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On Esther Naor’s work Home

Rice is one of the most ancient cereals in the world, and one of the first to be cultivated by man. Thousand year old testimonies point to the fact that rice had been grown in various areas in Asia, grown in different societies which had adopted it as an integral and inseparable part of their culture and economy. In certain places rice is considered a gift from the gods to man, and man therefore treats it with respect and reverence. In fact, half of the world’s population depends on rice as a sustenance food, and it seems that there is no more important food product in the world.

Esther Naor chose rice as a central material and subject in her sculpture. This choice is neither incidental nor random; it has deep roots in human culture. But this choice is linked, first and foremost, to her personal life story and to her development as a person and as an artist. As a daughter to a family of Iraqi immigrants to Israel, rice had been a basic food in her home, and it is linked in her consciousness with the warmth, love and security of her private home, her childhood – a kind of anchor in a sea of childhood anxieties.

The variety of symbols and meanings found in rice, both personal and universal, come together in the artist’s work: she kneads the boiled rice and creates figures and parts of figures from it, as well as masks, building blocks, objects for personal ceremonies and geometrical structures. But the material struggles with the artist. It objects since it was not made for this. Its nature is to be eaten or to decay. Yet the artist does not give in. With different tricks she tries to fight the decay and to keep the material white and alive. Her work is a struggle for survival in which the borders between the artist and the material, the borders between the creator and the creation – are blurred.

In the OPENASIA 2004 project Esther Naor presents a large cube made of rice; an abstract symbol of a home that migrated from the western Asia, from Israel’s complex reality, to one of Venice’s serene avenues. A cube/home in human but minimalist dimensions. Its height is slightly higher than the average height of a person, its width slightly less than the length of an average bed. It has no opening. It is impenetrable like a riddle, devoid of all seduction. In this piece, the artist comes to contrasting terms, poetically and poignantly, with the ideas of nature and culture, east and west, home and uprooting, building and decay, life and death. What will be the life duration of this “home”? No one has the answer to that. The artist lets nature and people decide. Houses are fated to sink, houses are not fated to stand.


Larnaca Biennial of Art 

Larnaca, Cyprus

October 2021

Still on View

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