Micha Ullman



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Not on display
Micha Ullman born 1939
Steel and sand
Unconfirmed: 175 x 320 x 250 mm
Presented by Joseph Hackmey 2000


This text discusses three works from Micha Ullman's 1993 Container Series, Day (T07659), Havdalah (T07660) and Night (T07661).

The three works form a series of houses and are made in an edition of eight with two artist's proofs. The first work, which is an open form, is called Day. The second, which is partially open, is called Havdalah which is the moment between the end of the weekday and the beginning of shabbat (sabbath). The third piece is completely closed with the exception of a window opening and is called Midnight. These works may be shown on the floor or in a vitrine. They are sculptures employing the house form as an archetype, a place where people meet and negotiate their lives. Constructed from rusted steel and sand they evoke the passage of time as well as ritualised ceremony. As with much of Ullman's work there is a strong link between language and form which can be lost in translation.

Micha Ullman was born in Tel Aviv and trained at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, where he taught from 1970-78. He also studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, in 1965. Ullman's training at the Central School of Art was in printmaking and specifically etching. He developed a fascination for deep etching whereby he made holes in the plate. This led to a fascination with the void which he explored in outdoor sculptures and finally to sculptures shown within the museum where darkness, light, void and completeness were key concerns. A visit to London in 1972, when he spent a long time in the Rothko Room at the Tate Gallery, demonstrated to him that it was possible to make abstract works replete with feeling. He considers his work to have a strong connection with Mark Rothko (1903-1970).

Ullman's choice of materials is typically sand, glass and iron, all of which are intimately connected with the history of Palestine and Israel. Sand is essentially the base material and has political, historical and archaeological connotations. Sand symbolises the land of Israel. On the one hand it is inert and barren, yet the Israelis have managed to transform it into a fertile substance; it is thus full of potential. It is also a witness to history over many centuries - the desert both conceals and yields the remains of countless civilisations. It is both fragile in its propensity to movement and change, and strong and durable in that it cannot crack or break.

The sand Ullman employs is natural to the area just north of Tel Aviv where he lives, and is red. The colour red suggests danger of a historical and political nature. It is a warning of problems which lie ahead and of bloodshed in the past. The Hebrew word for blood is Dam, which is also the root of the word Adam, meaning man. Adamah in Hebrew means earth. There is thus an interconnectedness in Hebrew between the concepts of earth, red and man which are enshrined in Ullman's choice of materials.

Further reading:
Micha Ullman: Sand DaysMicha Ullman: Sand Days, exhibition catalogue, achsav.now contemporary art, Berlin 2001

Jeremy Lewison and Giorgia Bottinelli
February 2002

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