belle Shafir does is now known as the “Second Generation Holocaust Survivor”

Seen - which means: the children use art to formulate the problems of their parents, which they have always kept secret from their children so as not to burden them with them.

You can't run away from your own problems - that's not a realization, but this installation is a confirmation of it.

The simple is the difficult that has to be done. -To call something that depresses you by its name is an achievement in itself. And to recognize and accept the simple as its complicated message is an achievement that art viewers sometimes have to achieve.

In the years to come, Belle Shafir's art will become more complicated and multi-layered to the extent that it takes on its subject matter and perhaps does not look for "home" in ever new foreign places, but where one is completely at home - perhaps in the feminine , maybe in the historical, maybe in the tantric, the lonely meditation.

Suspended in levitation by almost invisible threads, "Venus" can rock gently like a baby, but she can also be caught in a spider's web. She is not independent, she needs “her surroundings”, a body in which life can begin again.

Curator Heinz Thiel, Hanover April 29, 2003

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