Comment from Patrick Healy, September 15th 2011 Amsterdam.
The shift in the recent work of Gilboa on the army to work on the angels, -we can say the wall in Herzliyah, and now the wall in Tel Aviv, -is not as unexpected as one might at first think: that Gilboa should put all this together in terms of the life and experience of artists is also less and less of a surprise, indeed, seems like an inevitable development.He works with the wall and for the wall.
There he places his paintings and ensemble of figures. What led him from the army to angels?
How to track this?
A brief look at the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism,(ed, Wouter Hanegraaff,Brill,Leiden,2006pp.616-631) under the article 'intermediary being' gives us the first and important clue. The belief in intermediary beings is old and fundamental to many religions. The belief in angels and demons, of good and evil spirits, is somethng which occurs in the combination of Greek and Jewish ideas. This became a kind of new idea in later development: “ Sometimes these beings are individually distinguishedby name, but often they are thought to operate as nameless members of a distinct group ….... in a later stage of development, esepcially in the Jewish and Christian tradition, they were conceived of as tightly organised , like an army, with a commander-in-chief (the archangel Michael or Satan) and lower commanding officers.” (p.616)
The word angel/angels gives another clue, to Gilboa's intentions. It comes from the Greek and means 'messenger'. Thus the archetypal example is the greek god, Hermes, however the idea of the angels as servants an messengers of the gods is probably of Near Eastern origin.
In the Hebrew Bible the term mal'ak is used to describe both a human and divine messenger, it can also be applied to a prophet, e.g. Mal'ak JHWH, Haggai 1;13,Malachai 2:7, and mostly means 'messenger of god'. The notion of the hosts of angels, and the idea of an army is found in I Enoch,
20:1 and 7.. there the angels and archangels are named.... Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel,
Raguel, Sariel and Remiel.
There was also the idea that individuals had their own personal angel. This is a quasi-magical belief in protection, much as one has a favourite book, or author or place or object which secures a sense of well-being and happiness.
There is a Talmudic idea of the Guardian Angel which is an' iqonin' (from the Greek eikona, )a kind of heavenly twin who looks to the Godhead for the one on earth ( Deut.raba 4..201 d). The strong meaning of the term is 'image'. Image making belongs to heaven as well as the earth.
What is most compelling is that the angelic domain is difficult to capture, it is immaterial but involved in the world, it protects and it also sends message.The angelic is highly ambiguous.
For Walter Benjamin the angel of Klee ( the work know as Angelus Novus)was connected to his idea of a figure which saw behind it as it rushed forwards, the ruins of history. The whole tragic knowldge of the past was that it could only be shown as a ruin, a proliferations of fragments. The role of the thinker and the artist is to gather such fragments, and put them into new constellations, to bring out the figuring of time in vivid images. These images bring knowldge to a stand-still, and explode time as the present. We have shock and intensity, even surreal bewilderment in
The arits too is an intermediary being, whose has to communicate and receive messages as well as transmit. Sometimes in the tansmission the message gains a new meaning, sometimes, in the re ception ,the message is distorted. The whole play of the imagination is to reach those levels of feeling and sensation which are proper to human themselves, who are also in the same way 'intermediary beings'.There is everything here, ambiguity, the between, what is intermediary, beings and powers that cannot be described in material terms alone.
The Angel of Klee, of Benjamin, of Kiefer, belong to protection and destruction, to time and the past. The work of the artist is also one which is 'hermetic' moving between the realms of the living and the dead, bearing messages, creating media, reaching out, living through a process into the unknown. In this constellation the signature of the artist can become an exploded star.
Gilboa has made a wall earlier this year with the Chief of Staff and the army, now he turns to artists and creates another host of supernumerary beings. The constellation of protection, hosts of beings and messages seems indeed where the new immateriality of communication and the virtual goes, as if all of matter longs to become born again as spiritual beings, and that angels are always those beings who are yet to come, as artists, as indeed our own human life. Jacob wrestled with an angel, and thus he found his 'place', the place which in Gilboa's work is always the mystery of the heart, the passion of intense seeing, the reality of social and human exchange which is the essence of his art.