Haya Heller Degani's works are not only transparent, but also fragile, vulnerable, eternally imperiled. Their ethereal-spiritual existence is dependent on the element of light, without which they would have been mute and melancholic. Her sculptures are like a polite and intimate, yet witty, well-formulated, and assertive, silent whisper in a world teeming with noise, lacking restraint, rife with temptations.
In the current exhibition Heller Degani presents several series in which human figures convey feelings, emotions, and mindsets. Each in its own way recounts a story, and together these narrative fragments reflect the spirit of the time.
In the series portraying children seemingly napping calmly, each is clearly hurt in some manner. The youngsters put their trust in us, the adults. With an innocent gaze they accept our words, and put themselves in our hands without fear, but we betray their trust and naivet?, exerting power-minded manipulations based on interests.
The series of indrawn female figures alludes to society's attitude towards women to this very day. Women are still considered lesser to men. In many cultures they are still regarded as the man's or family's property. They are enslaved, humiliated, murdered; they are used as a vehicle for propagation, are forced to live up to an ideal of physical beauty, and a glass ceiling is erected over their heads, which only a few manage to break.
Another series depicts human faces distorted by cynicism, sarcasm, or mockery. These are the three aspects of the Angel of History: past-present-future. He sneers and wonders: Is it possible that we have learned nothing and we repeat the same mistakes over and over again?
Some of the works combine everyday materials, which infuse them with an air of enigma and mystery. The works' appearance, materiality and mode of presentation endow them with an aura of icons or figurines from ancient cultures, like archaeological finds of a civilization long gone. At times they resemble relics of some tribal ritual in a secret cult to which the laws of art and the rules of commercial culture do not apply.
Heller Degani's works provoke the forbidden and dangerous, at times going to the edge. Researching and experimenting, she rubs shoulders with popular and personal sculpture, but the sculptures are nevertheless calculated and carefully reasoned. On the one hand, they are conscious and conceptual, and must be measured with such tools; on the other hand—one may also observe them closely, look the glass straight in the eye, and gain insight.
Asad Azi, May 2019