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Leni Dothan is both artist and architect. She is interested in psychological and physical structures, reconstructing narratives from biblical, classical and mythological worlds to then deconstruct them into concepts founded on the most intimate of human fears. Leni decodes the DNA of Renaissance mythical icons: new interpretations allow for new interactions in her works.
Leni grew up in Israel, a country of conflict and war, far from the beauty and values of Italian Renaissance iconography. These instead became a prism through which she critically considers the contradicting roles of women in different cultures. She examines the transition of early Renaissance images from the religious realm into contemporary visual culture. She argues that Renaissance art created a set of visual contracts that, to this day, continue to define male/ female discourse in social, political and cultural contexts. As a child Leni was exposed to this world of renaissance art and charmed by the capacity of human beings to create such masterpieces. This directly contradicted the cultural circumstances she was surrounded by, where women are continuously deprived of their rights to act, express, create and think clearly. Her work represents her reaction to this paradox.
Following her insights into renaissance ideals, Leni decided to become a 21st century ‘Renaissance Woman’. After her studies in carpentry and architecture, she returned to fine art ‘as if struck by illumination’. Spurred by her intuition that renaissance art presents the cultural contract of a woman strictly created by men, she began to appropriate the tools of the renaissance man and to subvert them for her own purposes. Her work questions the notion of belonging versus detachment, challenges normality and normativity within the family and the predominantly male society, both in Israel and in the western world. Her works depict her private life and function as an invitation to discussion on universal yet untouched codes, conventions and taboos. Leni uses archeology as a method through which she can ‘expand time’ and inject new ideas back into history. ‘My excavation site is the renaissance era. I slot into time, expand it and add volume to history. In it I place my own icons, back within history from which they were taken. The tension between the classical and the contemporary bears the potential to challenge old beliefs and ideals. This act provides an alternative, not necessarily better, just enabling the potential for another narrative to exist.’
Leni has carried out a number of projects that explore a core notion in her work: the male-female/ mother-son relationship. The Christian ‘Pietá’ is central to her recent projects. This theme depicts Mary holding the body of her dead son, where the nobel acceptance of the son’s death, unnatural for a parent, contains within it the classical male indoctrination of the female role. The concept of ‘Bereavement’ is entangled with the notion of “Being Israeli” where, as in the Israeli colloquialism, soldiers are interpolated into “sons”. Similarly driven, site-specific projects include ‘Crude Ashes’, a solo show at Temple Church, ‘We Kissed and then we Died’, ‘Mine’, ‘Sleeping Madonna’ and ‘Mother and Child in a Window’ commissioned by Jewish Book Week at Kings Palace.
Leni is currently working on project for this coming autumn. It is projected to be part of a three woman show entitled ‘The Human Conditional’, curated by Xenia Logos. This body of work strives to create a different aesthetic ideal: the imperfect one. The artist presents a self portrait that plants a new ‘ideal woman’ back into the foundation of classical sculptural tradition. The act subliminally fuses imperfection and classical beauty and, for the first time, reveals to the viewers the fact that the artist is hard of hearing and uses hearing aids in both ears. The project is not only designed as personal but also caters to any woman who does not fit the ‘perfect’ model, one which dominated Renaissance art and to a great extent still dominates expectation to this day.
The continuation of Leni’s practice will focus on both aspects of her work: the new icon and the bridge between architecture and art. The first, in response to the urgent cultural/ social need for new depiction of women in the art world, strives to create new icons of women. The second, through large scale installations, explores new meeting points between different mediums: architecture, photography, video, sculpture and carpentry. The artist envisions a world where art is not hanging on the walls but becomes part of the walls. ‘Every photograph, every sculpture or video work I make will become part of the architecture - walls, floors and ceilings’.
Haaretz, 04th April 2012
Entering the Tel Aviv studio of artist Lenny Dinar Dothan one encounters hospitality amid charming disorder. Sawdust is scattered everywhere, among the saws, rulers, pencils and books. Propped up against the wall are some of her works, among them a painting in which she is seen nursing her little son against the backdrop of an arch. The classical composition immediately evokes associations with the Florentine school of the Italian Renaissance ...
The Guardian, 23th October 2015
It’s getting harder to offend people. In an age when congressmen tweet photos of their erections, gunmen take selfies before going on rampages and columnists call migrants cockroaches, the bar for moral outrage has never been higher. Poor artists! They used to be able to nab headlines by dunking a figurine of Jesus in urine, or pasting porn magazine clippings over a painting of the Virgin Mary. Today, Gilbert & George can write “God Loves ...
academy noW, 08th March 2016
We would like to celebrate this very special day this year presenting Leni Dothan’s latest video installation, Never Never. She is and inspiring, smart, young woman and talented artist who is constantly challenging the status quo both in her personal life and her art practice. Her works use Renaissance art references to reflect on present issues and taboos, both personal and universal.
Born 1981 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Living and working in London.
2015/16 - || Practice-Led PhD student, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL
2013 - 2015 || Slade School of Fine Art, UCL London
2013 - 2015 || Fine art media MFA (distinction)
2004 - 2009 || Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Jerusalem, Israel
2004 - 2009 || Department of Architecture B. Arch
2007 || Student exchange program, Gerrit Ritveld Academie, Amsterdam
2016 || Crude Ashes, Temple Church, London, UK
2015 || Degree Show, Solo show, Slade School of Fine Art, London, UK
2012 || Ha’Hanut Gallery, Solo show, Florentinit, Tel Aviv, Israel
SELECTED GROUP SHOWS
2016 || Mother and Child in a Window, Kings Place Jewish Book Week, London, UK
2016 || OFF Course, Contemporary Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium.
2015 || MEVannucci Gallery, MEVannucci + Academy Now, Italy
2015 || [Unit ] 8, In Vain, Brighton, UK
2015 || Jewish Museum, Sacrifice, London, UK
2015 || Jewish Museum, Love, London, UK
2014 || Latitude Film Festival, UK
2014 || Samia Gallery, Sexism London UK
2013 || Fresh Paint contemporary art fair, video greenhous, Tel Aviv, Israel
PUBLICATIONS AND PRIZES
2016 || First prize for Arts & Humanities, UCL Doctoral School Research Poster
2015 || Pieta the Heterotopia of Bereavement, essay for MFA studies, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL
2010 || Dürer's Red Book, Article, Ma'hol Magazine no. 2, Tel Aviv, Israel
2009 || Temple Mount Intermediate Station, Architecture | Art | History Book, Published together with Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Jerusalem, Israel