Ofer Lellouche was born in Tunisia, 1947. He studied Mathematics and Physics at Saint Louis college, Paris. In 1966, two months before his final examinations he ran away from home to kibbutz Yehiam in the Western Galilee, Israel. In 1968, during his military service, he suffered severe hepatitis which immobilized him for several months. It was during this illness that he started to paint. He first studied with Yehezkiel Streichman, an abstract lyrical painter, at the Avni Institute of Art in Tel Aviv. He later returned to Paris to study with the sculptor Cesar, At the same time obtaining a master's degree in Literature. His thesis concerned the work of Stephane Mallarme.
The late 1970s: Performances, videos, first self-portraits.
"A self portrait by Lellouche is not a portrait of Lellouche painted by Lellouche”
'A Tombstone to Narcissus', Lellouche's first major work, 1975.
"The way of lyrical and expressionist abstraction, using the metaphor of a painter painting an apple, was to erase the apple and concentrate on the page The way of new realism was to erase the page. I felt I had to restore the tension between the page and the apple, between sign and referent." "The work consisted of two parts: a randomly chosen rock, and a clay sculpture which was a portrait of that rock. The clay was to crumble in time, while the rock, nature, would remain."
During the coming years, working outside the mainstream of contemporary art, which determined that "painting was dead", Ofer Lellouche willingly went back to the sources of painting. He drew and etched self-portraits, first in a very expressionist way, using violent industrial colors, and then in a more classical way.
"A self portrait by Lellouche is not a portrait of Lellouche painted by Lellouche. I can paint you, eating or sleeping. I can paint
myself only while painting myself. A self-portrait is more the representation of the face of the painter, an attempt to catch the act of painting itself."
In 1979 Lellouche did a few Video performances related to the subject of the mirror."A self portrait on a transparent mirror" was first presented at the Tel Hai Museum in 1980.
"The paper is on my right, the mirror is on my left. I am the painter and I am the model. If the painter wants to change mirror and the paper are symmetrical. I started to paint directly on the mirror, using a transparent mirror and a video camera." something on the paper, the model changes his pose in the mirror. Often, the model anticipate the will of the painter. The way I place myself in the mirror, is as creative as the way I draw on the paper. A self portrait is always a performance. the mirror and the paper are symmetrical. I started to paint directly on the mirror, using a transparent mirror and a video camera."
Most of the tapes done in the seventies were erased. Recently the artist remade some of those video performances. During this period, the majority of Lellouche's work - painting, drawing and etching was dealing with the subject of self portrait.
The Early 1980s: landscapes
As the self portraits became more and more abstract, and looked more and more like a texture of some mountainous landscape , the artist began, then, to paint views of the Judean hills.
"More than to any other landscape, Lellouche keeps returning to the Judean Hills and especially to the vistas of Nes Harim. These landscapes harmonize restless powers of primordial spaces with longings that seek to arrive as a state of being at peace with their surroundings. From the hills that surround Jerusalem there rises a firm and uniform world of infinite spaces. The branching lines are presented as vague reflections of the forms of the hills, and the deep expanses are exposed in parallel to those successive levels of terraces which were built, so it seems, without any method. Even the radiant light of the gleaming white Jerusalem stone has been dulled, darkened in a way that seems to unify the natural and the artificial which seep into each other by means of common tones and parallel structures. These contrasts between contracting and expanding movements, between lights and shadows that continue to conquer each other and between the consolidation and the decomposition of the symmetrical structure, imbue Lellouche's landscapes with their intense sense of drama".
Mordechai Omer,"Striped bare before the exalted"
“In the 1980s I drew the Judea Mountains in oils and water colors, and I was in despair. Each time it seemed to me like a Provence landscape - too gentle, colorful and pastoral, instead of the luminous light of the Judea Mountains. One day, I forgot the plate inside the acid. The result was black, and it was then that I discovered how luminous can black be”.
“...A landscape is on one hand what one sees - a house, a tree, a particular light at a particular time. You have to measure the height of the tree in relation to the width of the house to understand the structure and architecture of the landscape, things like that. But a landscape painting is principally the impression that remains in us from that landscape as it appears to our eyes after we have forgotten its details, or as we might dream about it. In dreams a most precise image comes into being, without our being able to accord it an actual form.
I remember that during the early 1980s, I went to paint on the outskirts of Jerusalem. At first I painted the landscape in purples, in pinks, in all the colors I saw in the natural setting. But when I'd review the results in my studio later in the evening, I'd be disappointed. It seemed that the Jerusalem landscape could have been painted in the south of France; it didn't convey the incredible density of the light as I remembered it. Then I tried using white while painting the landscape. On my return to the studio it looked like bits of plaster. One day, by chance, I left a copper plate for an etching in the acid. The result was almost black. I was surprised to see how this black landscape brought back to me the memory of the brightness."
Ofer Lellouche “On Painting from Nature"
The late 1980s: Figures in Landscapes
Feeling the need to go back to the figure, in the mid-1980s Ofer Lellouche did a series of large-format paintings of one or two figures in a landscape. These included "Adam and Eve" (1984), "The painter in Judean hills" (1987), "Self-portrait at Sunset" (1990), and "Self-portrait in a garden" (1991).
""Since the mid-1980s, Lellouche has intensified the encounter between the self-portrait and the space it occupies. In canvasses such as "Figure in a Landscape" (1987), which were shown at the 19th Biennial of Sao Paulo, or in series such as "Self-Portrait at sunset" (1993-1994), the artist's 'psychological portrait' is positioned in front of backgrounds with a vast, panoramic depth of field. The inverse proportion between the figure and the background brings to mind the moving way in which Lellouche described Odilon Redon's portrait of Gauguin: "The figure in the painting by Redon is closed in on itself, introverted, pointed, opaque from a surfeit of existence, floating in a space that is endlessly disintegrating".
"Striped bare before the exalted", Professor Mordechai Omer, Chief Curator, Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
“Afternoon, at sunset. The roofs, the streets, the clouds, the reflections in the wafer, everything arranges itself according to a perspective that draws everything together to a single point. A point on the horizon. This is the vanishing point. In French it is called "the point of escape". The world escapes into this point. If I walk along the promenade, this point moves with me. This point is symmetrical to me in relation to the world. The world functions like a giant mirror and the vanishing point is my reflection and the decisive proof of my existence. Euclidian perspective is based on a point theory of the subject (meaning that the subject is a point, and has its absolute density). The eye-hole of Albrecht Durer's machine; or Leonardo: "It is preferable to paint with one eye than with two”.
Ofer Lellouche, Remarks
The Early 1990s: Back to the figure - The Ateliers
During this period Lellouche etched intensively, producing more than 600 etchings. He illustrated Stephan Mallarme's famous poem, "Un coup de des jamais n'abolira le hasard", and published books such as "Panim (faces)" and "Ein Karem". In the early 1990s, the landscapes which were background for the figures became more and more opaque till they develop into wide black surfaces. Then Multiplying the same figure on the same background he created "The Ateliers".
"Passing through Paris after the Gulf war, Ofer went to see the place that was Cesar's studio at the Beaux Arts. He found it empty. Nothing remained apart from some clay models on their bases. Struck by the profound humanity of these pieces, he decided to make a series of works that would remind him of what he had seen, while recreating the presence of life in Cesar's studio...
Pierre Restany, "Ofer Lellouche: The Hand that Thinks", Tel Aviv Museum Catalogue, 2001
2000: The Sculptures
Since the figures became more and more sculptural, and the background wider and wider, the artist went back to sculpture after an intermission of over 25 years. The themes which were developed along the years were recreated in three dimensions, such as the nude self portrait, the head, the head and the hand, the ateliers.
2000: Monumental Sculptures
"TWO", 2005 - The Israel Museum of Art, Jerusalem, Garden of Sculptures The theme of the “two” is present in the work of the artist from its very beginning, ('Tombstone for Narcissus', among other works) and in his texts, such as Numbers (A Sequence of Thoughts on Diana Michener Photography).
Basically, symbolism is about big issues (life, death, love, existence, etc...), and language, And about the impossible relation we try to weave between the two of them. Among all symbols, numbers are probably of the strongest ones.
One single object within a frame is, before it is the description or the representation of this object, a reflection about the signification of the number one. The One is the smallest quanta of perfection. Our understanding of the number One is linked to our understanding of our existence and of its uniqueness. I can figure out the signification of the number one when I shut myself off from the world. Then I have some kind of intuition of the uniqueness and the perfection of my own existence.
The "two" is double. Is it about a fracture or a link?
It is about symmetry and asymmetry.
Is symmetry between the world and language, between the world and the spirit, a fracture, or a link? Somewhere we all believe that Narcissus and his image were one.
TVI'A - A Head for Meina
The Hebrew word T’via has a double meaning: 1. Drowning 2. Print ,trace
The artist was commissioned to create a monument to commemorate the first massacre of Jews in Italy in the small town of Meina on the lake Maggiore He decided to make a 4,5 meters head looking at the lake where were thrown the victims.
"A Head for Meina" Short Film was made by Itay Vinograd and presents the process of Lellouche's work on the Meina Project.
“The landscape is one of the most beautiful in the world: wide, cadmium-blue skies, a smooth, green and violet lake and, on the horizon, an impossible mix of tropical flora and snow-capped mountains. It brought to mind Poussin’s painting of a breathtaking landscape with deep, dark tranquil skies under which a man runs, his face distorted by fear. Only gradually does the viewer see the giant, man-eating snake in the painting. At once, those deep, tranquil skies cease to seem tranquil. As I stood facing the magnificent landscape of Laggo Maggiore, which conceals this evil secret in its depths, I felt the need simply to place a stone there on the shores of that lake, as is our custom at grave sites. Then the head appeared to me, right there. I don’t know whether it was the head of a man or a woman. Its features had been eradicated. It expressed nothing, said nothing. It was just there beneath the trees, staring at the lake as if to say, “I am here” – and that’s all”.
Ofer Lellouche, 2009
The Ateliers 2008 2014
Working on large scale sculptures for a while, triggered his desire to work in small scale. He began drawing the statues in his studio space, within their natural environment, hence creating a series of small oil paintings and drawings, describing random situations. With the time , he felt the need to create something less arbitrary and commenced organizing the sculptures in variopus combinations on large papers and canvasses. At a certain point, willing to create a total experience he built a small model of an imaginary studio with sculptures inside of it and did a series of photographs, taking absolute control over the architecture, the lighting and the size of the sculptures. Those series were widely exhibited at the CAFA Art Museum of Beijing (2012) and the Hymalas Museum in Shanghai (2014).