De Gelderlander “ Bezorgd over hoogmoed van mensen”

For Artist Ron Amir paradise is always close

The Artist Ron Amir paints like the old
masters. Nevertheless his work, bought by
collectors especially from England, also reminds one of video games.

In a folder lying on a table full of paint tubes, books and computers,
are dozens of drawings. Or, after a closer look: hundreds. Many of them
are full of stains. Some are folded and wrinkled.
But all are elaborated to perfection.

“Finger Exercises”, Ron Amir (1975) says in a soft voice, while he shows a
pile of charcoal drawings in his living and work space, a former football
canteen in Rotterdam. Those drawings mostly depict people who look like insects
crawling between one another. Also typically Amir: bloody body parts and
eaten animals. ”If you’re so browse
through it, it looks really dark. I fear a lot of things
will break
eventually.”

Amir speaks alternately in English and Dutch. After
his national service he left his native country of Israel in his early
twenties. With a clear mission: to become a
painter. Via Rome, where he specialised in the restoration and copying of old
masters, he went to Amsterdam, “because I distinctly wanted to go to the roots
of Mondrian

The move to The Netherlands meant more to him. Rome was a traditional
environment, where the presence of the pope and the Catholic Church were
strongly present.The move to the Netherlands was the moment I left the
tradition. Amsterdam, and later Groningen and
Rotterdam, offered me the chance to start anew. For me this is the land of Jeroen Bosch and Mondrian, and everything in between.”

Amir doesn’t like to be forced. What he does, is special and totally
unique. The thirty-year -old works stoically in
his studio on a just as mysterious and remarkable body of work that explicitly
engages with the history of visual arts.

Monumental and possessed

In his studio there are two monumental canvases,
of which the most recent one has been prepared for departure, Amir is in a good position because
collectors, especially in England, purchase his work in advance. The new canvas
is almost three meters long
, in a Amir’s
universe it’s a normal size; a few years ago he made a panel of five by six
meters.

His recent work looks quiet in comparison to his previous work. In the centre
of the canvas there is a table. It’s in the middle of
an empty, industrial-looking space. On the table: the remains of a meal,
cut-open game, guts and an abandoned penis.

Amir is not like the contemporary artist who links disinterest towards art
history to irony. He opts for monumental and possessed work. That method is, in
an age of computer art and video installations, not at all intended as anything
but a statement, he says. Amir can not and will not change. ”As a child, drawing for me was the only way to
really express myself. Don’t forget
: I’m from Israel. For centuries
depicting religious stories was forbidden in Jewish culture. I work from that
background. I’ve fed myself with Michelangelo, Bosch, Caravaggio.
As a kind of elixir of life.”

At the Royal Academy in The Hague, where he graduated in 2005, and later at the
Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, he was given “ample room to find
everything out.” He drew, experimented (‘really day and night”) and
developed his specific handwriting.

On the latest canvas in his studio untitled,
2010 – he worked eight months in a row.
This great format is, he says,
‘necessary’, although he finds it difficult to explain why. Just as he finds it
difficult to explain where the strong and bright colours come from, that appear
in his recent paintings. And no – Please do not ask him about one great hero.

Full of references

“I love the longing in the work of Goya, the conceptual vision of
Velazquez and the spirituality of Gauguin. But point one of them out as an
example is too simple for me. I experience art as one great story. It is, I
think, inappropriate to just tear out a page or a chapter from that story.”

His sense of history and natural drive form the basis for paintings and
drawings that are full of references. His art can be viewed as a miraculous
image search, in which the human condition is reduced to basic instincts. ”You can call it image search, or compare it to
Google, that is something which I often do.
The content seems endless.
Each image evokes a different one. Those images are hard to call cheerful. I
recognize that. But that doesn’t mean I’m angrily working. I have no clear
message or a complete story to tell. But I am
worried about the arrogance of people and
about how we have become
separated from our findimentals.”

He nods guiltily. When he talks about his work, big words always follow, and
that quickly sounds arrogant, he says. ”Let
me put it like this: I’m fascinated by the detachment.
And that
continues to grow because of a medium like the Internet. The boundary between
real and unreal can hardly be seen any more. Therefore
we are likely to forget what we can and can not do.
We
commit to things that are not possible. That makes one permanently
dissatisfied.”

The locations he paints, like the abandoned room
with the table, also reminds one of virtual spaces found in video games. The
environment is something desolate and menacing, and also quite tempting. What
happened during that meal, where gnawed deer heads and chopped-off legs remain?

”My work is also about how we interact with each other. I see it more as a homage to
life than as an attack.
In my paintings paradise is always close.”

Virtual space

When Amir took his exam at the Frank Mohr Institute, he presented an impressive charcoal drawing where naked and injured people, car wrecks and bleeding limbs form the
subject as well. “Ominous” is a qualification that I often hear attributed to what I
make also cheerless. I think of it as a virtual space. Let your audience go and form the truth as they like.”

Besides the monumental canvases Amir makes smaller panels, on which he
uses a more relaxed style. Here, animals are often the protagonists, but then in his characteristic style. In Amir’s
style a dog walks on two legs, like a wolf, crying to an invisible moon.

”Do not ask me why’ ‘he says, while he caresses his own dog, which he got from
a shelter. ”I work with total dedication. The content of my paintings is
unconsciously driven. Literally: from the subconscious. I look at life from an
imaginary point floating somewhere above the earth. Like I’m on another planet, and I’m trying to pin down the essence of
human existence.”