How do we reconcile the intensity of emotions that seek to break the confines of our bodily forms? This question becomes central to the artistic practice of Shahar Sivan. The Haifa-based Israeli artist constructs empowering manifestations of the feelings we keep concealed from the naked eye in works of art composed of raw and unfettered expression…
Interview with Shahar Sivan
Experience our visit to Sivan’s studio in Haifa ahead of his online exhibition. The entry is unforgettable: Sivan works in a space that seamlessly blends artistic expression with social and cultural interactions, making the studio a vibrant hub in Haifa’s art and culture scene.
Within this online exhibition, a set of otherworldly human forms confront the viewer. We are stunned, befuddled, and entranced as their distinct bodily features undergo a metamorphosis before our eyes.
A battle ensues. Sivan cuts, slices, and tears at blocks of wood as if clawing to escape the restraining nature of his own body. The forceful and laborious act of shaping the wood is then complemented by his delicate and deliberate hand as he etches new lines, frays strands of wood, scorches the surface, or even adds drippings of ink.
Witnessing them together, the viewer’s grasp on reality slips away. The sculptural figures that once allowed his subjects to retain elements of their identities, evolve into exquisite carvings on flat surfaces until an abstract relief sculpture emerges. The expressions on their faces overwhelm us as they come together to collectively stare back.
Grandpa Leizer (2017-2022)
Burnt pine wood
60 x 19 x 16 cm
Their individual power grows as they stand together. Yet, Sivan’s tactful precision and organization of shapes within these compositions allow each figure to embody its unique corporeal characteristics. The internalized scars of the psyche now overwhelm the ability to distinguish the individual from their turmoil.
The confluence of the abstract and the figurative, the nihilist and the spiritual, the light and dark that are central to Sivan’s style, evokes a palpable tension between the physical and emotional selves, our self-perception versus the facades we wear.
Sivan taps into the primordial. While fictional, there is something familiar in these faces, resonating within us, as if he draws on notions of the Jungian collective unconscious. Within the wood, he captures the diverse emotions of mankind that shape our human condition, ensuring us that we are not alone even in the face of our disparate range of lived experiences.
Sivan reveals the traumas, demons, and unrelenting desires that burn within us. Just as the wood is torn, burned, and reworked, we as humans experience moments that leave a stain on our spirits, visible only to ourselves. As we peer deeper into our own souls, we contemplate and discover new ways to find genuine connections through recognizing others beyond their surface.
Shahar Sivan, born in 1977 in Jerusalem, is an influential Israeli visual artist known for his dynamic interplay of abstract figurativeness and an expressive style in which the figure itself takes a secondary role, allowing the artist’s own temperament and inner emotions to command the spotlight.
Sivan’s technique, deeply rooted in a drawing-based study of lines, gains greater emotional intensity in wood cutting, where the material demands a heightened physical force. Employing chainsaws and other tools with vigor, he reveals the raw essence of the wood, reducing it to its elemental form. The resulting sculptures are enigmatic, haunting figures, devoid of specific identities yet pulsating with a profound emotional intensity, inviting viewers to connect on a visceral level.
Sivan consistently garners critical acclaim for his exhibitions, demonstrating his ability to deeply connect with audiences from all around the world. Among his noteworthy exhibitions are Dining with Others, a compelling duo showcase at the Haifa Museum of Art; Morning Demons at the Beit Hagefen Art Gallery in Haifa; Review #5 held at the HQRN Art Cluster in Haifa; and Lifeboat exhibited at the Raw Art Gallery in Tel Aviv.
Sivan holds a BFA degree from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. He pursued a Master Class at the Jerusalem Studio School, instructed by Israel Hershberg. Throughout his formative years, he was mentored by renowned artists such as Lucian Freud, Leonid Blacklev, and Sabina Mandel.
In addition to his career as an artist, Sivan has co-founded and directed several initiatives and art programs within his community, further solidifying his status as a leading figure in the Haifa art scene.
Shahar Sivan Toot (2017) Oil on carved wood$2,200
Shahar Sivan Talia (2011) Mixed media on plywood$2,700
Shahar Sivan Couple (2017) Pinewood$2,400
Shahar Sivan Yellow Girl (2023) Oil on wood$1,300
Shahar Sivan Demon (2021) Oil on wood$1,200
Shahar Sivan Girl Standing (2021) Oil on plywood$1,200
Shahar Sivan The Foreigners II Triptych (2021) Oil and ink on plywood$1,500
Shahar Sivan The Foreigners I Triptych (2021) Oil and ink on plywood$1,500
Shahar Sivan The King and I (2021) Oil on plywood$1,700
Shahar Sivan Margalit (2017) Burnt wood$1,400
Shahar Sivan Head II (2022) Ink on pinewood$2,400
Shahar Sivan Grandpa Leizer (2017-2022) Burnt pine wood$2,000
Shahar Sivan Head I (2022) Ink on pinewood$2,400
Shahar Sivan Small Head (2022) Ink on pinewood$1,200
Shahar Sivan Ma’ayan (2016) Carved wood$1,900