Friday, 13 September 2013

Fairy Tale Forest

Forests are the very source and the main setting of fairy tales. As Sara Maitland states in her book Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forest and Fairytales, “Forests to... northern European peoples were dangerous and generous, domestic and wild, beautiful and terrible. And forests were the terrain out of which fairy stories... evolved”. This could well have been the idea behind the creation of Steel Flowers and Trees Sculptures, a fascinating collection of works by world famous artist Zadok Ben-David, on exhibition at the Singapore Botanic Gardens between October 2012 and February 2013.

Born in Yemen in 1949, Zadok Ben-David soon immigrated to Israel and now divides his time between Tel-Aviv and London. Probably as a result of his Yemeni heritage in which oral tradition and symbolism play key roles, Ben-David’s eclectic art works cover a wide range of media and themes and show his particular fascination for magic and illusion as a means to challenge the minds of viewers to question the human condition and its limits. He is further attracted by innovation and technology. The title of his works and exhibitions are evidence of his taste, as is the case of his acclaimed installation “Evolution & Theory”, “The Other Side of Midnight”, “Magical Reality” or his record-breaking attendance show “Human Nature”.

Winner of a significant number of awards world-wide, Ben-David has dedicated himself mainly to figurative sculpture of monumental scale, using machine or laser cut metal as is the case of this exhibition “Steel Flowers and Tree Sculptures”. Comprising sixteen steel cut-out sculptures of figures, plants, trees or butterflies set out against the backdrop of the magnificent Singapore Botanic Gardens, Ben-David succeeded in creating a whimsical feeling about the scale of his works and their counterparts in reality.

Visitors wandering about in the gardens and staring at these graceful structures emerging from the natural foliage of trees and bushes into which they seem to blend could feel they were entering the realm of fantasy. In fact, the sculptures basically consist of the outline of what they depict, therefore “holding” within them the greenness of the garden and unfolding into different visions depending on the angle from which viewers look at them. This offers them an ever-changing sight that is bound to surprise and fascinate all.

Ben-David’s creativity dwells in the realm of fantasy and magic, while constantly questioning the absurdity and the hope inherent to human condition. Probably deriving his inspiration from the lore of his Yemeni roots, his artworks are not only powerful visual statements, but also lines along which our identities are tested, our ideas challenged and our emotions deeply touched.

All in all, we could say that Zadok Ben-David takes us by the hand and leads us in a journey through the “dangerous and generous, domestic and wild, beautiful and terrible” fairy tale forests of our childhood, where our innermost fantasies, fears and thoughts still dwell.

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