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Guy Ben-Ari, Models

Existing on the border of folk illustration and the contemporary reduced painterly gesture, my work deals with systems of classification and the relationship of philosophy to art. My most recent works use painting as a tool for examining didactic strategies - the creative process functioning as an experiential learning process - by illustrating concepts from psychoanalytic theory. Stemming from a simultaneous fascination with and reluctance toward theoretical discourse, it addresses the discourse itself through imagery taken from concepts in the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and others, and calls to the possibility of literalness in painting.

The paintings, in oil on canvas, are referential, figurative, narrative and illustrative. Composed in bright colors on large canvases or in gridded installations of smaller ones, their subjects originate in jokes or illustrations of psychoanalytic ideas or situations: the existence of the unconscious, the gap between signifier and signified, the ceaselessness of desire. In one painting, titled Mirror Suspension, an infant developing his ego in Freud's "mirror phase" speaks to the development of artistic approach and methodology. In another, Becoming Human, a man and woman walk through a gallery of paintings, each depicting some literal or associative illustration of a concept from psychoanalytic theory. Different forms of figuration appear in much of my work: from the museum goers to portraits of the philosophers or of my father, and even in abstract faces that emerge, upon close examination, from a large-scale painting of the library of Babylon.

In one sense, many of my paintings are humorous case studies examining issues of acceptance and taste in contemporary art. In another, they reference the reductive qualities of naïve arts and craft, suspending or reconstructing a memory or scenario in a sparse and self-referential way that discounts formal questions in favor of questioning their efficacy and purpose. I'm working with the notion that taking a metaphor literally is to kill the metaphor, and I'm using paintings to examine that very process. Giving visual expression to ideas from theoretical readings plays on the accessibility of terms and the level of knowledge that the viewer brings to the painting, while functioning as a mediation between the real and symbolic that these theorists explored.

Guy Ben-Ari

The Library of Babel (Tower)

The Library of Babel

The Library of Babel

The Yoga Class

The Art Collector's Office

Studio Visit Session



The Mirror Stage

Baby and Mirror

What Does It Matter...

There Is No Sexual Relation

Untitled (Ego)

New Camera

Father, Can't You See I'm Burning?


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