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Breuer-Weil exhibition

by: Cara Wides - Last updated: 2007-06-26

David Breuer-Weil

David Breuer-Weil

When you enter the first room of painter David Breuer-Weil’s current exhibition in a dirty dingy London car park, you assume the venue is a joke.

As well as the huge canvases, piles of earth, sandbags and signs like ‘No changing or emptying fuel tanks’ meet your eye. You worry about the possibility of a rat running across your shoes.

Start looking at the pictures and it becomes clear that the venue is perfect for the mood of Breuer-Weil’s exhibition ‘Project 3’.It is staged over three floors and examines the human condition, and more specifically how the past influences the present. Breuer-Weil has reason to be haunted by his own past; he is the son of Lithuanian immigrants who escaped the Nazis by
coming to England. He says his parents frequently talked about the traumas of their generation when he was growing up.

However ‘Project 3’ is not specifically about the Holocaust, it looks at how you can come from a troubled past and have a positive present. To symbolise the journey from past to present, the paintings are divided into three batches presented on three layers of the car park. The first round of pictures in the macabre, possibly rat-infested, basement are the most depressing; they show society divided and riddled with fear.

The painting ‘Drought’ depicts large plains of land breaking apart, beyond saving. ‘Descend’ shows a staircase leading downward, with each step resembling a coffin and filled with lots heads floating in blackness. A terrible fate awaits. Another theme is life in a restricted society where we cannot communicate with each other - ‘Grid’ shows rows of people trapped in small boxes lined up next to each other.

The next batch of paintings is on the second floor – which is far lighter – however still hints at the presence of rodents and other creepy crawlies. The paintings too are lighter in mood, but with a sense of sorrow and disruption remaining. In ‘Catch’ Breuer-Weil’s shadowy human figures have been hopelessly swept up together in a huge net, in ‘People’ they are trapped inside a ginormous book. The more upbeat pictures show the shadowy men trying to communicate with a god or gods; ‘Prayer’ has them positioned beneath a rather Monty Python-esque ginormous ear.

The only joke in the whole exhibition, apart from its location, was on the staircase going up to the third floor.  You pass ‘Travelling’ – a painting showing a man pulling others and some trees on his cloak. You hope that wherever you are heading in the building is far less sinister.

The third floor is equally light, and what’s this – paintings are for the first time full of bright blues and upbeat greens. Downstairs Breuer-Weil has used shades of reds, pinks and yellow that evoking torment and passion but up on the third floor things are as cheerful as a children’s playroom.

Until you look closely at the pictures that is. Called things like ‘Second Generation’ and ‘Suburbs,’ they describe what life is like for today’s generation, who have built lives for themselves that are definitely less gloomy and tragic that those of their ancestors. However Breuer-Weil tells us that this achievement is fragile, and can be destroyed at any point.

The pictures ‘The Edge’ and ‘The Edge 2’ both show human settlements being swept off a cliff edge into the sea by huge brooms coming from the sky. Breuer-Weil says ‘The Edge 2’ is meant to represent the instability of Israel, and he copied the Israeli coastline for the picture. The same message is in ‘Suburbs’ , which shows people walking on thin strips of land with huge distances either side for them to fall.

Breuer-Weil’s work reminded me a bit of Chagall, his paintings have a dreamy surreal quality, and the strong colours convey intense feelings. Like some Chagall paintings the world he depicts is unsettling and uncontrolled. It is a universe where even when you are surrounded by light, a rat could run across your shoe at any point.

Project 3 is on until 19th July at 9-13 Mercer Street, London WC2. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 12 – 7 pm, Thursday and Friday 12 – 9 pm.

Admission is free. It is organised by the Ben Uri Gallery, which is also known as The London Jewish Museum of Art and can be contacted on 020 7604 3991.