Carmel Ilan was born in Jerusalem. A graduate of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Israel, with an MA from Parsons School of Design, New York, she worked as a textile and furniture designer. After graduating from the Basis School of Art, she engaged in sculpture, and today works exclusively with paper. Ilan has participated in many exhibitions in Israel, and in recent years has staged solo exhibitions in Moscow and Tokyo.
Ilan’s striking works do not fall into the conventional categories of painting or sculpture, but rather lie somewhere in-between. Her flickering landscapes consist of dense rows of paper which she folds and fastens via laborious, patient work. The continuous lines that run along the work combined with the changing hues of the paper scraps, elicit a sense of constant motion. The borders between image and background, between the real and its silhouette, dissolve, and the alternately enhanced and fading coloration emphasizes the sense of transience.
The images seem to grow within a field of folded paper extracted from journals and books. Their reading becomes observation. Paper scraps which were once a tree resume being forest images, thereby preserving the sense of cyclical growth imprinted in their material memory. The works convey the affinities and interrelations between all that exists. The tree is made of “non-tree” elements: air, water, and earth. The boat has no independent existence without the sea, and all of these would not exist without our consciousness.
Ilan’s work is meditative. Her rhythm sweeps her into total practice. She weaves her images, which sprout and dissolve amid the paper folds, still unbound by fixed, concrete form. Coloration is also obtained within the monochrome; text becomes texture. For Ilan, the ability to endure the eternal permutations of the material and the images openly and attentively is the essence: “No man’s land is the place for me; a place without clear borders to define and delimit it. This is where I feel at ease, with no commas no full stops.”
The images in her works are inspired by nature; some are clear-cut, others abstract, but even the familiar image is charged with broader meaning, acquiring a rhythmic dimension and a sense of passage through time in her works. The unraveled edges of the paper remind us how fragile and gentle the paper is, and of its inevitable perishing.
Observation of the works requires time to absorb all their nuances. Ilan endeavors to slow time down, possibly even stop it altogether in both the process of creation and the experience of observation, to touch upon a timeless point which is, in fact, a continuous present. It is a moment in which knowledge rests within the endless space of the unknown, free from attachment, as a memory gradually dissolving in the distance. (Text by Shir Meller-Yamaguchi / Wilfrid Israel Museum)