painting review 1: 1995, 'Being There', Evelyn Juers

Nomads, tourists, refugees, colonisers, soldiors, explorers, astronomers in outer space, hippies in inner space, vagrants, social climbers, even taxi passengers, all are migrants. The dislocation from one place to another is the single focus of Micha Nussinov's work. Travellers and notions of travel inhabit his mind.

To survive in new environments the itinerant observer must learn to reformulate the link between the world and the mind, especially when migration involves not one but several stopping places. Russia, Germany, Israel and Australia, cities and country, are the identifiable places on Micha Nussinov's map. They are the homes which he and his family have had to translate, negotiate, and integrate. On the same map, however, there are also places which are less easy to name. For in the accreation of cultures, strange things sometimes happen. Language becomes frustrated, inadequate, mixed-up. Travellers are often silenced. Their intimate associations with people, places, vegetation, food, smells, sounds ar cut and pasted up in an ever more bizarre and crowded collage of memories and impressions. On Micha Nussinov's map some places must be located by signs which do not refer to political or geographical entities, or to language.

From the identifiable places, Nussinov has made works bursting with a rich display of very specific urban or topographical details: Israeli street scenes with soldiers on patrol and children at play; international airport lounges where Indian women in colourful saris are sleeping; Spanish dancers, circuses, coffee shops,backyards, family rityals, taxi-life. People's gestures, food, clothing, expressions and accoutremonts - even with affection, and sometimes with the bluntly intrusive redness of the voyer. Eyes are important. Many works capture the moment of staring or being stared at, or startling or being startled. The eyes catch, or are caught. Minute detial are thus recorded.

In the translation between cultures, between languages and their idioms, an oddness of expression can develop. It is the result of the same kind of puzzlement that a new comer to the English language might experience if he had to hear and apply the subtleties between the words - leather / lather / ladder / letter / litter / leader... such words might become interestingly compatible or interchangeable. In Nussinov's case there is clearly a deep fascination with his own puzzlement, as juztapositions give rise in his work in a carnivalesque surrealism, where discrimminations of scale are secondary - big stands for little, pumpkins become playgrounds, lips become theatre, and the viewer is taken on a rollercoaster ride from surfaces to interiors, from the naieve to the grotesque. In Nussinov's earlier landscapes the viewer travels from finely drawn pebbles to valleys of mountains. In his taxi-narratives the obsessively detailed fleshiness and gaudy dress-codes of passengers leave a wake of personal tragedies trailing away through the back windows.

There is always a sense in the works of seeing or feeling and taking what is seen or felt as an end - an aesthetic unit - in itself. Thus, from the less identifiable and essentially darker places of the map, Nussinov brings images of metamorphosis and fusion to his work, like statements in themselves.

One of the earliest works traces the kaeidoscope transformation from human hand to snake to bird. It resembles a totemic abstraction. In its simplicity it remains a puzzle, an encapsulated personal mystery, not offering decipherment beyond the common symbols of hand, snake, bird, beak, eye.

More recently, Nussinov has produced a number of 'town hall tower' works. here the building egaculates into space, propelled by the centrifugal force of birds simply swinging on wires nearby. It is a troublesome, Cagalewque concept - a drastic rearranging of the world of gravity and seriousness and authority. The migrant artist is thus seen to be compelled to create sites of significance and power, challenging the solidity of his environment with images of flight and abstraction, effecting an exchange of values.

Like waking dreamscapes, these less identifiable places are of course also the more secretiv and disturbing. Neither quite from the world as we know it, not from the rational mind, these sites draw together - tightly - a close-up of the moment of translation, or exchange, or intuition, of undress, or erotic or coital communication, often signposted by grossly distorted or oddlyframed detial. With caricature, cabaret-like gesture, over-bright colours, Nussinov creates a persuasive landscape of the self. It is disturbing because he taps our innermost fears, that innocence - represented by eggs, children, fruit, treees, water - should be continuously challenged and cross-fertilised by experience. Placeing the blissful side by side with the grotesque guarantees response. In this sense, in the abrupt pairing of light and dark as much as the exclusivity of hs vision, Nussinov proves to be a very demanding artist.

He has reproduced acts of expression - other than language - as moments where pleasure and pain battle it out, often in thickly applied oils, to sculptural effect. The most obvious sites for expression are those parts of the human body - the orifices and bulges and indentations - where elements enter, are kept or are expelled. Nussinov's most recent interest has been to record the traveller's anxieties regarding connectedness in terms of visual exploration of those entrances, exits and keeping places - eyes, mouths, breasts, noses, pores, vaginas.

In the entrance to his studio there stands a giant head. It is not a pretty site. Lit from within, host to streamers of old film, it confronts the visitor with its mocking Bosch-like nudity of expression. Nussinov is not making clear his claim on all surfaces as landscapes for travel. His faces are as rocky or snaky or grassy as his natural scenery of desert or bush. As expansive and all encompassing as his subject matter might become, it is the quality of deep puzzlement that allow this artist to create a world of private mythology.

"Things in themselves are never fantastic; they may seem so only when viewed from an unfamilier vantage point.
For those who inhabit the landscape of consciousness of the naive, what they themselves portray
is the only true and possible reality."
Otto Bihalji-Merin, Modern Primitieves

Evelyn Juers

Sydney based Literary and art critic