Nocturnes – the Night Paintings of Suly Bornstein Wolff

Suly Bornstein Wolff’s recent series of paintings is inspired by the night. After having investigated such vegetation as Eucalyptuses and palm trees in the harsh light of her native Israel, as metaphors for uprooting and immigration, she dives into what seems to be her “Night Shift”, a wide series in which these two metaphors are reborn in the darkness of the night. As much as these paintings seem as Chiaroscuro investigations led by a virtuoso painter, they are also personal and autobiographic paintings, as this is often the case with Bornstein Wolff’s work.

A sense of magic, mixed with an unclear sense of threat characterizes these dark paintings. In some, one might feel trapped in a forest inhabited by fairies, as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Some branches or leaves shine in the dark but the source of light is hidden and its nature unknown. In others, a lonely palm tree stands in the heat of the night, its black or deep blue background scratched, and its branches enlightened as if the light is bursting forth from within. Yet in other paintings, the tree is accompanied by a group of houses, hardly seen as they are almost vanishing in the obscurity.

In art history, night nature paintings are not common, and are found mainly in the Romantic and Symbolic movements, but Bornstein Wolff’s paintings are neither romantic nor symbolic; they are mental landscapes in which she confronts her personal history and background. Nighttime is the time for reflection, a time of transition and in-between. It is the time of the lovers, but also that of the lonely ones. The paintings bear these notions and contradictions while depicting flora and habitat without any human presence, functioning almost as mirrors and objects of contemplation and meditation.

As such, each of these paintings is an invitation to a voyage. They are apparently closed and introspective, but the artist leaves a wide window open for the viewer’s interpretation, and some light to lead him through the darkness.

Ilan Wizgan

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