Intricate Affinities: Recollections of Western Tradition in Local Contemporary Art

Curator: Smadar Sheffi 15.9.2016 - 24.12.2016

As in a typical triptych, whose three panels symbolize the Holy Trinity, Sasha Okun masterfully depicts man not as awaiting salvation, but as beyond despair. Verses from the books of Job and Ecclesiastes* are cited above the figures' heads, alluding to the Renaissance tradition of the use of script, while referring to man's carnality and mortality, and the discrepancy between intent and realization. In the side panels, where saints were traditionally portrayed, Okun poses coarse, wretched figures, with a decapitated chicken sold in discount supermarkets, rather than a dove as an embodiment of the Holy Spirit, overhead. The wretchedness of both figures and meat leaves no room for consolation. The chicken is grafted onto the head of a figure instead of a halo of sanctity, or held in the arms of another in a posture reminiscent of the Madonna and Child. Rather than a revered figure or an exalting scene, the central panel portrays a figure crying at an indifferent infinity. Each of the figures could have been Hanoch Levin's pathetic Yona Popukh (in The Labor of Life), who sums up his everso- precious ignoble life as follows:
"First I ate my mother's meatloaf, / then I ate my wife's meatloaf, / a few more meatloaves I'll eat in the hospital, / and then—lie still, rest— / at last, no more meatloaf. / That's the chronicles of Yona Popukh."
* "Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7);
"Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?" (Job 38:36);
"it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life" (Eccles 5:18).


Sasha Okun, Drowned Man Found, 2016, oil on plywood, 200x220, collection of the artist