Fine artist Shira Toren’s work explores and defines a territory that is neither purely abstract nor overtly representational. Largely incorporating objects or scenes from our world, they undergo a process of obscuring, embedding, or encrypting by Toren’s hand to denote dignity or importance. These modifications create a vocabulary within an individual painting and across all her body of work, the elements of an elegantly altered sense of place, its language of emotions and its sensory architecture.
From the beginning, Toren’s materiality and process has been the point of departure and her eclectic method is unique to the artist. Working primarily on thick canvas, Toren applies many layers of gesso and Venetian plaster to sculpt contours and transform the canvas to a hard but malleable surface. Then, graphite marks, mineral ink brushstrokes and fields of graphite powder are introduced. Tonal, often monochromatic schemes, are created as she works and reworks, building layer upon layer, often carving into many layers, excavating the under-layers. Finished work emerges in the tension between subject and process.
Toren, as she embarks on her process with multiple subjects, effectively exerts her unconscious desire to create a safe place. There is a personal significance: born and raised in a place of political strife, wrestling with anxiety and fear, and inherited trauma of generations prior who faced wars and instability. The tension between predictable and unpredictable is exploited in her work and echoed in process, speaking to the larger global narrative and exploring how people process daily activities touched by fear. The influence of nature in her work, the importance of a microscopic detail or gestural elegance of a natural object can hold a space protected from pain even momentarily. The weight of her marks linger and exist in dialogue with pure emotion. The explicit tactile quality of her work, canvases that are worked from rough to smooth and silky, add another layer of safety and of reconciliation with unpredictable subjects.
Toren explores memory of childhood, through a motif of boxes and envelopes (Geo-Metrics series) and through the tonal deterioration of polaroids (Blue Ditto). She then turns her observation to the industrial shapes of city buildings: ledges, roofs, containers, old windows that morph into natural landscapes. Her Boat series is an expressive response to immigration through the lens of her personal experience and the larger narrative at play in current events. The Linen series is a repose, a grounding in texture and feel, elements of her life rooted in textiles. These works speak to the mental load and extreme stimuli that leave traces on our unconscious. Arranged with an eye to their interconnections and shared vocabulary, these series exploit their own lines of investigation: looking back, looking forward, looking at what’s known at hand, and looking within.
Shira's work is in the gallery May and June of 2018.