Malka Inbal’s Pathology of Rust | Review by Shirley Meshulam

by M.Inbal · April 27, 2013

Malka Inbal
Pathology of Rust


Three large garbage cans at various degrees of rust are strewn like nameless corpses in Malka Inbal’s dark studio. The rusty cans, unwanted, twisted and misshapen, are exposed as a pathological and final testimony of the existence of a life, now gone. The stains of rust, spread like bubbles on the surface of the metal carcasses, have sucked out what vitality remained in them, and are now left mute in their wretchedness, like persistent weeds stuck to the trunks of naked, ancient trees.


Inbal confesses: “The rusty cans entered my mind in a period of great happiness, salted with the fear that one day all this will end”.

The cans received an in-depth, meticulous treatment. Inbal constructed a complex array of shadows around the cans, lit the stains of rust through the spaces and photographed the projection angles she found best. After a long search, using light as a brush or scalpel, Inbal created her current series: Pathology of Rust.

A dominant characteristic of this series is its refined minimalism. It appears as through the background of the photograph was “cooked” like stock, its fluids shrunk to a point where nothing remained but a rich, dark, concentrated mass. Even though the photographs are direct, with no reflections, the results are abstract. Surprisingly, the metal carcasses turned black and disappeared in the final products, swallowed by the infinite, black background, while the stains of rust have become well lit, dynamic and ethereal areas. The optimal placement of light on the rusty metal and the texture of the rust stains vary from piece to piece. The material visibility of rust is revealed to have texture and volume. It is well lit and rich in warm hues: browns, reds, yellows and oranges. In several of the pieces, the beams of light emerge from the oppressing darkness, creating a dramatic atmosphere, while in others they slice through the black surface, imprinting it with shapes and action.

As we gaze upon these mysterious abstract pieces, we cannot avoid the metaphoric aspect of Inbal’s work; namely, her reference to existence as a powerful experience in the context of her choice of using rusty metal, and particularly to the phenomenon of rust itself, being the act of corrosion/destruction of matter and the creation of new matter in its stead.
Unlike her previous series, “And storm upon the surface of the deep…” (2012), wherein the minimalistic array of colors (black and white), also presented in different variations in each photograph, creating a metaphorical and contemplative connection, inviting the viewer to “stare” into the visual space, the parts of which echo of uncertainty, blindness, existential anxiety and the experience of the terrible storm that accompanies the experience of staring into the abyss, the current series invites the viewer to experience the mystery of existence and the simultaneity of rust and desistance.