Between White and Shades of Gray
In her figurative works, as well as in works bordering on the abstract, Malka Inbal creates a rich visual world, using a unique and complex technique. A characteristic of her photographs is the narrative undercurrent, applied with theatrical flair.
Already in the series Shadows in the Light, shown in the Israeli Photography Museum at Tel-Hai (2001), the artist was engaged in the relation between light and shadow, whereby her touches of everyday life raised an existential wonder about the variable and transitory representations of time.
In a later series, Unreal Illusions (2007), her ideas undergo formal abstraction. She is engaged on a study of the texture of form, in a close-up and illumination, applying an approach insinuating the social subjects which occupy her.
In the new series of black and white photos, the white color becomes dominant. The white, with its various representations, symbolizes a variety of cultural contexts which may even be contradictory – virginal innocence, spirituality and purity on the one hand, and emptiness, non-existence and death on the other. The white in Inbal’s works does not always stand for emptiness and absence, but emphasizes what exists – the space and the purity.
The white color extends here over a wide range of shades and excels in the textural richness which is attained using formal means.
By means of the various shades of white, the artist creates around her images a sort of theatrical set, a space bespeaking a vague sensation of passing time, on the border of dreams. The figures themselves are nude female figures, positioned by the artist. They radiate various states of consciousness and moods – from introspection and withdrawal and up to release and realization – from which arises a feeling of longing for something unattainable.
As in a theatrical scene, the artist builds up the narrative a series of events adroitly, using the overlaid color layers, through body language and the positioning of the model.
“Spiritual conditions go well with nudity”, says Inbal, for whom nudity is important. The nude figure is fragile, stripped down. The illumination of the figure plays between concealment and revelation and creates a multiplicity of layers and of shades of gray of high plastic quality.
Occasionally we see appearing a collection of cut frames creating visual tension and motion, whereby each of the fragments accentuates the quintessential representation of the figure.
The work in white opens the way for discoveries and possibilities. The white color as a leader of light, radiates a feeling of purity. The deliberately arranged photography with a model was carried out in a studio covered with white cloth. The illumination was carefully designed. In close-up work, “light is the main actor in my work, and helps me to transmit a feeling of layering and depth”, says the artist. And indeed, the illumination of the white cloth and returned from reflected backgrounds intensifies transitions, transparencies and nuances of color, whereby the shades of gray produce a kind of metaphor for the variable shades of internal emotion.
The figures and shadows merge in the shades of white, appear and disappear, misleading the viewer’s eye. In encounters between the white and the shades of gray hidden processes take place, which create a feeling of an indistinct motivation penetrating through all these transparencies, that reach down to the hidden layers of existence.
Irit Levin, curator