How is our identity defined? Is it homeland, upbringing, religion, parent’s values, your own curiosity, all or none oft he above? We sit with artist Roey Heifetz in the hallways of Preview Art Fair to learn about his experience as an Ausländer in Germany, life in his homeland and what are the mysteries behind the faces he draws. The mystery, we found out, is not in those particular faces, but in the way he creates the tension of building up an identity from trauma, from displacement and from authority.
Heifetz refers to his homeland, Israel, as an energetic and harsh place, due to the circumstances everything, including Art, is always done with a sense of urgency. Arrived from Tel Aviv to Berlin over a year ago, he was a resident at Künstlerhaus Bethanien but has decided to remain longer in the city, to expand his horizons and "breathe.“ Life in Israel is not easy for an artist, he tells me. There is a lot of investment in Security and Religion but not in Art.
Artparasites: What is it that you try to show in your paintings?
Roey Heifetz: Well, there is a wound from the army that I represent in the body. The way that I present the people in the drawings there is always something ruining, something that is deconstructing itself. The trauma is there but it does not have a name. I draw a figure and play with it, and ruin the drawing. I try to deconstruct the face, it is a debate between hurting it and trying to recover it after that, a struggle, a fight. It’s admiration, on the one hand, I admire the drawing and the face but at the same time I destroy it.
Aps: What strikes you as significant from a face?
RH: The mouth is very important to me, the way women hold their mouths expresses their agenda. It’s all about details, for example you can tell a lot by Angela Merkel’s character by the way she moves her mouth. The other detail that fascinates me is hair: you can tell a lot of a person by the way they style their hair. Margaret Thatcher totally understood that. (laughs)
APs: Is there any particular female that acts as a stereotype?
RH: There is no particular woman, but they are always strong women. They are authorities somehow. I’ve always wanted to find "the" woman but I haven’t, I’m still searching. That is why my portraits are deconstructing permanently.
He reminisces his homeland as being warm and straightforward, because of this immediacy atmosphere they live in, everyone is more direct whereas here in Germany there is still a bit of distance and discretion with everything.
APs: Where do you think authority comes from?
RH: It’s definitely related mostly to emotion and character. I used to deal with teachers a lot, so I know that authority has to do with knowledge, but, at the same time, I believe the key aspect is power and emotion – it’s mostly irrational. They have knowledge but they don’t use it as power, they use emotion as power.
When looking at his drawings there is certainly a sense of despair and maybe even rejection. Representing such a painful process; the dynamic of finding yourself amongst what remains of your past, your desires and your background is not an easy exploration. Roey Heifetz struck me as brave and courageous for embarking on this search. When looking at his portraits, make sure to stare straight in the eye to find the sinuous way towards your own reflection.
Article by Sofia Martinelli