top of page

After many questions, flattery, encouragement, the trapeze artist ends up saying, sobbing: "This single bar in his hands ... is it a life?" "

                      Franz Kafka

Tightrope walkers and Sleepwalkers

by Nadine Vasseur

Men and dogs, women and acrobats, dancers, cyclists, figures sleeping- the world of Yaarit Makovski is limitless in the variety of its inhabitants. It is filled with solid, compact bodies whose heavily outlined silhouettes and sensuous curves make us supremely conscious of the weight of their flesh. They may rush headlong, or whirl about alone or clasped in each other’s arms, or on the contrary stand motionless, in the grips of sleep or an indefinable stupor. They always seem, however, to be somewhere far away, as if separate, apart- viewed by us through a sheer film, a sort of intangible veil that seems to suggest that their universe lies elsewhere. The curtains which open to reveal two sleeping figures whose sluggish bodies, surrounded by fishes, are carried along by the waves, suggest that this may well be a scene from a dream or from a sort of half-sleep resembling torpor. Here it is not, as in the painting of the Douanier Rousseau, a lion that watches over the trusting sleepers, but an airplane in a landscape of pyramids resembling red sand dunes. Elsewhere a man- or perhaps a woman- has succumbed to sleep on a sofa in the middle of a field. Life goes on around him. A bird circles in the sky overhead; nearby are men and dogs. All of them, however, are looking somewhere else, like those sightless and indifferent silhouettes who people our dreams at times, and who brush up close without ever really touching us.

One never knows where the figures in Yaarit Makovski’s pictures are looking. Their dark eyes, streaked sometimes with a shadow that clouds and mists them over, are staring at some mysterious points beyond the framework of the scene. They are looking toward some unattainable horizon, when they are not turned completely toward that inner space where no one can reach them. Beings meet and pass by without seeing each other. Often they even turn their backs on one other, except for those times when they are dancing together. Then, at those moments, their bodies draw close. A smile crosses the lips of the man who is watching his woman dance for him (“My sweet little girl fly”). She twirls around and soars on her high-heeled red shoes. A lover’s tête à tête, an instant of grace. Whether one is dancing the tango or dancing with a bear, dancing with another is, in this universe, the principal image of love. The same is true of the act of watching over another creature as he sleeps, whether it be a man or a dog...

But this love is isolated from the rest of the world; it stands out against a background of deserts or of empty, barren scenes. It is in a cityscape of cold, vacant towers that King Kong, with his head bathed by the sun and the moon, holds in his arms the woman he loves.

Even more frequently, Yaarit Makovski’s dancers move alone, like those one-celled creatures which, by the aerial motions of their arms and the swirling of their legs, define an enclosed space that stops at their own bodies, as if having no connection to what surrounds it. A ballerina, holding her foot in her hand, appears not to notice the woman who is asleep on a sofa right next to her. She does not see the man who is playing billiards. Solitary figures side by side, individual lives in separate bubbles. Sometimes these dancers move as if they were at the outer limits of the earth, at the edge of the void. Lop-sided and contorted, their bodies, however tangible they might be, seem to be in a state of weightlessness, on the verge of toppling over. Caught in a rush of movement, they are, up to the edge of the abyss, the very incarnation of life. This life force has disappeared from their eyes, which remain completely withdrawn into their own personal mystery, but it bursts forth everywhere in their movements, and in that freedom of their bodies that makes light of tragedy.

If there are a number of scenes that display that “disquieting strangeness” to which Freud referred when speaking of dreams, there are few that actually resemble nightmares. Only one deadly hunting scene- fingers pointing accusingly, rifles aimed at a shooting range where the targets seem to be alive- drags us away from the velvety world of dreams. In this scene of carnage, which must necessarily remind us of certain of History’s nightmares, all the living creatures are targets: the men, but also the frogs, foxes, and dogs- all those animals whose endearing presence populates the world of Yaarit Makovski.

Lithe and airy, tightrope walkers and acrobats flutter about and sway high above the floor, consoling themselves with the thought that “life is tragic but it isn’t serious.” Nearby a bear, a cat, a rhinoceros, a bird, and any number of dogs remind them that they are not alone. However lost they may be, they belong nevertheless to luxuriant nature. They need only to open the circus door bathed by the pale and misty light of a street lamp; outside, a world flooded with color is there, waiting for them. As in the tales of our childhood, nothing in this other world is distinct. Everything is mixed and merged: animals and plants, sky and water, men and landscapes, day and night. Flowers are like immense parasols, fish fly through the air, and a large red mouth smiles at them from the top of the mountain- red like peasants’ boots, red like their cheeks, like the flowers, like the dogs, like the pullover in Alice in Wonderland.

In Yaarit Makovski’s painting, Alice turns around. She glances back at the path she has just taken. Is it far from Wonderland? It is strange how much it resembles our world, with its dogs and its creatures with their vacant stares.... It makes one wonder just where the other side of the mirror might be..... perhaps right here.

bottom of page