Gilad Efrat emerged on the Israeli art scene in the 1990s with monochromatic paintings of archaeological sites that deal with Israeli identity and the Zionist narrative. These were followed by landscapes of the moon and Mars, and, a decade later, by huge portraits of apes from the Houston Zoo. Efrat’s encounter with the paintings produced by these primates – indistinguishable from human-made art but for the fact that they were created without any awareness of the idea of art – was in many ways a turning point in his artistic development. After this, he abandoned figurative painting and began to engage in the essence of abstract art and pure intuitive expression through color and form.
Untitled XI (Thinking Path) and the “Darwin’s Thinking Path” series (2013–16) are based on photographs of the garden that surrounded Charles Darwin’s home in England, featuring a long path where the father of evolution liked to walk and think. The works, reminiscent of Romantic 19th-century paintings of forests, have completely lost their anchor in reality. Even the “thinking path” gradually disappears into a mosaic of color patches.
Efrat’s colorful and vibrant works, which resonate with the paintings of Hans Hofmann, Gerhard Richter, and other abstract artists, are the product of a strong, almost violent physical action. Viewers familiar with the artist’s early works based on photographs might think that they were produced by two different people. However, the portraits of the apes, and the conceptual process that accompanied them, offer a key to understanding the connection between these two bodies of works and to see them – on the axis of order and logic versus intuition and imagination, the conscious versus the subconscious, and the scientific and cultural versus the passionate and the wild – as two very different ways of understanding and describing the world.