The Gaza War—Through the Eyes of Israeli Illustrators and Art Directors

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Detail from “Mr. Death, What’s Next?” by Gal Shkedi

With war raging between Israel and Hamas, people all over the world are bombarded with news images of destruction in Gaza and of international protests condemning Israel and/or posts in support of Israel. Seeing the conflict through the eyes of artists can give it a different perspective. Israelis are not of one voice when it comes to the actions of their government and its military.

Three years ago, Guy Morag Tzepelewitz, Ph.D., an Israeli art curator, began organizing the International Plain Notebook Project. He sent plain, blank school notebooks to artists around the world to transform into works of art. “The brief,” says Morag, is “to be totally free, to let this nothing of a structure inspire surprising and unique results.” So far, more than 450 artists from 45 countries have participated. Last September, 350 works were shown at the “Not Book” exhibition in Tel Aviv. A second exhibition is planned for mid-2015.

Israeli Notebook Exhibit Poster

“The goals are to show the diversity possible in art and to bring people together through art,” Guy Morag explains. “The notebooks are the cheapest, most common kind used by Israeli schoolchildren. I ask each artist—painters, illustrators, photographers, sculptors, video artists, dancers—to create a work of art with or influenced by that simple notebook. All techniques, materials and dimensions of work are acceptable, no limitations whatsoever. This project tries to capture the magic of a simpler, less commercial, era, to show that even the most ordinary of items can turn into an interesting work of art.”

Typically, artists have filled their notebooks with self-portraits, dream sequences, landscapes, nudes, children, calligraphy, abstractions, collages with photographs. In early July, however, the context changed for Israeli artists. This post features the work of four participating illustrators and art directors who live in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. For example, Ayala Netzer places her color drawings of Tel Aviv life opposite black-and-white drawings based on television images of the destruction in Gaza.

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Ayala Netzer,
born in Haifa, completed a BFA in video and documentary filmmaking at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, and is now studying in their MFA program.

“This journal is about my personal daily life experiences during the war in Gaza. Life in Tel Aviv has been pretty usual, except for the alarms and the loud noises from the Israeli missiles hitting the Hamas missiles. There is also always having to look for a place to hide if there is an alarm, especially when I am having fun, having sex, or working. While life here is almost normal, I am watching with horror the despair in Gaza, the loss of so much life and hope. I have drawn it from what I perceive is the viewpoint of the Israeli public: the greed to flatten Gaza, to destroy it, without thinking of the people there.”

Netzer 1 Netzer 2 Netzer 3 Netzer 4

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Eitan Eloa is an illustration graduate of Bezalel Academy. He lives in Jerusalem and works as illustrator in Tel Aviv.

“I like drawing fluffy-furry creatures, especially ones with beautiful tails. I have portrayed the two sides of the conflict as cats who are preoccupied with their own survival and with fulfilling their own needs—sometimes by playing games. War is tantalizing to humans, as to cats. Sometimes a bite follows a cuddle.”

Eitan1 Eitan2

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Gal Shkedi
teaches animation at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan and directs animation for Israeli TV spots and music videos. He was previously the senior art director at Israel’s largest advertising agencies, including BBDO and Grey, specializing in directing animation and illustration for TV, radio, print, and interactive campaigns. He is also a freelance illustrator for leading Israeli newspapers and magazines.

“These pieces are a reaction to the situation. I’ve been conveying my feelings and emotions, every day and sometimes twice daily. Sometimes what moves me is a headline in the papers, a sentence from TV, and sometimes just a general feeling. For example, the fake ad for the film about the tanks parodies a commercial for a Disney movie. ‘Cars 2’. Kids who live here, live in a complete different movie.”

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“People, put out a bowl of water for the doves,” reads the Hebrew above. “Help them peacefully survive these hot summer days.”

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Yinon Zinger
is a 2010 graduate of Bezalel Academy. He lives and works in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, involved in a range of areas from independent art exhibitions to graphics for the film industry and freelance illustration. He is a member of the cooperative Binyamin gallery.

“I have been using the notebook as a visual diary. There, I document in real time, narratives, thoughts, and personal feelings surrounded by background of a violent, collective reality.”

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Morag’s plan is “to create an exhibition to travel around museums around the world.” He is currently seeking new international venues for exhibitions.

Not Book Exhibition

“More than 40,000 people visited “Not Book,” an astronomical number for an exhibition here,” reports Morag. “We photographed each page of the notebooks and fed all the images onto iPads. Visitors could choose a specific notebook to flip through on a screen. Works also included sculptures, videos, animations, and sound works inspired by the notebooks. American artists who participated include Brian Cronin, Gorilla Girls, Barbara Nessim, Edel Rodriguez and Mark Ulriksen. A second exhibition is planned for mid-2015, to include 100 new works and 100 ‘curator’s choice’ works from the first exhibition.”

If you are interested in participating in the International Plain Notebook Project and receiving a plain notebook to work with, you are invited to contact Guy Morag at moragg@gmail.com.

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