When looking at the paintings of Guy Yanai (1977, Haifa, Israel) a sense of recognition is perceptible. His subjects are extremely common, depicting still lifes of plants, living rooms, suburban architecture and sailing boats. He plays with simplified forms, uses vibrant colours and minimalizes depth. Structured in meticulously layered horizontal rectangular blocks or stripes, the linearly style of Yanai characterizes his works. Influenced in content and colour palette by modern cinema and a variety of notable artists of the 20th century as Henri Matisse, David Hockney or Philip Guston, Yanai borrows, appropriates easily from and is in awe and even confused (all simultaneously) by European visual culture and its rich heritage.
One of his most recent works, Modern House (2016), depicts a residence reminiscent of the Californian homes with swimming pools immortalised by David Hockney in the 1960s. Yanai has never denied the similarities and even embraces the comparisons. Still breathing the relaxed and sensual way of life of a sunny and warm climate, Yanai appropriates these Californian elements in order to create a more abstract and enlarged scenery. The architectural components of the condo and the swimming pool are less defined, accentuating the interplay of lines. Instead of the bright yellow and light blue of Hockney, pink, red and sea blue dominate the palette of the Israeli artist.
On the edge of figuration and abstraction, Yanai accomplishes to evoke nowhereness and timelessness in the portrayal of his subjects. Modern House is the perfect illustration.
Yanai’s paintings ‘End of Europe End of Europe’, 130 x 100 cm, (2016) and ‘Strange Plant’ (2016) were in the exhibition ‘GARDENING’ (held in 2016) at Flatland. Both works show plants in a pot, but these potted plants negate an easy reading and exemplify Yanai’s ideas of borders, geographical limitations versus artificial (man made nation and state borders), in this case the EU. (In ‘End of Europe End of Europe’ one leave is brown, casting a shade on the territory, or a shade on all things that go down hill). A highly topical subject that is enhanced by his technique of applying vibrant horizontal stripes that remind our current digital age of screens. The timelessness of oil painting technique however underlines the century old problems that have always characterized Europe or the notion of Europe, yet just as well its strength.
Guy Yanai was born in 1977 Haifa, Israel and lives and works in Tel Aviv. He grew up in Boston and attended Parsons The New School for Design, The New York Studio School (both New York), Pont Aven School of Art, Pont-Aven, France, and received a BFA in 2000 from Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. He has exhibited internationally in a number of institutions and galleries and has received special grants. Solo shows included ‘Ordinary Things’, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel (2015); ‘Battle, Therapy, Living Room’, The Velan Center for Contemporary Art, Turin (2013); and solo shows at Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv. He exhibited at the Armory Show and Frieze Art Fair New York (both 2016) and Art Brussels and Art Cologne (both 2017). In 2015 Artnet named Guy Yanai one of the 50 most exciting artists in Europe today.