Art Collector Magazine Interview: Zadok Ben-David


17 April 2013

Zadok Ben-David’s current exhibition, The Other Side of Midnight, is the artist’s seventh solo show at Annandale Galleries. Art Collector interviews Ben-David about the direction of his latest work.


The centerpiece of your exhibition is The Other Side of Midnight, a large-scale work made from hand-painted stainless steel illuminated by UV light, the installation of the work involved painting the interior of the gallery black. It is not unusual for you to create work on this scale, but the use of paint and UV light seems like a definitive shift, what brought upon this striking introduction of colour?

It is true that this is the first large-scale installation being installed in a complete darkness. In the past, I worked with holograms and video installations that had been projected from floor and ceiling simultaneously, all required different preparations, but none had gone that far into total blackness.

The Other Side of Midnight deals with a theme of extreme, in order to maximise the effect I had to use glowing colours under UV lights in a complete darkness, any other colour on the walls except black might appears too bright.

In recent years the image of a human-butterfly creature has featured repeatedly in your work, given that in the past your iconography has related to a more clear-cut scientific source, where does this mystical hybrid find its origins?

It is the third decade that the subject matter of my works concentrates around the theme of human nature, (with the) human figure as part of our natural environment. Surrounded by natural species, like animal, plants or even invisible natural forces (like gravity and light, explored in the installation Evolution and Theory), all used as metaphorical images and tools to human behaviour.

In the 1980s, the sources of the metaphors in my works came from classic old fables where the animals behaved like human beings. In the 1990s it was
Magical Reality, involving hidden elements, anti-gravity and illusion.

In the past decade the work I am more concentrating on visible nature. Like trees made of human figures, or vice versa, human figures inspired by trees and vegetation. A similar kind of hybrid is being expressed now via combination of human and insects.

You have been quoted as saying you are interested in ideas around beauty and repulsion. In The Other Side of Midnight the two sides of a world (or moon) are presented, one side is tessellated with a brilliant and colourful collection of human-butterflies and the other a mass of beetles and cockroaches lit in a solid, luminescent blue. Delicate and lace-like in appearance, these two worlds appear to coexist on a knife’s edge, what inspired this pairing?

The Other Side of Midnight is a direct development from the Blackfield installation with 20,000 miniature flowers.

Blackfield is more of psychological installation, very moody, developing and changing while you walk along. It has also black and colour, symbolising state of mind, leaving a choice by showing both side of the coins.

The Other Side of Midnight is similar with its back and front presentation. Unlike Blackfield with its dark front, in this new installation the frontal side appears with an ultimate beauty, which immediately might turn into a nightmarish experience, hence the title of the piece.

We tend to marvel at the beauty of the butterflies wings ignoring the insects in the middle, while being repelled when the insects appear on their own, since they are lacking of visual appeal, here we have an attraction at first, then repulsion. Seeing the insects being presented in such a glorious glow make us think the opposite, a kind of curious and unexpected attraction to the ugliness.

Historically your freestanding sculptures have often involved a strong sense of grounding. Many have heavily foreshortened shadows rendered in stainless steel connecting them permanently to the earth/ground/plinth that they rest upon. The Other Side of Midnight moves away from this grounding to an ethereal, suspended double-sided tondo. The viewer is naturally drawn to comparisons with the moon and a mandala, is it an example of the magical or mystical becoming a stronger influence on your work?

My work is constantly moving from the spiritual and mystical to down to earth presentations. From floating to reflection. The total air space always attracted me more than the floor space, trying to ignore the restrictions given by gravity, wishing to retain the freedom that a painter has when using the canvas while confronting a real space.

The free-standing works are usually a study for the large installation, they are frontal like drawings on papers. Yet, the images stand on their own … (In The Other Side of Midnight) these two circles differ radically and symbolically from each other, just like the distance from air and ground, close, yet too far.

Hannah McKissock-Davis

Zadok Ben-David’s exhibition
The Other Side of Midnight continues until Saturday 11 May at Annandale Galleries in Sydney.