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  • Talma Gotteiner

Tel-Aviv Museum of Art: "Illustrations" by David Polonsky

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Hi there,

"Illustrations" is the first comprehensive exhibition dedicated to David Polonsky at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Polonsky, among the most prolific illustrators working in the country today, was born in Kyiv in 1973 and immigrated to the country at the age of 8.

After completing his studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, he worked as an illustrator for newspapers and TV. He received major public recognition for his illustrations in the 2009 Golden-Globe award film directed by Ari Folman. Waltz with Bashir

Since then his body of work has extended over numerous projects manifesting the breadth and variety of his multimedia output in children’s books, animation, comics, editorial illustrations, costume, and toy design. The exhibition reveals the elaborate processes involved in the medium of illustration and Polonsky’s creative and technical virtuosity by displaying dozens of preparatory drawings, digital prints, and animatic animation, along with final prints and other documentary materials. Polonsky’s illustration style is uniquely adapted to the content and genre of each project. It is common for illustrators and comic artists to form a signature style. Polonsky, in contrast, is something of a style chameleon, determining the right style for each project through research supported by subjective associations, while internalizing the characters’ disposition and motivations.

Each project is informed and inspired by many, varied visual sources, from the near and far surroundings: the history of art and film, the work of notable illustrators from the past, documentary materials, popular culture, and scenes from his immediate surroundings, such as an interesting tree or the appearance of a neighbor’s child. His illustrations for books and films feature surprising viewpoints, refined sensitivity and attention to facial expressions, and bold use of colors and movement. All these give the illustrated stories a personal understanding and contribute to a layered reading of the works.

Illustrations, generally, are usually commissioned by writers and filmmakers. The process begins with sketches, and the overall work is a collaborative effort involving professionals from different fields. The exhibition presents screenplays, preliminary drawings, and animation preparation stages by other artists who worked with Polonsky.

It seems at times that Polonsky’s works are rooted in a different culture, that they are somehow “foreign.” His gaze ambles between European sources and the Tel-Aviv locality. The landscapes in his illustrations feature the typical city window-shutters, balconies, and water heaters; the figures walking about in vests and flip-flops look like people encountered in the street, and the strong shadows are projected by the hot Israeli sun. Between Haifa nights and Tel Aviv gardens, between the destruction of the Second Temple and the First Lebanon War, Polonsky, with the internal and external gaze of an artist who is both insider and outsider, captures and defines Israeli visual culture.

Curator: Tal Lanir

Sponsored by: "Renuar"

WHEN: Sept 23, 2022 - 18 Feb 2023

Tel-Aviv Museum of Art: "Illustrations" by David Polonsky
The Graphic Diary of Anne Frank Illustrations from© by Ari Folman and David Polonsky, courtesy of Anne Frank Fonds, Basel, Switzerland 

Writer and editor: Ari Folman, based on the Diary of Anne Frank Illustrator: David Polonsky Kineret Publishing, Zmora Bitan, Dvir, 2017

The publication of the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, introduced the figure of Anne Frank to the public and became one of the most well-known Holocaust stories in the world. The book, edited by Anne’s father after her death and translated into 60 languages, is based on the journal she wrote as a young girl in the years 1942-1944, from her family’s hiding place in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The Anne Frank Foundation, seeking to make the diary and the Holocaust more accessible to modern youth, initiated the creation of the graphic novel and animation film based on the diary. In 2012 the foundation approached artists Ari Folman and David Polonsky, granting them unrestricted access to its archive. The graphic novel was published in 2017, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diary’s first edition.

The genre of the graphic novel, which became prominent around the world in the 1980s, differs from a comic book in its length and is more able to deal with complex subjects. To adapt the diary into a graphic novel, Folman and Polonsky decided to shorten and edit it, leaving room for the illustrations to complete the missing texts. Many of the diary sections are left as they were and are presented in square frames. The dialogues among the characters were added by Folman and are placed in text bubbles. Earlier graphic novels about the Holocaust (most notably Art Spiegelman’s Maus from 1980), were usually illustrated in black and white. however, Folman and Polonsky chose color to evoke identification by children and youth. Polonsky’s illustrations build from European design and comics magazines from the first half of the 20th century, to match the era’s style to its events. On this basis, he wonderfully captures Anne’s sentiments and flights of imagination, the sharp wit of a young girl along with her anxieties and fears.

David Polonsky spent more than 15 years illustrating for newspapers and creating images for dailies, weekend supplements, and magazines. The rush of current affairs and tight newspaper deadlines saw the formation of a genre suited for fast implementation. The illustrations tend to be dramatically colored, heavily contrasted, and exaggerated to draw readers' attention. Editorial illustrations do more than simply draw readers’ attention; they also correspond with the text by visual means adding another interpretational layer. Their ability to convey abstract and complex messages allows them to be more revealing than the text. In cover stories, the illustration departs from customary PR photos and moves closer to the figures themselves, who are often presented in a humorous way. An unusual angle or surprising background. In the many articles exhibited on this wall, we can see the style of the illustration changing in accordance with its subjects, adding wit to the written article and an interpretational edge.



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