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Large Sculptures

Small Sculptures

Merhav Iron Sculpture Garden - Ganey Tikva

Models, Proposals for Enlargement (1:10)

About the Artist

Basic Design & Development of Creativity

An essay at the 2nd international Sculpture conference, Changchun China.

Chinese Experience No. 6 - Changchun & Urumqi, China, Summer 2009

Croatian and Macedonian, summer 2010

Plans for China, summer - fall 2010

Chinese Experience 7 - fall 2010 - Tayshang and Changchun Symposiums.

Chinese Experience 8 - Winter 2010 - Tayzhou.

Chinese Experience 9 - April 2011 - Tsinghua University International Sculpture Exhibition, Beijing.

Chinese Experiance 10 - November 2011 - Wuhu - Opening Ceremony,

Photos from exhibition opening - Birds in Chinese - November 2012 Tel Aviv

Flying Birds, Exhibition in the Gliptoteka Hazu gallery - Croatia June 2013

Peace in Heaven, A memorial sculpture in honor of the victims of Holocaust in Djakovo, Croatia. June 2013

Vinkovci July 2013

Chinese experience no. 11 - Pingtan China International Sculpture Exhibition


Article: from Scrap Iron to Angels

Article: Memorial Monuments in Israel

Article: Enchanted by Iron

Article: A magical expedition to China

Article: Chinese Sculpture, Impressions

Publications: the weekly Croatian Magazine Gloria June 2013

 

Ein Hod 30890 Israel . // . dmerhav@netvision.net.il . ./ . Tel/Fax 972-4-9841136 ..// . Mobile 972-505-924748
. /.. . .. /... . . . /. .. .. ./ ./ .

Merhav joins Rogel Alpher to explain why she waited until 2010 to return to the town of her birth, and how she came to work in iron.
Click for TLV1 Broadcast

Dina Merhav

 

 

 

 

 

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More photo's of work

The Charm of Iron

"The New Iron Age," Herbert Read characterized sculpture of the second half of the
twentieth century.* By this statement he wished to emphasize modem civilization's
dependency upon metal and upon the discovery of new metallic elements. The functions
fulfilled by different types of metal in the processes of industrial development and
consumption, as well as in the arts, especially in sculpture, are significant. The artist
exploits the potential to be found in metal, its malleability and the relative ease of
working it-the possibility of cutting, welding, stamping, casting, forming, shaping,
fusing, compressing, making wires, rods and screens of metal, polishing and producing
different textures on its surface. Metal is accessible and cheap, discarded in every vacant
lot, attic, drawer, garbage can or municipal refuse dump. These are the broken down and
useless, outdated readymades: parts of machines, old cars, stoves, refrigerators,
computers, screws, nails, dishes, pots and pans, etc. This refuse -junk - is one of the
emblems of our urban consumerism culture. With the expansion of artistic experience
and the legitimacy of using "low" materials the use of junk in art work of the second half
of the twentieth century became widespread.
Industrial junk is a key element in the iron constructions of Dina Merhav. Since the mid
1980's, she has been working in her studio located amid workshops, lots filled with piles
of scrap, noises of engines and industrial fumes, in the heart of the Haifa Bay industrial
area near the Oil Refinery and the Nesher cement plant. Those two aged factories, with
their huge smoke spewing smokestacks, their dreadful, dusty gray boilers and curving
pipes became a sort of adventure park for the artist. From this environment she drew her
material, sometimes struggling with its shapes, sometimes coming to terms with them. In
the junkyards of these industrial plants a shift occurred in Merhav's work when she began
to create iron sculptures. "I was totally fascinated by the magic of iron," she wrote, "old
rusted iron with previous lives enfolded within itself, exciting in its expressive power and
richness of form." From the late 1980's she continually created iron sculptures. The
attraction of iron comes from deeper sources, having an intimate connection with her
family history. Both her father and mother's side of the family were manufacturers and
traders in iron from the end of the nineteenth century, and the family's factory in
Vinkovci, Yugoslavia (now Croatia) produced stoves and farm implements.
The iron constructions with which Merhav's work is identified today are the result of a
transformation that occurred in her professional career after long years of achievements
as a graphic designer. Her main area of activity had been in the industrial sector, where
she designed brochures whose purpose was to market various products: tools, paints,
foodstuffs. She also created emblems and illustrated and designed book covers. At the
same time Merhav was engaged in teaching graphic design, tried her hand at painting and
even published poetry. These areas of creativity belong to her past, a closed chapter after
she discovered the wealth of possibilities inherent in iron.

From the early 1980's Merhav directed her energies toward the conquest of a new field.
She studied stone sculpture at Pietra Santa, Italy, and chiseled blocks of Can-era marble -
the mythical stone that is associated with the greatest of the Renaissance sculptors. Those
were her formative years as a sculptress, where she first contended with the three
dimensional body, learned the secrets of stone - cutting, cleaving, polishing and
sharpening, and where she investigated the varied textures and possibilities to be found in
stone. From the designer's work - delicate and clean, alongside the drafting table with
pencil and paper, work which demands flexibility of fingers and palm, Merhav moved to
strenuous and dusty stone work. Here the entire body is in motion, using hammer and
chisel, the cutting disk and the polisher, by which the rough block of stone is worked.
Her marble sculptures of light and soft tones expose arteries, veins and capillaries in
organic shapes that in their wavy curves suggest human organs. In the stone works of
Merhav there is a clear tendency toward abstraction, and they can be interpreted in a
variety of ways. Nevertheless, there remains in them a connection to reality, whether that
is by association or by the title that directs the viewer in reading the work. Two
sculptures from this period are especially significant: The Cradle, (1989, p.), with its
flexible, flowing lines bring to mind the archetypal convex and concave shapes of the
sculptures of Henry Moore, alluding to internal organs. Contrast between its polished
surfaces and those scored with changing frequencies of grooves accents the effect of light
and shade and provides a unique texture to the work. In the same year she also created
Purification (p.), also of white marble, but in contrast to the fetal roundness ofCradle its
soaring shape cuts upward through space. The two sculptures were mounted in public
spaces, the first in a square in Kiryat Motzkin, and the second on the grounds of the Oil
Refinery in Haifa Bay. This fact signified recognition in Merhav's achievements and of
the domain that she had gradually conquered by her tenacity. Going out into public sites
and placing sculptures in parks, schools, factories, memorial sites, etc, became an integral
part of Dina Merhav's activity as a sculptress.


An additional transformation took place in Merhav's work when she was invited to create
two sculptures for the IDF Ordnance Corps memorial site in Netanya, in 1989. For the
first time she combined sizeable iron construction with raw stone. These works signify
her first encounter with iron. However, her move from stone sculpture to iron
construction was hesitant and gradual, and in her works she combined stone and iron,
nature and industry. The modem world of machines includes traces of iron tools that
served mankind from its very beginnings, and these reminders are also imprinted in
Merhav's machine sculptures. In her first works we observe the tension between metal
and stone. The crude, unconquered stone is confined between iron columns, presses down
upon them, or suspended, hanging from giant wheels, as in Encounter I, Eight (1990),
and Encounter III (1992), displayed at the Nesher cement factory (p.). The confrontation
between stone and iron expresses the essential quality and purpose of the cement factory.
Here, succumbing to an industrial process carried out by heavy metal machinery, stone is
finely ground into powder and dust, transforming it into building material. The
production process at the cement factory fits well into the Zionist ethos of building and
settling the Land of Israel, an ideology that receives symbolic representation in the
sculptures. In the simplicity and directness of their message they express an optimistic
and somewhat naive faith, but also strength and energy. The sculptures, towering to
heights of seven or eight meters, are fashioned from the lexicon of shapes taken from
their industrial surroundings, and in the confrontation-association of the sculptures within
the factory they become a kind of alternative to the industrial landscape. Hardness and
power are common to both iron and stone, and in their combination new relationships are
created: between the recycled iron wheels or columns, which acquire new life in the
sculpture, and the stone as a natural element; between the exact, clean and smoothed
industrial-geometrical lines of the iron and the crude stone; and between the dark brown
tones of iron and the light sand colors of stone.


During the decade 1989 to 1999 Merhav worked regularly within the compound of the
Nesher cement factory, creating iron sculptures, while the director of the factory, Yehuda
Izraeli, provided her with workers, production and lifting facilities. She also erected iron
constructions at the cement factories in Ramie and Har-Tuv. The giant stores of scrap
metal inflamed her imagination and served as inspiration for works such as Sun-God,
Rust Flowers, Alien, Iron Man and others that were erected in the Merhav Nesher
Industrial Park (p.). The industrial setting, the giant dimensions of the iron machine parts
that she used in the construction other sculptures, the heavy machinery and the male
company of which Merhav became a part, all influenced her works. Iron constructions
and especially large works displayed in open space are generally associated with male
sculptors. Among the well known sculptors of the twentieth century in this field are
David Smith, Mark di Suvero, Richard Serra and Alexander Calder, men who created
gigantic constructions that rose to great heights or spread out over a great area. In Israel
the most well known names in this area are Yehiel Shemi, Yigael Tumarkin, Menashe
Kadishman and Yaakov Dorchin. Giant metal constructions are not characteristic of
female artists' work, and it seems that Merhav not only became integrated into this male
domain but also appropriated it into her works. Her fascination with the properties that
are associated with male character - size, weight, strength, power, hardness, vigor,
courage, resolution - are apparent not only in her encounter with iron in the working
process, but also in the sculptures themselves.


Alongside constructions where the original identity of assembled machine parts relating
to the industrial landscape remains, Merhav also constructed sculptures whose parts
distanced them from the industrial mold. Unexpected arrangements of machine parts
evoke association to forms, at times threatening, at times grotesque, and to images of
idols or supernatural creatures, such as angels. In several ofMerhav's works the iron is
covered with a uniform layer of paint emphasizing the lines of the sculpture, which
acquires a synthetic and cheerful appearance. The colors of works such as Thinking Man
(1992, p.) and Figure (1993, p.) in shades of pink, orange, yellow and turquoise are
reminiscent of the artificial-technological-urbane coloration of Pop Art.
The need of Merhav to express messages in her works, to communicate with the images
of human culture is connected, perhaps, with her previous vocation as a graphic designer,
where images have a functional role. Likewise her inclination to use clear, definite shape
in her works flows from that link with design and the treatment of symbols there, where

shape is accented. Examples of this are the iron reliefs that she created, composed of
combinations based upon shape relationships. They are like iron paintings, where
emphasis is given to the arrangement of forms and textual qualities of the surfaces. This
emphasis upon shape also occurs in the furniture-like objects that Merhav created.


The industrial image and link to scraps of machine parts that characterized her "non-
machine" sculptures until the mid-1990's were gradually abandoned by the artist, their
place taken by structures of flat, iron plates, either perforated like lattices or left 'opaque'.
Iron's unique quality influenced the artist's spirit. Its primeval essence, heaviness and
roughness, its rusty texture and varied shades of brown endow it with an ancient
sensation and amplify its expressiveness. Its primal materiality in the bowels of the earth
is the epitome of its substance, stamped in its being, holding earliest memories. The
series of iron boxes that Merhav created are imbued with the essential qualities of iron.
The structures, closed and flat, lying on the earth or perpendicular to it, are objects of
thought or meditation, charged with symbolic and metaphysical significance. They are
storage containers or giant hiding-places, perhaps drawers, perhaps hollow cabinets. They
remain a mystery, concealing their secrets, the peek-holes or the gaping spaces within
them revealing nothing. These structures are silent presences, boxes, archives, store
houses, vessels that perhaps will be filled. The vessel is a charged archetype - an image
of the body, the home, the temple, the tomb, the world.


The image of an angel, or groups of angels is recurring in her works. Paradoxically these
winged and heavenly creatures, which by their nature transcend the force of gravity, are
grounded in her sculptures by their very weight. And yet, their desire to move, to rise, to
ascend is returned to them by means of the carriage or wheeled wagon that ostensibly
propel them. Angels are the messengers of God, His emissaries and agents on earth,
intermediaries between the lofty and the lowly, dividers of the spiritual from the
corporeal, and in various cultures fulfilling a religious necessity. ** Like magic charms
offering protection against injuries, Merhav's angels express a basic human longing to
overcome fear and a sense of vulnerability in a chaotic and uncontrollable world. They
illustrate the artist's own yearning for a lost Garden of Eden, a pacific and harmonious
world. Imaginary metaphysical and supernal creatures remind man of his temporary,
transitory existence on earth, raise him up for a moment, a split second, to sublime
worlds. In Merhav's sculpture Gate to Heaven (p.), erected on the campus of Tel Aviv
University as a memorial dealing with parting and death, "the fascinating point.. .is the
place and freedom of speech it gives to the open space," writes Mordechai Omer. "The
total sculpture touches upon the moment of being alone - the moment of absence,... an
interim of grace, a flash of memory that we want to treasure, to preserve.*** The wavelike
movement of the wings and their softened and rounded flow imbue the sculptures with
poetry, delicacy and grace.


The image of the angel, associated with myth, legend and religious ritual, is far removed
from tangible realistic experience and from rational, modem scientific perception. The
departure into the realm of phantasm and imagination is apparent in the animal sculptures
that Merhav creates. She draws her images from pre-historic creatures, from a pre-human
world where strange beings, monsters, and crossbreeds walked the face of the earth, flew
in the heavens, or swam in the depths. Such creatures represent a chaotic universe in the
process of being formed where no distinction has yet been made between the things
above and those below, between the waters and the firmament. In the mythological
kingdom that Merhav brings into being fish walk on the earth carrying birds on their
backs, lizards with double heads and long tails sprout one on top of another, and strange
long billed birds with gigantic wings glide through the sky. These creatures are distorted,
ugly, ridiculous, sometimes preposterous, sometimes threatening. They embody savage,
uncontrolled and irrational nature, inhabiting the imagination of prehistoric man. Fairies
and demons, spirits and devils hovered above him during sleep or wakefulness, stalked
his activities, penetrated into him, harassed, annoyed and tormented him in a thousand
strange ways.**** Such an imaginary world, arousing feelings of horror and fear, where
irrational elements burst in and take control, is shared by both prehistoric and modem
man. "The sleep of reason creates monsters," wrote Francisco Goya, a son of the Age of
Enlightenment, in an etching of his Caprichos series (1797). There he depicts monstrous
creatures — owls, bats and creatures from hell — coming from a world abandoned by
reason. Mankind aspires to free itself of these monsters, to exorcise them, and to make a
new start by returning to the Garden of Eden or to a Golden Age. This is also the desire
of the artist. She expresses it in her sculpture Bird of Paradise, erected in Shanghai
(2003). The sculpture soars to a height of nine meters and looks out upon a breathtaking
landscape, becoming a symbol of eternity, harmony and hope.*****

Connection with the landscape is of great importance to Merhav. Her sculptures are
placed facing the landscape - against a background of sky, grove, field and garden.
Openings appear in the sculptures, becoming frames through which we see the urban, the
industrial or the natural panorama. Sometimes the structures of the sculptures imitate the
shapes of the scenery, sometimes the sculpture is a line drawn in space. Some of her
sculptures are hidden within vegetation, while others become containers from which
plants sprout and develop. The connection with landscape, and especially with untamed
nature, expresses the artist's search for the primeval, simple and pristine, something
missing from the complexity of modem culture - similar to the primordiality of iron.


Irit Miller
April 2004

* Herbert Read, Modern Sculpture (New York: Thames and Hudson. 1964), 239.
** See: James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (London: John Murray, 1980), 16-17.
*** Mordechai Omer, 30 Outdoor Sculptures of Israeli Artists on the Campus of Tel Aviv University. Catalog (Tel Aviv University: The Yolanda and David Katz University Art Gallery, 2003), 42.

**** James George Frazer, The Golden Bough (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 633-634.
***** About the significance of the peacock, see: Hall, 238.

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