Between sooty garages and gray streets of southern Tel Aviv sits painter Leo Ray and creates his worlds. These worlds are colorful, humorous and disturbing at the same time. A Renaissance scribe writing a message (“You Better Send Me SMS”), a frightened cat standing on his hind paws (“Espresso”), a city in blue, a woman on a balcony (“Balcony”), this and that (and this and this)….
Thus is what he named his latest exhibition that will be opened at the end of July at the Hezi Cohen Gallery.
Leo’s speech is reserved, and so are the titles of his works. “This and This” is the title of an exhibition of an artist, a painter and calligrapher who uses the language of art, and not words, sentences or stories.
In a conversation we had in his studio, full of painted canvases and a harsh smell of oil paints, he explained the process of his work. “First of all, the format is important. I wanted to paint large canvases”.
Having established the size of the canvases (which had to fit through the narrow staircase leading to his studio), he began the process of painting. First he scanned his sketches which were drawn in black ink in his small sketchbook. He followed this by constructing the composition on a computer, like an architect builds a house. He chose his own drawings and quotes from the history of Art, placed them together and added colored stains to create a harmony which has the unity of time and place.
The large dimensions invite the beholder to a journey, but the power which radiates from the canvases originates not from their size but from the exact handling of the paint and placement of shapes and figures. Precision with a great spirit. Leo Ray applies his colors and shapes without being tempted by the contents or the subject. He is not out to conquer the heart of the beholder. He speaks the language of art (which may seem self-evident), however, unlike the majority of painters, his painting does not begin with a subject which is then translated into visual language.
Leo created his personal and complicated combination of figures, colors, shapes, blobs and lines. This complexity is shown in fascinating colors and in multiple characters, drawn in different styles and joined together by the artist’s hand. Surprisingly, the multiplication does not create jitter or discomfort. On the contrary, the variety and the quantity interlace into a balanced composition, which creates a fascinating visual encounter. A kind of collage, a fantastic, associative world in which the eye is attracted to colors, figures and lines. For example, the painting “English Red” is a view through the “windows” which are “torn” in the layers of the rusty-red color. The inspiration for this painting was a rusty and stained sheet-iron gate that caught Leo’s eye and heart. The “gate” allows the coexistence of the different worlds and unites them into one, like a building unites many apartments. There is a different world in every apartment, and we, the beholders, are viewing and seeing them. As in life, the simultaneous existence of parallel stories reflect the deep introspection into human mundane and poetic existence; the loneliness, alienation, silence, concentration, a smile, rain and humor.
The “window” of the bright yellow rectangle in the bottom of the painting arrests and leads the eye to the naked woman. Her wilted body droops as she sits immersed in her thoughts and scratches her leg.
The “window” in the upper corner above her contains a man drawn in lines, who may be absent-minded and may be smiling. He walks in the direction of a black area, which leads us to the rain, falling onto a house on the left and the black cloud from which rigid diagonal lines are drawn. As in the Jonathan Geffen’s story “The Sixteenth Sheep”, the green man on the right is from “another story” As it was said, Leo is not interested in the narrative, but in the end, the story emerges and the viewer is invited to devise it…