A Delicate Discord

Written by Julia Scherer

The Al Ma’amal Foundation for Contemporary Art, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is an old tile factory converted into a contemporary art spaceno place could be a better site for Benji Boyadgian’s newest solo exhibition, The Discord, co-curated by Basak Senova and Jack Persekian.

good installation view
Exhibition view of The Discord at Al Ma’Mal Center for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem.

Boyadgian, a Jerusalem-based artist, started this project six years ago when returning to Jerusalem after studying architecture at the ENSAPLV School of Architecture (L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris La Villette) in Paris. Specializing in urban sociology in post-conflict areas, Boyadgian works on research-based projects, exploring themes that revolve around heritage, territory, architecture and landscape. The artist uses painting and drawing as the main tools in his practice, while often incorporating other mediums.

Benji Boyagian, watercolor on paper, from the Stalemate Series 2011 2017
Benji Boyadgian, watercolor on paper from Stalemate Series, 2011-2017.

The Discord explores patterns of classic decorative ornamental tiles, and while this subject has been explored frequently in Middle Eastern aesthetics, the artist’s approach is fresh and thoughtful, expressed using the fragility of watercolor. Watercolor exposes every content of the painting, with its incapacity to conceal neither the past nor mistakes. Assuming errors are a part of its conception, the original purpose of Boyadgian’s tiles becomes subverted, no longer simply coating another physical surface, but adding new stories to it’s history, layer by layer.

Benji Boyadgian, Untitled, watercolor on paper, 2011-2017.

In addition to paintings, a video and three installations at the Al’Mamal spaceand a fourth at a neighboring sitecompose the exhibition. Each piece Boyadgian presents is associated with and brings the tiles’ functions to the surface in an empirical manner: grids, expectations, layers, identity and multiplicity.  

Benji Boyadgian watercolor on paper Flower Series 2011 2017
Benji Boyadian, from The Flower Series. Watercolor on paper, 2011-2017.

When it comes to discord in Jerusalem, it is virtually impossible to just ‘be’. Every object or action is immediately filled with meaning and starts to symbolize an idea or an identity. Similarly, it seems as though no surface in Boyadgian’s exhibition can be left without a projection upon it.

Visitor viewing Cryptofsky, one of the on-site installations in The Discord.

The Discord attempts to defy subjectification by engaging the viewer into a visual conversation with the grid of the paper itself—sometimes letting this grid define the shapes at the forefront of the work, and at other times refusing to let them be limited by itas if the ink denies the possibility of such limitation.

Boyadgian focuses on surfaces in order to go deep beyond them in The Discord. For those who are willing to unveil yet another reality and layer of this city, are not afraid of it’s complexity—this exhibition comes highly recommended.

The Discord runs until April 28, 2017 at Al Ma’mal Center for Contemporary Art,  8-Al Jawalida St, New Gate, Old City of Jerusalem. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-17:00.

All photos courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation. www.almamalfoundation.org Facebook 

About the author: Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Julia Scherer moved to Jerusalem in 2016. Julia studied for her BA in Advertising from the University of Sao Paulo and works as a freelance designer and illustrator. In October, Julia will begin studying for her BA in Visual Communications at Bezalel Academy. Julia is a contributing art writer for CAIJ.co.

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