Natalia Wróbel is a Polish-American artist based in Amsterdam, NL. Growing up in California, she left home to study art history and studio art at Dartmouth College. Wróbel’s paintings feature vibrant palettes, undulating forms, and dreamlike symbols inspired by nature, ancient architecture, cosmology, neural networks, and infinite time and space. Her lyrical titles reference a keen interest in spiritual traditions and further invite the viewer to step into an alluring visual world that Wróbel believes extends beyond the canvas. As the writer W.D Richter wrote about her work: “Her most powerful work instinctively explores the shifting line between order and chaos and the battle between darkness and light in the worlds she creates...and the world we live in.”
Recently, Wróbel had the opportunity to travel to Tel Aviv, Israel to paint a public mural at Rena’s Art House, a hub for creative thinkers of all disciplines. Rena’s Art House, which was originally built for the booming textile industry in Tel Aviv, has since been reinvigorated to fuel a new generation of artists and creators. Wróbel was granted artistic license to paint the portico marking the entrance to the courtyard garden. Inspired by the tremendous creative energy in Tel Aviv, Wróbel’s mural animates this inventive space.
In anticipation of her work in this summer’s exhibition, Night Swimming, we sat down to chat with the artist. Natalia was eager to share her experiences from creating and exploring in Israel with us:
Abigail Ogilvy: What led you to Tel Aviv, Israel?
Natalia Wróbel: I visited Tel Aviv last year with one of my best friends from college and fell in love with the city. We stayed at Rena’s Art House by chance. I vowed to return soon. When the opportunity came up to return this year, I reached out to Rena’s Art House to find that they had become an art residency. One thing led to another and soon I was flying to Tel Aviv to paint a mural!
AO: What was your typical day like?
NW: I’d wake up in the morning, eat a delicious Middle-Eastern breakfast of salads, labne, za’atar and pita, and walk along Rothschild, a gorgeous tree-lined boulevard in the heart of Tel Aviv to Rena’s House. During the days of painting the mural, I painted for 8 hours a day in the blistering heat, listening to Four Tet’s new album, New Energy. It was a very concentrated experience. Rena’s House is in a busy central meeting point for creatives- artists of all disciplines, musicians, chefs, writers, coders, etc. People in Tel Aviv are very social and freely engage with each other- people would often ask me what I was painting and tell me what they saw. I loved these interactions and am grateful to have met so many beautiful, soulful people during my time in Tel Aviv.
AO: Did Rena's House provide structure around the specifics of the work you created, or did you have creative liberty?
NW: They gave me complete creative liberty. The owners encourage boundless creativity and make magic happen! They suggested that I paint this perforated wall/portico at the entrance to their garden courtyard. It’s the heartbeat of Rena’s House where people gather to connect with each other throughout the day. I couldn’t dream of a better spot to paint.
AO: What was your inspiration behind the piece you created?
NW: Location, location, location and the desire for peace. For the few days before painting the mural, I visited Jerusalem and the Negev desert, which were both transformative experiences, and explored the outdoor markets, beaches, music venues, and museums in Tel Aviv, sketching wherever I went and soaking up the vibe in preparation for painting. Ultimately, I wanted the piece to be vibrant and energizing. I chose to paint with a range of blue tones as a reference to the blue mosaics of the region. I painted the inner sides of the arches a vibrant coral orange to contrast and activate the blue and welcome passerby into the lush green garden courtyard. I wanted the feeling of walking through the archways to be akin to a transporting experience. I painted in my ‘Portal to Kairos’ Series style, inspired partly by botanical structures, partly by neural networks, but mostly by the idea of an entrance point into “kairos” or the supreme moment, where synergy reigns and serendipity is the norm. This is fitting for a place like Tel Aviv, where there seems to be a high frequency, palpable energy connecting everything and everyone. The painting is made of a woven tapestry of many disparate elements that all make up a cohesive, energized whole, which is a visual representation of a functioning, supportive community that I witnessed there, and my personal prayer for peace. In my opinion, the more diversity, the better!
AO: What was your favorite thing about Tel Aviv?
NW: The people! They are so incredibly warm and hospitable. People there are incredibly aware of one another, immediately coming to each other’s aid, personally escorting you when you ask for directions, welcoming you into their homes for water when it is too hot, and engaging in meaningful conversations from the get-go. Their authenticity and generosity is something I’ll never forget.
AO: What was your favorite aspect of the residency?
NW: My favorite aspect was the range of creative energy as well as connecting with artists of all kinds- street artists, musicians, sculptors, set designers, web developers, and painters. I learned so much about their experience living in Israel-Palestine as a creative, a place that is so contested and clouded with political controversy. The most important thing I learned is that most people want peace between Israel and Palestine. The conflict is not so black and white, of course nothing ever is, and there are myriads of incredible peace-making efforts spreading the message around the region. An incredible example is Yael Deckelbaum's music activism and her song, Prayer of the Mothers, which is the anthem of hope for the powerful peace movement, “Women Wage Peace,” a collective of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian mothers who are coming together and advocating for a non-violent peace agreement. Learning about this movement was my favorite part of my time there. You have to check out the YouTube video of the anthem- it gives me chills and hope every time I watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyFM-pWdqrY
AO: Did you do anything spontaneous or new during your time there?
NW: We went to the beach in occupied Palestine and floated in the Dead Sea, which is the closest I’ve ever felt to zero gravity.
AO: What will you miss the most about Tel Aviv?
NW: Aside from the food--which is hands down the best food I’ve ever had (think fresh herbs and spices, vegetable heaven, warm pita, and tahini on everything- I brought back a gallon of za’atar spice- amazed it went through security!)--I will miss the people the most.
Natalia Wróbel's paintings will be on view from June 7th – August 20th, 2018 at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.