Sense of Belonging

A series by Reut Dafna

I’ve always enjoyed drawing people in a state of sleep, as their bodies rest, their souls free of earthly emotions. The tenderness that emanates from their peacefulness is mesmerizing.
Years of Sleep is a series of paintings that resulted from my attempt to hold on to those rare and magical moments of my children while sleeping. Eilon and Nitzan are two beautiful, active, intelligent children, and my greatest inspiration. They skirt around me, running and jumping, enveloping me with a presence that exudes innocence and sensitivity.
In my profound realistic paintings, they lie serenely as they float through open space; placid, relaxed, safe, and at peace.
During their waking moments, of which there are many, they have begun to display a steady interest in drawing, for which the walls of our home provide an excellent surface. So I prepared some paints and invited them into my own creations, where they made their personal mark. It was the most natural thing to do.
This wonderful combination of art gave birth to a unique series: their own work accompanies my soft powdered charcoal paintings. Side by side, our art shares the paper surface, where my children emerge as sharp, colorful, carefree; from place where judgement and self-criticism cease.

“Reut Dafna creates her art by means of a unique technique distinguished by paintbrush drawings using charcoal powder.
Her work is the result of a process utilizing slow movement and patience. The powder is especially fine and allows for a gradual build-up of layers until a realistic picture emerges from what was once an abstract sketch.
In the exhibition, Years of Sleep, the artist takes photographs of her children, with the intention of capturing the moment they fall asleep, and then adding further impressions to their serene faces and the way their bodies rest. The image undergoes an artistic transformation once the original background is replaced with an open, white space.
The images lie on beds that vanish as they evaporate into the gleaming, white emptiness, leaving a sleeping child hovering in the air.
The sense of floating emphasizes the feeling of transition between the mirror of reality and the realm of imagination. Dafna recreates the sleeping images to portray something imaginary, which disperses time.
Some artworks have the added element of her children’s drawings. The combination creates a bridging effect, and emphasizes the contrast between quiet, clean, and organized art and intense expressiveness with no defined direction.
The subject of sleep expresses the desire to escape to a dream world, yet it also serves as a place of rest for the body, where it can remain isolated and free from any pain.
Reut Dafna is a graduate of the Tel-Hai Arts Institute. She is a painter and teacher of art, which includes painting and drawing. Her works have been displayed in various exhibitions nationwide, and can also be found among the art of private collections”.

There is nothing more important than family. Whatever life may bring, whichever path we choose to tread, we always share the same blood. My family is a part of who I am; they are merged and submerged in my inner truth, my beliefs, and my mindset. Family lies at the core of my character, shaped by the values acquired from home. They are a part of my physical body, and the essence of the earliest and purest love that penetrated my being. They raised me; they supported and formed me. At times they have been the source of deep disappointment and pain, yet in overcoming the challenges and difficulties, they ultimately inspired me to grow, enabling me to become a better and wiser person; more whole. Each of my family has helped me in discovering more about myself, and I carry a special place within me for every one of them.

Over the course of my work, I developed a connection with Greek mythology. I made a decision to embrace my work with patience and serenity, working slowly and calmly, which created a therapeutic effect. Towards the end of my studies, the theme I chose for my final art project is one that is closest and dearest to my heart: my family.
I took paintbrushes to a large sheet of paper, measuring 150cm x 200cm, and filled it with monochrome shades of cloudy charcoal powder.
Each family member was fashioned by the contours that reflect their character, but with a twist. I present them in poses that counter their actual character – an attempt to establish a sense of balance for all.

Reut Dafna (b.1981) is a resident of Kibbutz Maoz Haim, and married to a third generation of one of the founding families. The paintings in this exhibition took two years to produce – 2018-2020 – and is an investigation into the character and core of the kibbutz. Dafna achieves this through illustrative adaptations of photographs from family albums belonging to the Dafna family and other kibbutz members, dating from the 1930s to the present. Dafna’s interpretation of the photos taken by Avital Dafna, her husband’s late grandfather, and others, conveys her deep desire for connection. She searches for a place of belonging and familiarity, to become one with the kibbutz’s roots, character, and spirit, which together form its very essence.

Her personal interpretations of photographed scenes are accomplished through charcoal powder paints on paper, and paintings that call attention to intense colors, which enhance the presence of gray monochromes, as they wax and wane, drifting around an axis of black and white. At times, they are compressed and loud, as if wedging in as much as she can to create a tight fit; other times, the viewers finds themselves facing a void: stark, flat, and mute, as if appealing to them to complete what had once taken place but has now vanished from the senses.
And what, if anything, has vanished? Could it have been a vision, already realized, and now lying broken and discarded? Was it indeed accomplished or is it still oscillating on its axis, ebbing and flowing like an unfulfilled dream? Innocent questions are raised and mounted on canvas.
A relentless process of pursuit, which begins with the basics – tangible questions concerning names and faces in the family albums – and then expands into questions of a socio-economic nature regarding the community’s past, the collective, the cooperative, values, equality, land, and Jewish manual labor.

Maoz Haim is conveyed as a mirror reflecting the psyche; an echo of the kibbutz collective whose exterior has met with change.
In one of the paintings, the year is 1971, and Grandfather Avital sits in a children’s park swing, his camera in hand. His image is almost transparent, as it recedes into a bubble gum pink background. On the other hand, kibbutz members are gathered together in the 1972 scene of Picnic among the Dates – a community partnership encapsulated in a single tightly-woven fabric. Yet another artwork depicts the late Ehud Dafna, and we recognize him as Hudi Hamudi, hu ben Avital, She’ela rishona et avihu sha’al… [Sweet little Hudi is Avital’s son He’s about to ask Dad question number one], the loveable child, who bravely fell in battle during the Yom Kippur War, and ultimately became a national hero.
The motifs appearing in the illustrated versions of the various time periods forge a connection between the egalitarian cooperative of the kibbutz’s early days and the present. Among the series of works is Climbing a Pillar, and indeed, Tug of War, in reference to the traditional, competitive game played on the kibbutz. The threads that combine to make up the rope, symbolize the collective. The course of the investigation reveals only partial answers to the questions. A community reluctant to uncover their past memories offers the artist but a fragmented glimpse, which is the only access she has to extract the insight she seeks, and a sense of belonging.

Exhibition curator: Nurit Tal-Tenne

Hudi Hamudi, written by Moshe Dafna, 1942