Cuturi Gallery is delighted to present Familiar Smells by Yam Shalev (b. 1996, Tel Aviv) marking Shalev’s second solo show with the gallery. Primarily influenced by the culture and surroundings during his journey back home to Israel, Shalev shares personal moments that have left an impression on him. In this new series of works, Shalev features still-lifes of plants, flowers and food where he could narrate his life story. Utilizing food as the main motif of his works, it represents the gathering of family and friends capturing the perfect example of celebration, affection and company. Being away from home allowed him to view Israel in a new light from the aesthetics, the cuisine, the culture and the warmth that comes along with it.
Currently residing in Berlin, Shalev, a self-taught artist, considers himself more of an observer than a participant and finds solace in capturing his surroundings on canvas and documenting intense emotional events. His love and passion for still life began at the ripe age of 15. Fascinated with objects that surrounded him and how they were organically arranged or presented, sparked his curiosity about how his environment affected specific moments, the mood, emotions and atmosphere.
With each show, Shalev starts his process by deciding on the themes he intends to articulate. He first composes each piece by making small sketches and once he has decided how each painting will look, he creates proper sketches in colour. When everything is in order, he proceeds to paint on the canvas. Often starting with a photograph as a reference point, Shalev came to understand that he had more freedom to paint the objects in his works once he was not dependent on photographs. Drawing influences from the neat painting of contemporary artists, Pedro Pedro and Guy Yanai, Shalev’s muse alters from time to time. He incorporates components from various aspects of life, such as music, poetry, movies and various people’s social-cultural behaviours.
The contrasting tones and layers in his works radiate life despite the absence of human subjects. His paintings have a dynamic visual quality, yet evoke a sense of mystery pertaining to the hidden narratives that extend beyond the canvas.
With the progression of his artistic practice, he made a shift from post-digital subjects to the current still-life. Shalev preferred a more sentimental approach to illustrating his surroundings, such as having family meals or sipping wine and smoking indoors. Through this painting technique, Shalev’s works begin to emanate an ardent quality. Seeking contentment, expressing sincerity and allowing his sentiments to develop spontaneously through his works are essential in his artistic practice.
Shalev plays with the viewer’s imagination by painting in a way that only provides them with fragments of the bigger picture, allowing them to fill in the blanks with their own narratives. Shalev is also interested in the emotional response one is transported to feel when gazing at his works, as much as his paintings are reflections of his surroundings.
Familiar Smells will be on view at Cuturi Gallery from 1 April to 14 May 2023.