Research - Amikam Toren / by Ally McGinn

Toren first worked as a stage designer before moving to London in 1968, moving to art after receiving a grant to study at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Some of the departments within the company seemed ridiculous to the Israeli born artist. (Baker, 2013)

Toren is drawn to conceptual art but felt that he wanted to create something that could be touched, something I can relate to in many ways. (Baker, 2013)

He created a series of large-scale paintings, each containing an abstracted letter formed with paint made from pulping an issue of the London times. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) This makes the materials hidden because without hearing or reading that story the origin of the materials is unclear. This incorporation of a hidden context within the materials is an interesting mix of conceptual and material.

 Amikam Toren (1992)  Of the Times - Thursday April 16th, 1992.  Pulped newspaper and PVA on canvas, paper and card. 234 x 219 cm.

Amikam Toren (1992) Of the Times - Thursday April 16th, 1992. Pulped newspaper and PVA on canvas, paper and card. 234 x 219 cm.

A continuation of this idea, which makes me happy in a way I cannot articulate, is what Toren calls a ‘pidgin’ painting, (Baker, 2013) (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) which is a stretched canvas with removed sections of the fabric, the removed parts are turned into a form of paint (using a coffee grinder) which covers the remainder of the surface. This relational and dependant narrative is a beautifully executed idea.

 Amikam Toren (2002)  Pidgin Painting (Yessss).  Pulped canvas, PVA and pencil. 71 x 59 Inches.

Amikam Toren (2002) Pidgin Painting (Yessss). Pulped canvas, PVA and pencil. 71 x 59 Inches.

In the early 1970’s Toren became obsessed with fragments, an obsession he claims continues to this day as a foundation for his work. (Baker, 2013)

 Amikam Toren (1975)  Simple Fraction III.  Glass, araldite, shelf, drawing. 36 x 64 x 9 cm.

Amikam Toren (1975) Simple Fraction III. Glass, araldite, shelf, drawing. 36 x 64 x 9 cm.

In the Simple Fraction series, he takes an object that has been broken and would be regarded as useless (or pre-use regarding recycling) in this case a broken milk bottle.  (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) Painstakingly reassembled the reformed object is displayed next to a drawing of the cracks formed. This series is an example of the multiple links found in his work. Like a fractal, the work speaks more the more the viewer looks at it. The white paper, the focus on the lines and marks in the drawing, the white shelf the bottle sits on, and the simplistic wooden frame all speak about links and meaning in the work.

 Amikam Toren (1979)  Neither a Teapot nor a Painting.  Installation, mixed media. 179 x 15 x 2 cm. 

Amikam Toren (1979) Neither a Teapot nor a Painting. Installation, mixed media. 179 x 15 x 2 cm. 

In 1979 he created ‘Neither a teapot nor a painting’ a piece invoking Magritte’s ‘this is not a pipe.' (Artsy, Undated) I now find myself stuck between which piece is my favourite depiction of this idea. Magritte for its originality and impact and Toren’s for the attention to materiality in the concept. Toren turned a teapot into the paint which he then used to paint an image of the teapot that no longer exists. The painting is displayed alongside one of the unwanted fragments of the teapot, placed in a pigment jar.  To me, at the moment, this idea and presentation are quite simply perfect.

"The drive," Toren said, "was simply to reverse the notion that in representation, the subject is excluded from its representation." (Baker, 2013)

Toren had no formal art education, instead, he worked as an assistant to another artist for a few years. (Baker, 2013) The artist, Peter Hesse, opposed the commercial side of the artworld, an opinion that stuck with Toren throughout his career.  Toren's work contains a dry humour which he saw as inevitable given that his work is about the deconstruction of the human condition.

When talking about humour, he said, "I don't seek it, because I don't want to be a kind of entertainer," he said. "But it matters to me to the extent it would have mattered to somebody like Chekhov, who wasn't a comedian, but there is a lot of humour in his plays because they deal with the human condition." (Baker, 2013)

In his piece, ‘One’ from 2014 a section of a primed canvas has been cut from the surface and stuck in reverse back onto the surface. Showing the reality of the object and its materials, a recurring theme in Toren's work. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated)

Toren worked on a series he called ‘Armchair paintings’ from the 1980’s. The set is composed of paintings purchased from street markets, which Toren then works on top of.  Adding a simplistic text style, each piece, and the resulting increase in the value of the artworks, speaks about the authorship and value of the piece, and of the artwork itself. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated)

Toren’s works as a tutor at City and Guilds of London.  On his staff page he says about his work; “Underlying my practice is the idea that representation is a tautology. (a chair would be made out of its own matter into a painting of itself). This position reverses the age-old maxim, which states that representation excludes its subject.” (City and Guilds, Undated)

His process combines a witty dialogue between accumulation and reduction, and I find I can look at it far longer than the work of some other artists. Each piece is a simple everyday object or idea, and the reduction and assemblage of information moves his work into a practice about language, meaning itself and our interpretations of it. 

 Amikam Toren (2012)  A User's Guide to Married Life.  Screen-print on Eco Craft 600 micro paper. 27.5 x 63.2cm

Amikam Toren (2012) A User's Guide to Married Life. Screen-print on Eco Craft 600 micro paper. 27.5 x 63.2cm

A note has to be made about his piece  ‘A users guide to married life’. (Artsy, Undated) Reminiscent of the simple, yet very intelligent, connections Toren is brilliant at making, this edition can be enjoyed for its simplicity or as a tool to explore more profound meaning. Which is probably my favourite thing about Toren as an artist.

The meaning is visual and brought by the viewer, for the most part. They will read this in a way that adds an element of mirroring of their own life.  Simple pictorial clues will mean different things to different people depending on what affect and effect marriage has had on their experience.

Reflection

It's obvious from the text how much I enjoy Toren’s work. The simple witticism of his work inspires me and is something I would like to capture, in my own way.

I've been inspired by Toren to disassemble canvas, physically. This began last year with fringing but I've begun to take it further with the aim of turning the material of canvas into a thick liquid that could be formed into a mold or reshaped.

Bibliography

Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : Neither a Teapot nor a Painting [Online] Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/amikam-toren-neither-a-teapot-nor-a-painting-1 [Accessed 18.11.17].

Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : A User’s Guide to Married Life [Online] Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/amikam-toren-a-users-guide-to-married-life [Accessed 18.11.17].

Baker, K. (2013) Amikam Toren finally able to live by his art [Online] Available from: http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Amikam-Toren-finally-able-to-live-by-his-art-5056227.php [Accessed 17.11.17].

City and Guilds (Undated) Amikam Toren : Fine Art Tutor [Online] Available from: http://www.cityandguildsartschool.ac.uk/amikam-toren/ [Accessed 17.11.17].

Jessica Silverman Gallery (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: http://jessicasilvermangallery.com/amikam-toren/ [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/amikam-toren-16792 [Accessed 17.11.17].