haunted environments

the "devil's train" at the amusement park takes its passengers along a route of irrational fear, excitement and threatening encounters with monsters, witches and devils, which are relieved only by coming out into the air again. 

"devil's train" is a magnificently appropriate title for the emotional environment shaped by miriam neiger. like the real amusement park train it threatens both with its "animal" and "trap" images, with its myriad of eyes watching from the "warning station", and with its unrestrained, harsh and disharmonic coloration which activates sharp color contrasts, usually lacking subtle transitions and which has an aggressive presence that is intensified by the spraying of industrial paints. 

but, on the other hand, the environment, like the real thing, is also attractive and enchanting, its attraction lies in its threat, as we enjoy fear, but also in the beauty of the color bath covering the walls, in the sensuality of its forms and in the magnificent decorativeness of the work.

like the journey on the devil's train, miriam neiger offers us a voyage between stations, it is an environment experienced as a whole but it should also be perceived as an event taking place in time. the spectator constructs the event internally while moving inside the work, in a process of an emotional chain reaction, this time element endows the environment with a distinctly theatrical character.

like in the devil's train the spectator is sucked into the environment, it envelops him, flings him from a color whirlpool into an unidentified animal bursting into space and from there into an amorphic "trap".

like the passenger on the devil's train,

the spectator of miriam neiger work is conscious of the artificiality of the situation, the images look like paper, cloth or tin stage sets, in other words, they are not "real", neiger's "devil's train" exists in the given and artificial context of art and does not present itself as "nature", it is even activated by artistic "laws" (color  relations, composition, volume/space relations), stylistically, it is a baroque environment. It is sensual, emotional and anti-rational, it is based on color which excites rather than on the defining line; the composition of its parts is open and centrifugal; the combination of painting and sculpture also agrees with baroque tendency to eliminate the distinction between the different art media; the artificiality of the work is baroque (one of the meanings of the term "baroque" is "artificial") and is reminiscent of environments shaped in the rococo style (are not the caves of the rococo gardens - those "grotti" - which did not lack threatening monsters, something like "devil's trains"?).

many of the characteristics of today's prevalent post-modernistic tendency in art are applicable to miriam neiger's work, from its irrationality, its affinity to baroque, its theatricality and its metaphoric quality, to its elimination of the distinction between painting and sculpture, like the post-modernist painters miriam neiger expresses emotional-personal events, attempts to stimulate the spectator's emotions, but does so without the element of the sensitive romantic exposure, the personal and emotional are strong and harsh elements in miriam neiger's work. and, like post-modernist art, the work has a local dimension: neiger uses forms which have Jewish associations (such as the pomegranate), names and images that are associated with local situations such as "warning stations", "love of homeland" (although this is not a distinct association and, her work is certainly not political in the usual sense of the term).

miriam neiger's work was born out of the principle of contrast: the contrast between attraction and repulsion, enchantment and entrapment, wildness and delicacy, violence and beauty, defense and attack, painting and sculpture.
yigal zalmona
curator of Israeli art
november 1983
The Israel Museum







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