Cubes 2010-2011

The Path to New Dimensions

Grid my world!
Cut it, bake it, rape it
Life’s a railway anyway
After all, palm trees have structure too,.

Of course the world must be tamed, the grasshoper said.
But I think
he was only joking.

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Das Vergehen

Fotografie auf Plexiglas und Objekte, 20 x 20 x 20 cm

The Insight Boxes and Insight Cubes of Ilana Lewitan

With her plexiglass image cubes containing sculptural objects, Ilana Lewitan has extended the presentation scope for painting by several dimensions. Already in her pictures painted traditionally on canvas, the artist repeatedly picked up on photographic base material. For instance, here she partially over-painted heavily magnified photographic motifs in a classic manner using acrylic paints – i.e. she superimposed a second painterly layer onto the printed base which we can already perceive and experience as an initial move into the spatial, into the third dimension.
It was therefore only logical for Ilana Lewitan to one day start giving her two-layer paintings some sort of background depth. She did this by no longer using canvas or some other non-transparent material as her basis but instead sheets of plexiglass – thereby making the background see-through, detaching it from the back wall, and bringing it forward into the room. This was how the first prototype Insight Boxes came about. Photographic motifs that were digitally processed in such a way as to take on painterly qualities were printed onto plexiglass sheets or affixed to the transparent surfaces in printed form. These partially transparent images mounted on wooden frames were then separated from the back wall by a few centimetres. The light caught in the gap behind the sheet decisively impacted the overall impression of the picture, giving the photographic motif floating in the space alongside the possible background objects a mysteriously vibrant sense of depth.
The further development of this approach with her entirely sculptural, cube-shaped image boxes – or Insight Cubes – took Ilana Lewitan’s step away from the wall into the space to its logical conclusion. These cubes made of plexiglass consist of an unpainted square base panel affixed with four vertical transparent outer walls of the same size, which like the sheets in the Insight Boxes, each bear photographic motifs digitally processed in delicate shades of colour, thereby shifting the image into the space in all four directions.
If one merely hangs the boxes on the wall one outer panel becomes the back wall; thereby playing merely a subordinate role in the spatio-pictorial context. Instead, what happens here due to the printed outer walls is that the miniature objects placed inside the cube, taking on shadowy forms or clearly seen in their corporeality as background beings, now blend with the pictorial action composed of different elements on each side of the cube. However, since each box has a basic uniform colour (and thus the transparent expanses of colour extend from one outer wall to the next) the observer is invited into a circular movement.
The third dimension, spatial depth, is therefore not only present due to the space-occupying plasticity of the plexiglass cubes but also emerges, even more so than in the flatter boxes, behind each of the sheets of glass. If the observer moves back and forth in front of the cube the successively arranged levels shift slightly against one another. This causes a shift in perspective. The three-dimensional composition starts moving – thus once again setting itself apart from the normal forms of image arrangement that merely relate to a flat surface.
Many of the photographs produced by the artist for the cubes depict shots of wintry landscapes clearly taken from a moving train which are in any case partially blurred; the photos feature pylons flying past in a variety of random, diagonally cut frames. When observing these fleeting landscapes we have not so much the sense that we ourselves are moving; rather that the depicted trees, fields and houses are being pulled away before our eyes.
This feeling of ephemerality or loss can give us the impression that Ilana Lewitan as a Jew wished, with this illusion of being swept away, to parenthetically allude to the sweeping away of the Jews in Nazi Germany. This is at least one possible train of thought in an emotionally very varied and colourfully mixed field of reflection dotted with irony and humour.
We are probably most likely to be confronted with the multiply interpretable metaphor of the moving train by the cube depicting landscapes on its outer walls yet containing two real model train carriages inside. This fictitious view out of the train window into the open space therefore draws us into the cube and towards a real train carriage inside it – which strongly reinforces potentially both good and bad associations. This means the cheerful motif of wanderlust and yearning for distant lands can most definitely also turn to more sinister thoughts, yet these do not dominate the more indeterminate overall impression.
The allusions to nature used in the photographs are also ambiguous. The bare wintery trees forbid any purely idyllic pleasure. The huge grasshoppers appearing to be stuck to the inner side of some of the walls seem almost uncomfortably oversized in the small cubes and relay a vital presence that also automatically leads to politico-social interpretations of the grasshopper motif. Yet arrangements of this kind do not force their message on us either; they remain playful and improvisational. In their stance they move unsentimentally within the poetic space like the two-dimensional paintings on canvas.
Particularly where the humane comes into play joking and irony are not far away. For instance, Lewitan used a photo a number of times in which she photographed herself lying in bed with her face in front of a mirror. The woman in bed and the camera directed towards the observer turn that observer into a kind of voyeur; something which suits the nature of the Inside Cubes perfectly: these half-closing, half-opening cubes seem to hide a secret or in any case arouse great curiosity in the observer; we might therefore see them as pictorial Pandora’s Boxes.
The diversity of allusions arising from the cubes is made clear when we see several examples of them hanging up on a wall. It is not only the outer surfaces that alter the narrative tone and colour since the artistic mini-arrangements made of found or created objects inside the cubes also each have something different to say. For instance, behind one of the glass walls appearing to give us a view into a bedroom we might discover naked Barbie Dolls. Unquestionably, these are to be interpreted differently to the tipped over doll’s house furniture inside some of the other boxes that indicates – in a playful and doll-like, slightly ironically intimated manner – the possible conflicts and minor or major disputes that are part and parcel of everyday human life.
The cubes develop their individuality most impressively when they are illuminated diagonally from below in a darkened room. Here they cast long, diagonal shadows onto the walls behind them. However, these shadows are not black, blunt and colourless like those made by closed, opaque objects. Instead, they are transparent and feature printed the photographic motifs and objects arranged inside them that are illuminated from below in graphically exciting distortions and also in the delicate tone in which the glass housing is encased. The illuminated cube and its shadow take on a magical air which is relayed directly to the observer.
And one other element contributes to the establishment of the plexiglass cubes as a genre in their own right within the visual arts. Ilana Lewitan had short texts by famous authors printed onto some of the transparent images. These are remarks which correspond in literary form to the poetically composed images or which detach themselves from the visually beholden world of motifs, thus allowing an element of resistance – which reinforces the prevailing secret even more and which also triggers contemplation in the observer and the reader.
There is a beautiful sense of autonomy about the Lewitan cubes and boxes, especially when we compare them to those paintings on canvas she produced at the same time now entirely dispensing with photographic elements: this new genre that assumes a painterly impact using photographic and digital means has now grown up and is developing according to its own rules.
The boxes and cubes have therefore not only found their own technique but also their own world of motifs – with the links to painting on canvas now severed. And it is in this same way that Lewitan’s Image Boxes also vibrantly set themselves apart from that intersection, found elsewhere in the world, on the borderline between painting and object art.
Gottfried Knapp

 

The Insight Boxes and Insight Cubes of Ilana Lewitan

With her plexiglass image cubes containing sculptural objects, Ilana Lewitan has extended the presentation scope for painting by several dimensions. Already in her pictures painted traditionally on canvas, the artist repeatedly picked up on photographic base material. For instance, here she partially over-painted heavily magnified photographic motifs in a classic manner using acrylic paints – i.e. she superimposed a second painterly layer onto the printed base which we can already perceive and experience as an initial move into the spatial, into the third dimension.
It was therefore only logical for Ilana Lewitan to one day start giving her two-layer paintings some sort of background depth. She did this by no longer using canvas or some other non-transparent material as her basis but instead sheets of plexiglass – thereby making the background see-through, detaching it from the back wall, and bringing it forward into the room. This was how the first prototype Insight Boxes came about. Photographic motifs that were digitally processed in such a way as to take on painterly qualities were printed onto plexiglass sheets or affixed to the transparent surfaces in printed form. These partially transparent images mounted on wooden frames were then separated from the back wall by a few centimetres. The light caught in the gap behind the sheet decisively impacted the overall impression of the picture, giving the photographic motif floating in the space alongside the possible background objects a mysteriously vibrant sense of depth.
The further development of this approach with her entirely sculptural, cube-shaped image boxes – or Insight Cubes – took Ilana Lewitan’s step away from the wall into the space to its logical conclusion. These cubes made of plexiglass consist of an unpainted square base panel affixed with four vertical transparent outer walls of the same size, which like the sheets in the Insight Boxes, each bear photographic motifs digitally processed in delicate shades of colour, thereby shifting the image into the space in all four directions.
If one merely hangs the boxes on the wall one outer panel becomes the back wall; thereby playing merely a subordinate role in the spatio-pictorial context. Instead, what happens here due to the printed outer walls is that the miniature objects placed inside the cube, taking on shadowy forms or clearly seen in their corporeality as background beings, now blend with the pictorial action composed of different elements on each side of the cube. However, since each box has a basic uniform colour (and thus the transparent expanses of colour extend from one outer wall to the next) the observer is invited into a circular movement.
The third dimension, spatial depth, is therefore not only present due to the space-occupying plasticity of the plexiglass cubes but also emerges, even more so than in the flatter boxes, behind each of the sheets of glass. If the observer moves back and forth in front of the cube the successively arranged levels shift slightly against one another. This causes a shift in perspective. The three-dimensional composition starts moving – thus once again setting itself apart from the normal forms of image arrangement that merely relate to a flat surface.
Many of the photographs produced by the artist for the cubes depict shots of wintry landscapes clearly taken from a moving train which are in any case partially blurred; the photos feature pylons flying past in a variety of random, diagonally cut frames. When observing these fleeting landscapes we have not so much the sense that we ourselves are moving; rather that the depicted trees, fields and houses are being pulled away before our eyes.
This feeling of ephemerality or loss can give us the impression that Ilana Lewitan as a Jew wished, with this illusion of being swept away, to parenthetically allude to the sweeping away of the Jews in Nazi Germany. This is at least one possible train of thought in an emotionally very varied and colourfully mixed field of reflection dotted with irony and humour.
We are probably most likely to be confronted with the multiply interpretable metaphor of the moving train by the cube depicting landscapes on its outer walls yet containing two real model train carriages inside. This fictitious view out of the train window into the open space therefore draws us into the cube and towards a real train carriage inside it – which strongly reinforces potentially both good and bad associations. This means the cheerful motif of wanderlust and yearning for distant lands can most definitely also turn to more sinister thoughts, yet these do not dominate the more indeterminate overall impression.
The allusions to nature used in the photographs are also ambiguous. The bare wintery trees forbid any purely idyllic pleasure. The huge grasshoppers appearing to be stuck to the inner side of some of the walls seem almost uncomfortably oversized in the small cubes and relay a vital presence that also automatically leads to politico-social interpretations of the grasshopper motif. Yet arrangements of this kind do not force their message on us either; they remain playful and improvisational. In their stance they move unsentimentally within the poetic space like the two-dimensional paintings on canvas.
Particularly where the humane comes into play joking and irony are not far away. For instance, Lewitan used a photo a number of times in which she photographed herself lying in bed with her face in front of a mirror. The woman in bed and the camera directed towards the observer turn that observer into a kind of voyeur; something which suits the nature of the Inside Cubes perfectly: these half-closing, half-opening cubes seem to hide a secret or in any case arouse great curiosity in the observer; we might therefore see them as pictorial Pandora’s Boxes.
The diversity of allusions arising from the cubes is made clear when we see several examples of them hanging up on a wall. It is not only the outer surfaces that alter the narrative tone and colour since the artistic mini-arrangements made of found or created objects inside the cubes also each have something different to say. For instance, behind one of the glass walls appearing to give us a view into a bedroom we might discover naked Barbie Dolls. Unquestionably, these are to be interpreted differently to the tipped over doll’s house furniture inside some of the other boxes that indicates – in a playful and doll-like, slightly ironically intimated manner – the possible conflicts and minor or major disputes that are part and parcel of everyday human life.
The cubes develop their individuality most impressively when they are illuminated diagonally from below in a darkened room. Here they cast long, diagonal shadows onto the walls behind them. However, these shadows are not black, blunt and colourless like those made by closed, opaque objects. Instead, they are transparent and feature printed the photographic motifs and objects arranged inside them that are illuminated from below in graphically exciting distortions and also in the delicate tone in which the glass housing is encased. The illuminated cube and its shadow take on a magical air which is relayed directly to the observer.
And one other element contributes to the establishment of the plexiglass cubes as a genre in their own right within the visual arts. Ilana Lewitan had short texts by famous authors printed onto some of the transparent images. These are remarks which correspond in literary form to the poetically composed images or which detach themselves from the visually beholden world of motifs, thus allowing an element of resistance – which reinforces the prevailing secret even more and which also triggers contemplation in the observer and the reader.
There is a beautiful sense of autonomy about the Lewitan cubes and boxes, especially when we compare them to those paintings on canvas she produced at the same time now entirely dispensing with photographic elements: this new genre that assumes a painterly impact using photographic and digital means has now grown up and is developing according to its own rules.
The boxes and cubes have therefore not only found their own technique but also their own world of motifs – with the links to painting on canvas now severed. And it is in this same way that Lewitan’s Image Boxes also vibrantly set themselves apart from that intersection, found elsewhere in the world, on the borderline between painting and object art.

Gottfried Knapp