Evocative Surfaces, a solo exhibition by Beverly Barkat at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani, features an extensive cycle of works produced at the artist’s studio in Jerusalem over the past ten years. Housed in different stanzas of the palazzo’s second floor, the works encompass large-format paintings and drawings along with site-specific installation work.

Entering into a close dialogue with the premise itself and its rich history, the works relate to the unique architecture and period furnishings of the palazzo, touching as well on the important collec­tion of art and archeology it houses. In their vibrancy, color and magnitude, Barkat’s works echo and accompany the rich visual scheme of the decorations and wall paintings, which celebrate the Grimani family and the Venetian Republic at large.

Barkat developed her unique painterly gesture out of a long and profound engagement with art history. Her continued observation of the tradition of western painting has accumulated in a body of knowledge that has found its way to her artistic practice. While rooting herself in the classical tradition, Barkat also takes inspiration from movements in Modern art, namely Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. If previous works of hers reflected genre categories in western painting – the landscape, still-life, portraiture and the nude – in recent years she has been shifting her subject matter to a subliminal realm of imaginary landscapes, rendered in a language of abstraction.

Her paintings, while abstract, nonetheless convey atmospheric landscapes, through expressive surfaces whose vibrant tonality generates a tempestuous existentialist drama. Despite the absence of a discernable figurative theme, the paintings carry the traces of a climatic eventuality in space and time – an eruption, cataclysm or energetic outburst that leave their mark on the painting’s surface as a fateful moment. Even when touching on the lyrical and poetic, they serve as arenas for research and experimentation, platforms for probing the interplay between color, tonality, line and texture – the main elements on which her work is founded.

To Barkat, the painterly action is a domain for expressing ideas that touch on the spiritual, on strata of the subconscious and mental patterns. The painterly action amounts, in her view, to an ‘active meditation,’ a liberated mental state that allows her to operate from a place of intuition even when relying on method and strategy.

Evocative Surfaces brings together a body of work that concerns itself with the intersection of old and new, with the coexistence of artistic genres and painterly modes of expression, and with a resonant interplay of surfaces, from the painterly to the three-dimensional. By creating an evocative space for this painterly encounter, Barkat’s work speaks pertinently to the present.


Sally Haftel Naveh