I N A .M E R H A V
S C U L P T R E S S
Enchanted by Iron – The Sculptures of Dina Merhav
Recently the Israeli Artist Dina Merhav participated in the Beijing Olympic Art Dream 2007, Beijing International City Sculpture Exhibition. Merhav's imaginative Totem (height 8 meters), selected for this show is an outstanding iron sculpture, constructed of three animal images one on top of the other. This work integrates into a sequence of sculptures which have preoccupied Merhav for the last decade.
Merhav's latest visit in Beijing was not her first encounter with China. "Apparently I was Chinese in a previous incarnation," she explains her deep interest and fascination with the land and its people. It was a year ago, in June 2006, when she was invited as special guest to the huge exhibition Renaissance and Rising, an International City of Sculpture and Cultural Year of Zhengzhou, where her sculpture Lizard was placed. Not long before, she was honored with an award together with her son Yaron Merhav, in the China Asean Youth Artwork Creativity Contest. Also in 2003 she participated in the International Sculpture Symposium in Yuzi Paradise south of Guillin. There she constructed two monumental iron sculptures, the inspiring Bird of Paradise (height 9 meters), now in Full Moon Park in Shanghai, and Fishing (Height 10 meters), a construction of a fish captured by a bird, located at the main entrance of Yuzi Paradise.
Merhav's first visit to China was in 1992. She was extremely moved by the shapes and colors of mountains, the picturesque scenery of rivers and villages, the hard working inhabitants as well as the rich artistic tradition shown in Museum collections. She than was convinced she would return again, as happened, and leave a small imprint in this vast land.
Dina Merhav is an international artist whose works are in public and private collections throughout the globe. Her sculptures can be found in Mumbai, India, Genève, Switzerland, Canada, USA and Europe. In Israel, her base and homeland, the sculptures are placed in parks, schools, industrial plants, and memorial sites. In particular it is significant to mention the Oil Refinery in the Haifa Bay area, the Merhav Nesher Industrial Park, at the Nesher Cement Factory in the northern part of Israel and in its other branches in the country where she constructed numerous sculptures.
It is worthwhile to confer some biographical notes on the artist. Dina Merhav was born in pre-World War II Yugoslavia to a Jewish family. During the war she escaped with her family to Italy and then to Switzerland, while her father served in the Yugoslavian army. In 1941, after the capitulation of Yugoslavia, he was imprisoned in a war camp in Germany. As soon as the war ended in 1945 the family reunited and settled in Belgrade. But not long after, in 1949 they immigrated to the state of Israel and settled in the vicinity of Haifa. Merhav graduated from the "Bezalel Academy of Art and Design" in Jerusalem, which was and still is the principal art school in Israel. For many years she practiced graphic design and developed a successful career. A turning point in her artistic profession occurred in the 1980s when she began to practice sculpture.
Since the early 1980's Merhav has directed her energies toward the conquest of a new field. She explored stone sculpture at Pietra Santa, Italy, where she chiseled blocks of Carrara marble – the mythical stone that is associated with the greatest Renaissance sculptors. The abstracted soft toned marble sculptures that she carved suggested organic and human forms.
Soon after, she was challenged to combine iron constructions with raw stones in large sculptures. This arrangement of stone and iron matched well the industrial surrounding where she worked. Since the mid 1980's, Merhav has been working in her studio located in the heart of the Haifa Bay industrial area, surrounded by aging factories. From this environment she drew upon her materials and inspiration. Her stone and iron sculptures towering to heights of 8-15 meters were inspired by the vocabulary of the industrial surroundings. In their simplicity and directness these works expressed an optimistic view along with energy and empowerment. They become a kind of alternative to the industrial landscape.
In the late 1980s Merhav turned to iron constructions with which her work is identified today. Indeed, industrial junk became a key element in her sculptures. In the junkyards of the industrial plants she found her inspiration. "I was totally fascinated by the magic of iron," she wrote. "Old rusted iron with previous life enfolded within, existing in its expressive power and richness of form." This attraction to iron came from deeper sources, having an intimate connection with her family's history. Since the end of the 19th century, the family owned a factory in Vincovci, now Croatia, which manufactured and traded stoves and agricultural tools.
The commission to install Wings of Peace (height 6 meters) in Genève (1998) was a breakthrough in conquering new horizons. The image of an angel, and in particular its enormous widespread wings became a recurring motif in Merhav's work. For the artist the angel symbolizes a basic human longing to overcome fear and the sense of vulnerability in our chaotic and hostile world. The angel directs us to Merhav's own yearning for a lost paradise. This idea was expressed in her Bird of Paradise which she created at Yuzi Paradise. The sculpture soars to heaven and looks out upon a breathtaking landscape, becoming a symbol of eternity, harmony and hope. Merhav's departure into the realm of phantasm and imagination as expressed by the winged angels is also apparent in the primordial and pre-human images. In her inventive mythological kingdom fish walk on the earth carrying birds on their backs, double headed lizards with extended tails sprout one on top of another, and strange birds with gigantic wings glide through the sky.
Connection with the landscape is essential for 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, industrial or natural panorama. Some of her sculptures are hidden within vegetation, while others become containers from which plants sprout. The connection with nature expresses the artist's search for the primeval and simple, which is sometimes missing from the complexities of modern life.
Dr. Irit Miller