The walls at Aviv Grinberg’s studio are white and pristine. Prior to moving in a few weeks ago, he, like many other young Tel Avivian professionals, was working from home. “I redesigned the space with my partner’s father,” he says, “and together we adjusted the former industrial workshop to my artistic needs.”
The floor is filled with Grinberg’s colorful artworks as he assertively conducts the aesthetic chaos. He possesses a unique charisma and a managerial approach, both necessary yet uncommon for an artist nowadays. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs” he explains when I point out my observation, “It is part of my DNA; I have great aspirations regarding my art, knowing that I must work hard to promote myself.”
IS: So how did you end up becoming an artist, instead of a sharp businessman?
AG: “My story starts at the Israeli army, where I served as a commander for three years, in charge of one hundred and twenty soldiers who did not belong in the system. The army prison was their stage, a place for them to show their most extreme behavior to make their way out, so you can imagine what an intense period it was.” His eyes reveal the weighty mark these years have left on his life and creative path. “Even the building’s architecture and historical values are still present in my work today” he admits. “After completing my military service, I traveled to India, started sketching random portraits in a notebook, and discovered my interest in studying some form of applied arts. Randomly or not, the only program I was accepted to was art studies in Shenkar, so I decided to go for it and brought along my portraits from the trip.”
IS: From the military prison through India to Shenkar; tell me about your experience there.
AG: “I arrived at Shenkar with my sketches from India, with the intent of studying and manipulating them, so during the first couple of years I focused on large-scale surreal portraits, that embraced a realistic touch and embedded religious or social attributes. After completing my second year I created an exhibition in which, as visitors were surrounded by the portraits, they were expected to pragmatically interpret them, similarly to the prejudices that prevail in prison.”
IS: This sounds very ambitious for a second-year art student. How did the exhibition affect your following years at school?
AG: “It was my Baptism of fire in the local art scene; an experience that revealed my production capabilities and left me with an urge to stop painting. I wanted to explore different aspects of creation, so for example, I co-founded a fair linking second-hand fashion to young artists, which allied me with the urban sphere. It was also an important turning point in my career.”
IS: An urge to stop painting? How then, did you survive the remaining couple of years at Shenkar?
AG: “I stopped painting” Grinberg answers with a playful smile. “I isolated an element from my painting, a necklace, and interpreted it in different manners while maintaining the painter’s mindset. It slowly evolved into immersive sculptures that play on perspectives and points of view; first using transparent rubber tubes filled with acrylic paint, which were later replaced by the detergents I use today.”
IS: How did this transformation happen? It is pretty unusual, ironic perhaps, to use detergents in an artwork.
AG: “Simply, one day as I stood in front of the cleaning products shelf in the supermarket, it struck me that they have the same color palette as my paintings; an intense and toxic colorfulness that I absolutely love. In addition, detergents maintain their color and texture over time as they don’t dry out, and symbolically, they were a crucial element of my military service. We used to have three cleaning roll calls a day, which determined whether or not we were allowed to change shifts and go to sleep or go home. So, in a way, detergents were always an important element in my life.״
Grinberg’s calm presence and colorful works seem removed from the past he had just depicted. I wondered how such an intense, somewhat dark experience lead him to create such playful, vivid art.
AG: “I see my work as bait” he explains, “the lighthearted colorfulness attracts viewers to observe closely, to then discover deeper and more serious conflicts. In that manner, I can initiate a dialogue with audiences that are not necessarily familiar with the art world, an important objective for me in expanding the audience for my art.”
IS: Your work at the graduate’s exhibition was remarkable. The large-scale boisterous installations and the use of detergents stood out and you were marked by many as a promising talent. What was it like the day after, when the exhibition closed and you were on your own, facing a complex local art world, to say the least?
AG: “After the exhibition, there was a lot of public interest and a few collaboration proposals. But times were very challenging; I figured I had to work hard to make things happen if I want to make a living from my art. I applied to Fresh Paint Art Fair and went to work.”
IS: What about the conceptual aspect of your work? Did your inspiration change at all once you left school?
AG: “I started focusing on my personal world and drew inspiration from an inward observation. I continued developing works that connect painting and sculpting in a symbiotic manner, always keeping in mind the settings in which an artwork will be presented, considering it throughout the process. I put an emphasis on working with materials that I buy from local shops in my neighborhood, so that it connects me to my surroundings; I simply love the idea of taking forgotten objects or products that are usually hidden somewhere backstage, to the front, glorifying everyday commodities to an artwork status.”
For Fresh Paint Art Fair, to which he was accepted, Grinberg did exactly that. His installation was featured in a central location, exposing his works to an even greater crowd, taking one step ahead in his master plan.
IS: Tell me more about the plan, what should we expect from you in the near future?
AG: “I am very interested in collaborating with commercial brands and bringing art to the collective awareness. I installed a site-specific installation at Facebook headquarters in Tel Aviv and created a workshop for another important high-tech company. I have two upcoming group exhibitions in non-commercial galleries planned for 2020, my work will decorate the walls of a hotel in Germany and the stores of a big fashion brand in Israel, and I am working on an event here in the studio. An opening party and the occasion to launch a series I am currently making exclusively for Art Source. I’m planning to spread my art in every possible way.”
IS: What are you creating as part of the collaboration with Art Source?
AG: “I thought of art as an element that can be easily brought home, like readymade furniture we buy and ensemble easily. I have enormous installation ideas that I wanted to make accessible for private homes instead of exhibition spaces exclusively. So, I chose carpet beaters, an extinct element from everyday life, to create semicircle shaped halos, embedded in MDF boards. The two materials combine in harmony and each piece is hand painted so that it is one of a kind, part of a limited-edition series. It is an elevation of the simple object from the shop next door.”
IS: Sounds intriguing. How many pieces will form the collection?
He takes a moment to think about it and says, “As many as the walls of my studio will be able to fit.”
Though he reuses the same materials in various series he creates, Grinberg manages to keep reinventing himself and his art over and over again. He admits that he is constantly aspiring for innovation, to keep exploring different aspects of the same material, as he continues the search for new materials around him. “My biggest fear is to run out of ideas, but so far I can’t stop adding new ones to my bucket list. I only hope I will have the time to actually execute all of them one day, each idea in its right moment in time.”