In her current solo exhibition, Anat Propper Goldenberg attempts to “close a circle” and sum up a chapter in her oeuvre. The beginning was in an artist’s residency in Athens in 2018, continuing the exhibition “Song of the Waiting Women” (The Gallery at Kibbutz Be’eri, 2022), and concluding in the space of the Negev Museum of Art.
The inspiration for the exhibit is the Canaanite goddess Anat, goddess of war, the hunt, and fertility. Ancient
sources describe her as having two aspects – both a strong, efficient warrior capable of defeating numerous
enemies who attack her simultaneously from all sides, and a peacemaker seeking to thwart the whims of her
Propper Goldenberg depicts the goddess in her aspect of peacemaker spreading love and compassion, as she
strives to shed the guise of the warrior. This reading continues the idea which was the basis of the “Song of
the Waiting Women” (2022) in which the artist appeared as a mourning woman telling how her beloved died
a senseless, bitter death. This was how Propper Goldenberg appeared first in her exhibition at the Athens
residency – as a character longing for her beloved and awaiting his return from war.
In the current exhibition, the artist attempts to create another language as a soft, reconciled worldview. The
artist and the goddess lay down the war bow; instead of an arrow in her bow, the goddess shoots a swallow, a
harbinger symbol of the beginning of a change. This is a new element in Propper Goldenberg’s world.
The swallow shot from the goddess’s war bow lands on one of the large discs standing in the center of the room
on the top floor, where few sculpted swallows stand on the lunar discs. The flock symbolizes the Kotharat –
Canaanite fertility deities worshipped as swallow figurines.
A “first swallow” marks a new beginning, like a newborn baby. The works in the ground floor hall transform
the space into a kind of huge shelter with an object looking like a campfire at its center. The “fire” is a source of
sound. The artist’s gentle voice is heard singing the lullaby set to Leah Goldberg’s lyrics, “Hymn to the Hyacinth,”
describing a dialogue in nature between the moon, the garden, rain and clouds.
Propper Goldenberg had good reason to choose this song about nature. The Pots of the works on view are
sculpted of natural materials using the sustainable construction style called “rammed earth,” using materials
such as clay soil, and gravel, creating a changing and varied surface. The delicate, three-dimensional sculpture
has a soft character in contrast to the hard materials from which it is made.
The material world before us is shaky and complex, yet simultaneously refined, resting on an abyss. It frequently
seems that the artist “redeemed” materials from oblivion or grabbed onto them a moment before they disappeared.
Propper Goldenberg, who studied ecology and sustainability more than two decades ago, thought it was suitable
to honor the geographical location of the exhibition. She studied local techniques and brought all of the materials
and installation crews who helped mount the exhibition from Israel’s South – from Beer Sheva to Eilat. Thus she
validated reciprocity, embodied in her call for a new society.
Propper Goldenberg, in her most personal exhibition up to now, brings an additional layer of intimacy to this
exhibition. In the piece depicting a kind of family tree, the artist shows manipulated X-rays of her late grandmother
as well as her own medical images arranged as a “tree” whose “branches” lead to two woven rugs that she made
from fibers she weaved. The ground loom is one of the earliest looms known to humankind, a system of pegs
and rods reassembled before each weaving project according to the desired length. This is still used at present
by Bedouins and other nomadic tribes to weave fabric for tents and carpets.
The connection between innovative technology, such as X-rays, with products of ancient industry is one that
the artist is constantly seeking. Here she strives to bridge different generations, to feel a sense of belonging to
herself and to her family.
Speech of the trees, whisper of the stones touches upon what Propper Goldenerg found difficult to verbalize or
define with a clear encompassing contour to mark and capture form. The culture whose coordinates are on the
map of her associations anchoring her artwork is the local culture resonating the memory of ancient arts. Propper
Goldenberg’s works are read as a critical observation of the unraveled concepts of Romanticism, Modernism,
and nationalism. In this exhibition
Curator: Nirit Dahan
Exhibition production: Michal Gitnik-Parmont
Be'er Sheva Municipality
Ministry of Culture and Sports