We had the good fortune of connecting with Gabriella Klein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gabriella, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Being a painter is all about taking risks. I grew up with artist parents and I saw how much of a struggle it was to “make it.” I always loved to draw, so I went to art school and concentrated in illustration, thinking it was a more practical career choice than the one my parents chose. During my third year at Massachusetts College of Art, I took my first painting class with the painter George Nick. His enthusiasm for making and looking at painting rubbed off on me and the other students. I love the medium of paint, the fact that a painting is an object tracing my movements over time, that I am part of a history of painting that dates back thousands of years. I realized that I did not want to create things to please clients but rather to challenge and please myself. Choosing a career as a painter, I took a risk that my art may not be appreciated, understood, or may even go unnoticed. It has been a slow path to receiving recognition, but what gives me real satisfaction is the making itself. When I work on a painting, I start with an idea or a vision. At some point during the process, I feel it has failed. Failure can mean that the painting is not more than an execution of the idea. In that case, I need to risk “ruining” even the parts of the painting I like, in order to make a better painting. For me, a satisfactory painting is one that contains a tension that involves risk.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I see a painting as a stage where I can create an imaginary place, mood, and drama, both monumental and intimate. I rely on my visual experience and paint subjects that are familiar, often domestic, which I have seen in a new light. I work in a variety of mediums, like painting on paper and canvas, wall murals, animation and recently, a book project. Each of these forms bring new ways of looking and questioning. My career path as an artist has not been smooth or easy. I made the decision to pursue a career in painting around the time I became a new mother. It has been a constant struggle balancing motherhood, art making, and income. All seem to be full time jobs. My decision had come in the early years of immigrating to Israel from the US, when I spoke very little Hebrew. Back then, I was making a living as a commercial muralist. For a time, I was resentful that this was taking away from making my personal work. I later saw it as an amazing learning opportunity, which led to ultimately integrating wall works in my own art. One of the best decisions I made at the time was to attend graduate school at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. It gave me the opportunity to be part of an art community and to exhibit my work. Since, I have exhibited in numerous gallery and museum exhibits in Israel and Europe. I have received prizes and grants and have attended residencies in Austria and China. With every achievement, I still need to make new paintings, which bring endless new challenges.
I am proud and pleased about my recently published artist book “I Am an Island,” made possible with a grant I received from the Israel Lottery Foundation. The book is a non-linear visual narrative, comprising images of people scapes and portraits of trees (and rocks) from works on paper I created over the last 4 years. Another highlight this year was Tel Aviv Museum of Art (through the Rappaport Family Foundation) acquiring my painting “Spooning” for its permanent collection, a kind of mark of recognition. I also have an upcoming solo exhibit, “Back to Back,” curated by Tali Ben-Nun, opening October 7th at Maya Gallery in Tel Aviv. I will be showing a painting installation that draws its influence from the language of film.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live 7 minutes walking from the Mediterranean, a peaceful escape from the chaotic streets of Tel Aviv. I would start the days off with an early morning walk along the beach. Then, we would go to one of the cafés in my neighborhood that combine good coffee, historical architecture, and contemporary art. The café, in the courtyard at Assemblage Hotel, surrounded by buildings from the 1920s, also holds a small art gallery. On another morning, we could go to the café at Liebling Haus, a beautifully conserved residential building built in the iconic international style, containing a cultural center with interesting exhibits. Each day, I would take them to visit a different neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Each area has its own distinct character and vibe.
We would go food shopping at the open Carmel Market on a weekday. For lunch, we could eat at one of the food stalls in the market or have a Sabich or Falafel on Tchernichovsky Street. On our way home, we’d stop for either an almond Granita at Arte’s or a pistachio gelato at Stefan’s, my two favorite ice cream shops in Tel Aviv. During the evenings, we could sit in historical Bialik Square with a bottle of wine or have drinks outside at my local bar, Geula.
We would also take day trips with my partner Dani, who is a professional tour guide, to historical places like Jerusalem and Cesaria, as well as nature trips to the surreal areas of the desert and Dead Sea.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents have always been there to encourage and support. They are my example of people who took the risk in doing what they love to do, even if it was sometimes a struggle. My two sisters are also visual artists, so I feel incredibly lucky to have a family that understands me and shares my interest in art. I have learned a great deal from looking at other people’s art, both contemporary and from the past. The list of artists who have influenced and inspired me is long. My partner Dani has been a huge support through the years. I am lucky to have him and our two amazing daughters, Lyla and Roni, who are my muses and often my subject matter.
Bar Gordon Elad Sarig