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Guy Ben-Ari, Painter

Guy Ben-Ari is a painter from Tel-Aviv, Israel. He now lives and works in New York City. He received his MFA from Columbia University, and his BFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. He has exhibited in Philadelphia, NYC and Tel Aviv, among others. His accolades include the SIP Award from the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Program at The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, Artist-in-Residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Program and Artist-in-Residence at the Keyholder Residency Program at the Lower East Side Printshop.


I’m interested in the tension between psychoanalysts and patients–the tension of supposed knowledge. The analyst is supposed to have all the knowledge, but in practice most of the answers come through the speech of the patient. I think about that in relation to painting. While psychoanalytic theory rejects interpretation, painting is a medium that rejects literal interpretation.

In high school, I got an introduction to the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. I kept learning about critical theory in collage and Lacan was the thing to know. He’s a hardcore intellectual.

I’m still trying to figure out the interesting way to incorporate psychoanalyst ideas into paintings. I  struggle with it being too illustrative. There’s always the risk of being over-didactic. Sometimes I’m so excited about an idea that I’m like, ‘They really have to know what I’m thinking about right now!’ However, when the painting becomes too illustrative, I lose all interest. I live on that border.

My interest in psychoanalyst theory allows me to look at things differently, even if they’re not directly related to psychoanalysis. It’s a good tool to approach other things. Ultimately, I’m interested in making a diagrammatic space with some serious, heavy content, that then becomes funny because I’m trying to hold on to it. The more serious I try to be, the funnier it gets.

When I start a painting, I choose a colour palette that I’m curious about. I don’t go back to colours I’ve worked with before. It keeps it interesting, but it’s a nightmare.

In school, people would talk about how difficult it is to paint figures because you have to consider the colour of their hair, skin and clothes. It always sounded like a stupid problem to me, but now that I paint lots of figures, I think, ‘Wait, who are these people? How old are they? Where do they come from?’ I look at clothing catalogues for ideas, but all the brands look the same to me. I use stripes a lot. I guess painters love stripes.


– Guy Ben-Ari, as told to Studio Beat








Photos by Rachel MacFarlane

Visit Guy Ben-Ari’s website here

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