Yael Ben-Simon: Son Of Niobe

Yael Ben-Simon

Artwork’s Title: Son Of Niobe

Material Used: Acrylic and oil on canvas

Studio Based: Brooklyn, NY

Yael Ben-Simon, Son of Niobe, 2021, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

My recent paintings are based on digital models that have been rendered in a 3d animation program. During the process of making them I source 3d models of cultural artifacts online that are on various physical collections across the world. I then proceed to create a still life setting for them to be included in. I prepare to paint according to the picture I’ve generated, while also preparing to screenprint selected areas of the image (usually sculptures and patterned fabrics).

You are currently presenting your new solo show, ‘Dreams Are Toys, at Natasha Arselan Gallery in London. What kind of new artworks are you showing there?

I’m showing five recent paintings made in the method I’ve outlined above.

Could you share with us some insights on your painting named ‘Son Of Niobe’(2021)?  Is there any particular story or meaning behind this artwork?

The “Son of Niobe” is based on a sculpture that has the same name. It is part of the myth of the mortal Niobe and her children that tells a classical tragic tale of hubris and punishment. She is punished for bragging about her fertility compared to the goddess by having her many children massacred by the very same gods. I’ve been using some of these sculptures in my work since they are such powerful works that tell a horrific story. As with many works, I try to negate the monumentality of the work by placing it in a domestic environment playing hide and seek. 

Does your painting practice incorporate any digital techniques? Does the use of technology effectively help you out to realise your painting results?

Yes, I make the preliminary sketches for the paintings using a 3d animation program. For me, it’s an excellent tool to think about painting. It helps me create still life environments that offer an infinite amount of scenarios involving objects, light schemes and compositions that I would never be able to come up with in real life. For example, I’m using these Greek and Roman sculptures in my work that would be extremely hard to produce in real life in order for them to so called “model” for me.

Very recent paintings such as Milford lane, (2021), Niobe with her youngest daughter, (2021) or Leda with the swan, (2021) evidently incite Classical Antiquity sculptural references within a more digitally rendered framework; does the Greco-Roman culture offer you any source of inspiration?

It serves me on so many levels. On the most prosaic one, my paintings in recent years have become more and more involved with constructing a somewhat architectural space within the picture frame and it was only natural for me to introduce images of actual sculptures into the work. Another aspect of me working with this imagery is going back to the process in which they are made. Nowadays you can source 3d models of many cultural artefacts from museums and other collections online, so there was also a tinge to use them in my paintings. I love rummaging through archives and exploring old prints and books so this idea came along, of bringing back obscure archaic art into the cycle of contemporary art. In the scheme of many of these current works, the sculptures are like fancy toys to me while also obviously retaining this weight of history and forgotten traditions. I am fascinated by this contrast. 

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

I think of tradition and individuality and what these two mean today.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

It changes all the time. Up until the new series, I was looking at old emblem books from the 17th century. Even made a few works based on images taken from them. Recently I was looking at Redon’s lithographies, Max Ernst’s collages and Grandville’s illustrations.   

Additional Paintings

Yael Ben-Simon, Milford lane, 2021, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches
Yael Ben-Simon, Panther hunter, 2021, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 40 x 28 inches
Yael Ben-Simon, Niobe with her youngest daughter, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
Yael Ben-Simon, Samson, 2021, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 40 x 28 inches



All images courtesy of the artist

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