Moshe Tarka was born in Ethiopia in 1981. In 1984, at the age of three, he immigrated with his family to Israel via Sudan in Operation Moses. He lives in Gan Yavne and works in Tel Aviv. Holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Sapir Academic College, Sderot (2011). Recipient of the 2008 Ashdod Young Artist Award in the Visual Arts category (chairman of the prize committee: Yona Fischer).
Tarka is a multidisciplinary artist whose oeuvre spans paintings, sculptures, mixed media reliefs, painting installations, and other techniques. His works result from research into his personal identity as a black-Jewish-Israeli artist. The personal position stems from a broader socio-political stance, which is sometimes manifested in works that protest the white Israeli hegemony.
His works address the encounter between matter and form. The processing of the material is often associated with the dialogue between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, and with the tension between painting and relief. His artistic style corresponds with traditional African art and with street art, and is characterized by primitivism, exaggeration, expressiveness, the grotesque, and black humor. His work comprises several major, ongoing series, including Dialogue (2013–21), which is based on an exchange between two figures, delving into the limitations of interpersonal human communication; and Creation (2019–21), which is centered on the journey of immigration to Israel and the stratified identity of the artist and his community as it pertains to the meaning of being “black” in Israel.
I have an obsessive need to combine perceptually irreconcilable things. Hence also the combination of “hi-tech” techniques (such as 3D printing and laser cutting) with more traditional “low-tech” methods (e.g. plaster casts, concrete casts, and hewing) in my work, which spawns a hybrid; a new language, stemming from my complex identity as a “black Israeli Jew.” This new language is the essence of an identity at once current and traditional; an identity that is conspicuously absent in the field of art, and must be rendered present.
Alongside my fascination with materials, I have always engaged in painting. Recently I have been creating painterly reliefs which may be regarded as paintings made of sculptural materials. The creative process is set in motion by an attraction to certain materials and the desire to combine them. Next I investigate the conduct of these materials, and how I can manipulate and adapt them to my needs. Subsequently, I explore elements with which to connect Western-modern technology with analogue-traditional technology, until finally everything comes together to form one work;a different, unique material.
The black-African world has furnished me with formal and thematic motifs, which recur in my works. Authenticity is thus preserved even when combined with modern technology, and so is the affinity with the culture from which I hail. The ethnic-African language influences my painterly language, linking it consciously and artistically to the language of the originally-“black” street painting. It relates to the politics of identities, while seeking to challenge the classical canon. I also relate to it through the desire to decipher and fathom what place my art and I can take in international culture in general, and in Israeli culture in particular. These questions are the most personal and the most public at the same time; ostensibly narrative, but also entirely formalistic.
Uncovering and discovery in my work always stem from observation rather than conscious search. As an artist, it may be harder to wait and discover, but this process makes the discovery ever more meaningful and authentic. I “dig” in the substance and create my images in the material almost automatically. Through detached, industrious, intuitive work, I let the subconscious come to the fore and reveal itself in the work. Through my art I reconnect with my roots, as images related to different relationships, to my immigration journey, and so on, come up while working. Some of the images are associated with harsh experiences of violence and trauma, but their artistic stylization allows both the viewer and me to approach and converse with them. The exposure of the image is thus not a mere technical act, but an act of introduction, summoning things to personal as well as collective consciousness.
b. 1981, Ethiopia; immigrated to Israel in 1984; lives in Gan Yavne, Israel and works in Tel Aviv
2011 – BA in Industrial Design (with honors), Sapir, Academic College, Sderot, Israel
2009 – “Untitled,” The Arie Klang Artists’ House, Ashdod, Israel
2022 –“Beginning,” White House Gallery, Hirbet al-Ma’yin, Kibbutz Nir Oz; curator:Haim Perry
– 2014 “The Ethnic Rainbow,” Dorit Gur Art Gallery, Tel Aviv; curator: Arch. Noemi Eshet-Rosenzweig
2016 – “Banish the Darkness,” Binyamin Gallery, Tel Aviv; curator: Carmel Goffer
– “Belonging,” Rishon LeZion Museum, Rishon LeZion, Israel; curator: Carmel Goffer
– 2019“Speak Up Culture: Israeli-Ethiopian Artists React,” Abraham Hostel, Tel Aviv; curator: Mor Tishler
2020 – “Woven Memories,” The Artists’ House, Tel Aviv; curator: Smadar Messing
2021 – “The Threshold Project,” Zumu—Museum on the Move,” Lod, Israel; curator: Milana Gitzin-Adiram
,2021 Launch of an outdoor work as part of “Loving Art, Making Art” (opening of the exhibition season) events, Tel Aviv “Artist in Action,”
live performance in the artist’s studio, as part of the “Neve Tzedek Wears Art” events, Tel Aviv; curator: Yoad Bar Noy
Grants and Awards
2008, Recipient of the Ashdod Prize for Young Artists, Ashdod, Israel; jury chair: Yona Fischer
2011, Academic Excellence Award, Department of Industrial Design, Sapir Academic College, Sderot, Israel
Moshe Tarka’s works are included in various private collections in Israel and abroad.