We ‘challenged’ Israeli illustrator Hanoch Piven to an open discussion about the world of illustrations and about their significance for children, parents, schools and media. Hanoch Piven’s exquisite illustrations, released on both sides of the Atlantic in most major American magazines and newspapers such as Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and in many European publications from The London Times to the Swiss Die WeltWoche, are a gateway to an imaginary world inspired by the day-to-day reality. In June, Hanoch Piven will be in Romania for the first time to lecture within Art Safari art fair, an event supported by The Romania Journal as media partner.
Please, share us a little about the workshops you will conduct during the Bucharest Art Safari fair in June? What would be the focus?
I don’t like to call my workshop an ART workshop because that can be intimidating to some people who tend to think themselves as NON-creative.
I call it a “communication workshop where the language is play with everyday objects”. That is something everybody can do.
So in the workshop I will invite families to choose objects which tell something about themselves and create some kind of visual representation. People end up creating a family portrait and end up feeling really happy with their creations but also happy with the process which leads to the creation, one in which they discus with their family what represents them.
What allows all that is PLAY. Art is a game and if you allow yourself to play you end up creating art.
Have you been in Romania before? If you did, what has mostly caught your attention here in terms of art?
NO! It will be my first trip to Romania and I am very excited about it because three of my biggest influences as a young illustration student were of Romanian origins: Andre François, Eugene Mihaesco and, of course Saul Steinberg. So that makes me have the intuition that there is a connection between my work and certain Romanian sensibility in humour and I am very excited to explore and see these connections.
As illustrator, you dedicated most of your activity to children. How efficient are education and communication through play and image? Shouldn’t schools integrate more practical experiments and art classes in their curriculum? For instance, in Romania the educational system is still too focused on theory in most subjects.
I find that opening a playful space allows for communication and exploration to happen in a very different way. Not everybody is good with words and everybody can benefit from introducing other ways to communicate in the classroom. If we treat Art as a Game, and we remember that Games prepare us for life, then we should see the importance of Art as a safe space in which we can try things and explore ourselves and the world around us.
Also I find many similarities between the process of an artist and that of a teacher. Both need to create the space in which creation can happen, both need to be open, to direct the process but also to be wondered by it. To observe and pay attention.
Both Art and Education are a process of communication. Inward and outward.
So the answer of course is YES.
What ongoing projects do you have in store?
I am working on a book for children about Israeli Prime Ministers. Creating portraits of all of them and exploring how were they as children.
Sponsored by the NGO Seeds of Peace, I’m working on a guide for teachers. Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian with which they will be able to use the collage tool of creation in order to help their kids explore their identity. Both their personal and community one, and hopefully even look at ‘the other’.
How do you see the future of print? Will be magazines, books replaced by apps or not exactly?
Hard to predict but I still think we all enjoy holding a book in our hands so I do not think physical books will disappear. I see the traditional magazine market shrinking more and more except for very specific high end magazines, which either their style or their content will still justify the cost and waste of printing.
Talking about the Internet and technology’s expansion in the past ten years or so, do you think children born after 2000s need different learning methods, more digitally-oriented as against the traditional ones?
I assume that yes. The language should be more visual and probably more digital but that doesn’t mean in needs to be shallower. And this is the challenge. The fact that ‘things’ can move and jump doesn’t mean we need to make them move and jump unless there is a smart reason for it. Technology is only a tool and not an end in itself.
During your workshops you focus on the family bond. In a world that tends to be so egocentric and individualist, with more and more children ‘socializing’ with digital devices rather than with their family members, friends in outdoor activities, it’s obvious we still need our basic relationships to grow up, to move on in the society. Are your art, workshops militating for keeping this family bond alive?
Well, obviously, although the word ‘militate’ is a bit strong.
I think I teach to ‘see’ and to ‘listen’ which is an essential part of communicating and of creation. That is what you do when you create and this is what families do in my workshop. It is a dislocation from the regular typical modern family dynamics but only through dislocations and disruptions, people learn something new. In this case the ‘new’ thing they learn was just sitting all the time in front of their noses and they didn’t see it. That they can see the world around them in a fresh way, and live a more creative life. You cannot be creative if you don’t see and pay attention. Otherwise you are just living a programmed life – like a robot.