In her A Story I Told Myself exhibition, Michal Sharan, an outsider artist, presents human situations fashioned in a childlike manner, and which unveil the artist’s soul and life to the spectator.
The epithet “outsider artist” defines an expansive genre which incorporates works created by unique autodidactic artists, with extraordinary life circumstances, and who work outside the sphere of institutionalized art. The term was coined in 1972 by art critic Roger Cardinal, as a synonym for the concept of art brut (raw or rough art) conceived, in 1940, by French artist Jean Dubuffet and which relates to direct and authentic art, such as works produced by children or by people with emotional difficulties. Today, artists working in the genre are appreciated, as indicated by the fact that an annual fair devoted to the sector has been held in New York since 1993. Works by such artists are also exhibited in leading museums around the world (there was an exhibition of outsider art in the Haifa Museum in 2013), and their works are bought and sold in arts markets around the world.
Jerusalemite Michal Sharan was born and educated in the neighborhood of Bakka. Her father died when she was 13 and she was sent to the Ben Shemen Youth Village. After completing her army service in the signal corps she took up teacher studies. She got married and gave birth to identical twins, Tal and Amir, in her seventh month of pregnancy. The twins were diagnosed with C.F. (cystic fibrosis). From that moment, until the twins’ death in their 20s, Michal’s life revolved around their disease and she had to forgo any activity not related to them. She also got divorced from the twins’ father and, during the tough period which preceded the twins’ death, she contracted cancer and underwent a period of difficult treatment. Following the death of the twins Michal began to nurture her creativity which had been bottled up inside her all those years. She participated in various kinds of arts workshops. After an unsuccessful attempt at painting through observation, Michal realized that she had to find her own way, to work through her instinct and intuition – as she puts it, “straight from the heart”.
The naïve appearance which characterizes Sharan’s work brings her into line with an artistic movement whose leading exponents include the likes of European artists Paul Klee and Joan Miró, and Israeli artists Arieh Aroch and Raffi Lavie, whose principal source of inspiration was children’s drawings. However, unlike these artists who consciously elected to work in the style, and conveyed the special esthetics in their works in a measured and calculated way, Sharan’s works were created with frankness and with spontaneous emotional outpourings. Although Sharan’s oeuvre may give the impression of a childlike approach, some of her works are also reminiscent of paintings made by adolescents.
Sharan’s colorful works take in a wide range of subject matter. Her paintings sometimes give the impression of tattiness, due to the fact that the base material has been reused. These are generally paintings that were thrown away by the original owners, and traces of the old works peep through the layers of the upper work. The subject matter Sharan addresses relate to the woman’s life domain, childhood, adulthood, sisterhood, relationships, family, motherhood and death, as well as emotions such as loneliness, sadness, dread, the desire to escape and emotional upheaval.
The sense of density and intensity that runs through the exhibition is enhanced by recurring images such as a suitcase, which symbolizes a desire to run away, or the image of the woman as a vessel which indicates her role as a creator of life, and a bearer of this heavy responsibility. Some of Sharan’s works feature images in water, like marine life or, possibly, like embryos floating in amniotic fluid. In one work, the figures look like fish snared in a net, where the water may symbolize the world of emotion or, in this case, emotional overload.
Should you wish to purchase any of the works please contact the artist, on: 972-54-3422524, or [email protected] or visit her website: