Gideon Rubin

Posted: December 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’d like to think the figures in my paintings remind the viewer of certain people or evoke memories rather than portray specific identities.”

Gideon Rubin mainly paints with oil on canvas. He confesses he had always produced portraits. But at some point, the way he did radically changed. Nowadays he is famous for his specific portraits without a face – as if somehow erased – which allows the viewer to picture some features, or not, in an open way. His work stands between abstract and figurative painting and it deals with the notion of identity. The background is usually neutral and the color palette shows light tones such as sand, grey-blue, eggshell, tones that are considered as ‘natural’. You can also see the brush strokes on the canvas. Once you have seen a Gideon Rubin’s painting, you immediately recognise his unique touch the next time you are confronted with a new one.

He is also an avid collector, purchasing objects, vintage magazines and photographs in flea markets, antics shops, even eBay… He owns an impressive collection of old pictures featuring anonymous people. These pictures depict memories that are not his but he uses them in order to initiate a larger interpretation with a lot of different stories. It is amazing to see how easy it is for the audience to project stories or memories just by looking at portraits where a few details are missing. How relevant this is now, at a time when our faces are masked. Once the features like the eyes, the nose and the mouth are removed, the character can be anybody.

Growing up, art was no stranger to him as his grandfather was famous Israeli painter Reuven Rubin who produced a lot of landscapes in the fashion of Cézanne. He previously studied in Paris at the renowned Ecole des Beaux-Arts and he was among the few ones in the family to have survived the Holocaust by escaping to Israel. In addition to this, Gideon’s mother worked as a curator in the Reuven Museum located in Tel Aviv.

Childhood is a recurring pattern in your work as you often start with photographs of children from the era of the late 19th century. It shows through the attitude of the characters in your paintings: they stand quite staid, which is quite unusual today. Does the childhood era represent memories in your opinion?

I guess it represents memories or perhaps some longing to an analog world that almost doesn’t exist anymore. As I stated previously, you pick and collect old portraits photographs.

How much your personal history influenced this practice and your work ultimately?

I mostly use anonymous images. People I don’t know, it creates a certain distance that gives room to free the narrative, I find this a much richer experience. But of course everything is personal… so I can imagine this obsession had quite a bit to do with the loss of families and family albums all those years ago.

Among the numerous portraits, there is one that drew my attention a long time ago: it is a gouache on a magazine depicting an Asian woman, her features are actually quite visible, which rarely happens in your work. I noticed another one on your instagram account, it is the portrait of your daughter Ellie. I was wondering why you chose to keep the features for both of them.

I have some paintings with features. I don’t see a difference anyway.

Could you review your work in a critical way?

Hmmm…. sometimes. 

You sometimes make reference to Old Masters like Goya or contemporary artists such as Balthus and Richard Prince. I wonder what artists would you pick to be featured in your own hall of fame or museum of choice. In other words, what/who inspires you?

It’s a very long list of painters, poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, visual history etc.. its a list too long to mention but it does update it self constantly. We live in an image based society, it could be just random. Latest editions – pianist Glenn Gould and Hertha Thiele (a German actress from the Weimar cinema).

What is a typical day of work?

Drop the girls at school and then studio until dinner time. Kind of boring but perfect.

Do you have a special routine when working?

Espresso in the morning is a must. And every other day – a run or tai chi before I start my day. Music all the time.

You work with oil painting which has been used for hundreds of years and stands as the greatest media because of its durability and the way it enlights colors. But it also implies a slow drying-time. How long does it take to make a painting?

I am prolific painter and generally work fast anything between about a day and a couple of weeks. Also work with gouache on cardboard for quick small paintings.

What are your current projects?

My solo show in Paris ‘A Stranger’s Hand’ at Galerie Karsten Greve ends in two weeksIn 2021 I have two solo shows opening early February at Fox Jensen galleries in Sydney and Auckland and one at Ryan Lee Gallery in New York in October.. and a few group shows planned for LondonSeoul, Tel Aviv…

Born 1973 in Tel Aviv.

Lives and works in London.

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