I'm reading
Rotem Reshef paints with an open heart
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Rotem Reshef paints with an open heart
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Rotem Reshef paints with an open heart
Pass it on
Pass it on
"I believe that when the painting is ready from within it will find its way out."
6 October 2014

Rotem Reshef paints with an open heart

Interview by Jane Nethercote
Photography by Youval Hai and Oded Löbl

To see Rotem Reshef‘s paintings is to fall in love. To see them again is to dive deeper and want to start swimming.


We first discovered Rotem’s work when editor Berry interviewed Shai Reshef, President of University of the People, for issue 41. The backdrop for the conversation was these luminous paintings, bursting with life. We wanted more!

So we put her art work on our walls. And then we painted Dumbo Feather issue 41 bright with her colours (you’ll see Rotem’s paintings throughout the magazine!) And then we asked her to guest edit our Instagram (starting 6 November).

And lastly, we wanted to know what inspired the person who inspired us. So we asked.

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.

Whose work do you admire? What inspires you? (It doesn’t have to be an artist!)

I observe the world through very visual eyes and an open heart. Therefore I find myself inspired by beauty I find in art and culture, scenery, language, thoughts and, of course, people. My first instinct would be to talk about art and artists. The large colour fields made by the American artists Mark Rothko and Morris Louis are among my favourites. Their art is a constant source of inspiration for me due to the harmony and depth of their paintings.

I love art installations that take the simplest materials and create art that blows your mind. For example, the installation made from index cards by Tara Donovan, Nancy Rubins’ large scale installation made from ageing rocking horses, or the very particular wooden security space and machines created by Roxy Paine.

Creativity is everywhere. A month ago I browsed a magazine and saw a beautiful work of art that was actually a restaurant’s dish plate. It was so inspiring, I had to go there and experience it in person.

Since I paint only when inspired, I believe that I should “collect” inspirations.

I can spend hours watching trees and plants off my window; more than once I’ve painted a gesture to their beauty. When I bike in the park or along the promenade in Tel Aviv, my head is clear, my thoughts can be carried away and I can let myself be part of the beauty around me. Once I let it in I know it will be the catalyst for something wonderful waiting to be created.

When I look at your work, it seems to have moved from more literal to more abstract over time. What’s moved you in this direction?

The longer I dived into painting, the clearer it became to me that even the minimal interest I had in the subjects behind the painting faded. Now I am truly devoted to the tools of the abstract painting: the colour, texture and composition—and their expression on the canvas. As I developed my technique I found that the lack of subjects and the abundance of expressions available for me as an abstract painter satisfy me completely. Nevertheless, although abstract, my works do contain hints of figuration, mostly organic, optic or nature-oriented.

What reaction do you want people to have when they look at your art?

I create powerful paintings that speak for themselves and work on all different levels. They strive to capture a moment in time and invite the viewer to examine them, their creation process and the story embedded within.

I am fascinated by colours and textures and open a window for other people to worlds of wonder and beauty, and to emotional spaces that hold excitement yet to be reached. I believe in experiencing art and try to bring this opulence to whoever sees it. My art does not require explanations; it either  “talks” to you and you experience it through your heart and mind or, unfortunately, you do not connect to its multiple levels, although you may always enjoy its beauty.

The curator Joshua Simon wrote nicely: “The colour in Rotem Reshef’s paintings changes one from a viewer to a seer. From one who relates to an object or an image, the viewer in front of her works becomes a seer. Colours, shapes, sizes and light appear in front of her.”

Have you always known this is what you wanted to do? Or has the journey been less clear?

Ever since I remember myself I was a very creative person. As a teenager I used to have exhibitions in my room, from a door I found, painted and turned into a ready-made object to an orange fishing rope I carried home from the beach and hung on the wall.

I spent hours on creating by myself and with the guidance of others.

Later, I loved art school and was among the students who were very much anticipated as artists. However, in my senior year I had some incidents with one of my mentors that came to a climax in the end-of-year graduates exhibition, followed by a long period in which I stopped painting all together.

Fifteen years later, in 2003, a burglar stole two of my paintings from my parents’ house. Nothing else was stolen! It was a sign for me that I had to go back to painting. I understood that while I was raising my kids and wondering what I should be doing professionally in my life, the answer was always there, waiting for me to be one with myself once again.

Moreover, I continued to develop as an artist even in the years when I wasn’t actually painting and to my great satisfaction and relief, I haven’t stopped painting since.

What does it look like when you paint?

Painting is an intimate process, ever changing and evolving. Being fascinated by colour and texture, I like to create in the optimal environment for these to be expressed on the canvas. I create by pouring and dripping diluted paint onto a moist canvas placed horizontally on the floor. I dump the canvas, all or in sections, and prepare containers of paint in different shades, condensations and textures. I paint intuitively, allowing the canvas to absorb the paint.

I need to be very focussed and attentive to the flow of paint sliding over the canvas to a stop. I work with transparent layers of paint, maintaining a balance between the intentional act of creation and randomness. Creating with partial control and great respect, I admire the magical shades and textures forming a unique visual world based on diluted paint, paint crumbs, feelings and perceptions – a microcosm of personal experience projected outward.

How much time do you spend on a piece?

As many things in life, it varies.

For me the creation of a painting doesn’t start when the paint touches the canvas, but earlier, when I was triggered visually by anything, from a dream to a scenery, and had the urge to express it on the canvas.

The actual painting process may take only a few hours but since the paint is in a liquid form, it keeps on moving for up to ten days. Painting with a lot of material but in transparent layers requires a lot of accuracy and pre-made decisions alongside with being open to the actual process which always brings surprises. Some changes and additions can only be made while the paint is wet while other layers need the previous paint layer to dry in order to be made. One way or another, the big question is deciding when the painting has reached its final state. I have to live with the painting until I know it is done or until I find what will be the next stage in its development. I have made several paintings that demanded a few years to complete, a layer at a time and months of searching for the next step in between.

It is very satisfying when a painting is done in one session of painting but it is even more satisfying to complete a painting after several years of making progress without an immediate resolution.

What’s home to you?

I would like to say that home is where my heart is. Of course home is where my family is but as much, home is at my studio, where I have created a place that for me is serene and safe, exciting and open, a place that lets me take my foot off the pedal and be at one with myself.

Home is a place I am connected to from inside, where I live or visit even for a short time but with emotional, cultural, social, linguistic, historical or other memory-based connections, that make this place dear to me.

What do you do when you’re feeling stuck as an artist (when you’ve got painter’s block)?

Since I paint only when inspired I keep myself away from painter’s block.

It seems to me that for painter’s block one has to be under pressure to paint or create but can’t. My whole perception of being an artist is different since I believe that creating art is not a job or a work to be done but an inspired expression of our inside being. Therefore, I believe that when the painting is ready from within it will find its way out. I do believe that once it is ready, it is a shame to hold it in and be distracted by other occupations than painting, since this unique experience might disappear.

What is next?

As an artist I would like to keep on creating, develop new concepts and reach more and more artistic peaks. I love painting but would like very much to do installation projects that will enable the spectator (and myself) to literally go inside the work of art and not only while diving into the painting’s depths.

As important is my wish to reach larger audiences around the world and make my art be a part of many more people worldwide. Due to the big time gap I experienced between graduating art school and returning to practise art and exhibit it, my artistic path was uneven and this is the time for me to fill this gap. If all goes well, I plan to have an exhibition in Australia in 2015!

Jane Nethercote

Jane has LOVED Dumbo Feather since she spotted it in the magazine racks at Borders. Most of the Dumbo Feather team would be too young to understand this reference. She’s worked in online publishing for a wee while at places like Crikey, Lonely Planet and World Vision.

Photography by Youval Hai and Oded Löbl

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