Noon Leonard, an Israeli architect and graphic artist, bares her soul in a series of enigmatic paintings
As I’m sure you, my dear readers, realize, I am no art critic. I have never studied art and I have very little idea how it is made. When I am asked to write about an artist, I try not to read any background material about them until I have finished my piece. What I try to do is simply look at the photographs of the works I am asked to review and wait until I have something to say about them. This may take seconds or days or it may never happen, in which case I simply write nothing. I often get a photograph of the artist and I include it in my reviews because I think people are curious what the artist looks like, though I never think it has anything to do with their art.
Once there was a painting that looked to me very much like a self-portrait of the artist, and I mentioned that in my piece about her.
Of course, painting self-portraits is a time-honored tradition from Rembrandt to Van Gogh. It is a well-established genre of art, a subset of the genre of portraiture. As far as I am aware though, no artist has ever painted nothing but self-portraits.
When I was forwarded the works of Noon Leonard, I was struck by their graphic beauty, but I struggled to find any commonality between them. What I got were a few abstracts, a few masks drawn in the concave, three-dimensional Venetian style, and other masks that were geometric and two-dimensional, almost African. I could find no common motif; the artist left me no opening no matter how small through which I could penetrate into her world and say anything remotely interesting about her work.
So I was about to give up on this particular assignment, but then I took another look at a close up photograph of Noon. In this photo, she is hiding her face behind a Harlequin mask, the kind you can by in Venice for ten euro, with a rather deranged and disturbing smile clearly visible under it. And then it hit me. Noon paints herself. I mean whether intentionally or not, all of her art is a self-portrait. All her paintings are of her, they are all a deconstructed Noon.
Have you ever had a deconstructed dish in a fancy restaurant? Like a tiramisu, where instead of a hunk of delicious gooey mascarpone trapped between layers of lady fingers drenched in espresso you get a few miniscule items on a huge platter that are supposed to somehow pay homage to the original? I hate that kind of stuff.
Strangely enough, I do not hate Noon’s self-portraits. She is clearly a different kind of a woman and her paintings are a different kind of paintings. Unlike the deconstruction of a tiramisu, an action that removes the very soul and purpose of the dish rendering it inedible, the deconstruction of Noon by Noon results in something tasty. Her paintings are beautiful to look at, each one like a little window into her soul, though they are a bit disturbing, too.
I find myself wondering what is going on there, behind the scenes, but at the same time I am not sure I want to know.
Luckily, you can check out Noon’s work for yourself, as it is on exhibit at the Gallery 12 on 12 Kikar Kedumim, Tel-Aviv between November 30 and December 29th.