Daniel Levi

From mud and litter into piece of art

Due to his Yemenite origin and his passionate travelling the artworks of Daniel Levi (1959 Saba Village Israel) are characterized by a highly exotic flavour. His unbridled phantasy supported by his innate sense of architecture enables him to invent extremely imaginative and poetic forms in a style that is original and unique.

Architectural elements consisting of materials manufactured in moulds define Levi’s compositions. The eye is struck by shiny glazes contrasting with dim engobe. The kind of architecture that prevails in Daniel Levi’s works finds his origin in his past. The ancestors of Daniel Levi constructed in Yemen buildings in an extremely complicated, fairytale- like and highly artistic style that could be named: ‘architecture without an architect’.

This heritage is clearly perceptible in his works, although it developed from purely Yemenite – into a completely eclectic style that derives its inspiration mainly from his travel – impressions. The works are enriched by several materials that Levi brings home to his studio varying from stones from riverbanks, pieces of wood and branches out of nature, debris and plastic objects picked in slums in Yangon (Rangoon) and Phnom Penh and pieces of iron collected in New York. All those finds become recycled and / or press-moulded into the highly imaginative works of the artist.

In his later works photo’s taken by the artist during extensive travels are transferred and attached to the surface of his ceramics, whereby dream and reality seamlessly melt together.

The easily accessible work, eloquently conveying it’s poetry, leads the beholder to surprise and contemplation.

Inspiration, themes and influences

Since travelling and architecture became Levi’s main sources of inspiration after his graduation at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, it is very interesting to see what the elements are about that struck his eyes in those remote countries where he travelled and how his discoveries materialized into works.

Born in Israel and spending his youth and early adolescence there and travelling being obviously not yet an option, Levi’s works in those days revealed another fascination: the nearby desert with it’s dim colours.

Once settled in The Netherlands, separated from his home-country and his Yemenite ancestors, Levi experienced that Yemen – this country formed the ever returning theme and subject in the family conversations- strongly influenced his dreams, thoughts and artistic concepts, although he never had a chance nor the permission to visit this country of which he from childhood on had developed such a strong imagination.

His new Dutch citizenship granted him with that permission, and so he was enabled with a passage to his future as an artist, but also with a passage to his past: it was only in 1996 that Daniel Levi finally could visit Yemen and so he extensively did.

The influence of this journey on his work was enormous. Architecture without architects became the prevalent theme in his works that were inspired by the numerous tower-houses in Sana’a and elsewhere in the country, that were build without an architectonic plan but with an incredibly refined taste perfectly embedded in the surrounding landscape and garnished with stunningly beautiful details testifying highest levels of craftsmanship and artistry. This theme architecture without architects never vanished completely in his works. Also works inspired by travels elsewhere show traces from the impressions he was exposed to in Yemen. Levi would say: ‘wherever you go, you – like it or not – bring your own history’.

The works Levi created in Curaçao show his fascination for construction in a different way. In this case it is the submarine world, permanently under construction and destruction by nature. Here, the coral-riffs and shipwrecks are the subject of this production.

His stay in Myanmar resulted in a series of works named ‘Burmese days’. The works show another aspect of Levi’s talent: they reveal simultaneously the serene beauty of the country and it’s people and the painfully contrasting reality of a military state.

His latest series called ‘Angkor Gardens’ is almost completed. The works show how nature slowly but unmistakably takes over where buildings are neglected and ruins arise in their new perverted beauty.

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