2003. Edition Création Franche Museum , Bégles, France.

ODY SABAN, PROFANE KABBALIST

If there is a painter that deserves to be called “singular”, it is Ody Saban. She created an art that is unique, and unlike anything one can find in the usual galleries or museums. Born in Istanbul in a Sephardic Jewish family, living for several years in Paris –after a stay in Israel and a long visit to New York – she is a nomadic and cosmopolitan spirit, always open to new experiences, new cultures, new discoveries.

        Somewhere half-way between Surrealism and Raw Art (“Art Brut), her water-colours are disquieting fairy tale, a delicious celebration of Eros, in a transparency which recalls the glow of stained glasses. As for her unique artist books, in single copies, they have the strength and subtility of ancient magical manuscript, and the luminosity of Medieval illuminations. Her imaginary universe is not far from the one of the Thousand- and One Nights – a tale inside of a tale inside of a tale, in an infinite loop.

           In the beautiful words of art historian and critic Michel Lequenne, one can find in Ody’s paintings “the pure colours of blood, water, heavens, luxurious vegetation, sand and mixed bodies…celebrating the rediscovered harmony…in the erotical victory of the Great Goddess”.

     The subversive Surrealist aspiration expresses itself in her art through mad love, the insolence of desire, the erotic circonvolutions of bodies that embrace each other, the burning fusion of sexes. Her baroque poetry fills every corner of the canvas with a fabulous array of astonishing and lively creatures. Nothing is stranger to her mind than any sort of religious, ethnic or national narrowness. Her art is playfully human, erotitically universal, poetically Sexual, and knows of border.

        It is well known that the Kabbalist developed, throughout the centuries, the mystical art of letter combinations. By attributing to each letter a number, they discovered the hidden affinities between words bearing the same number, and used this secret knowledge for magical operations of “practical Kabbala”.

             Ody Saban inherits from this tradition. But she went farther than the Kabbalists. Without fearing heresy, she added a new letter to the sacred alphabet of the Hebrew language. Starting from the belief that language has been given us by the gods in order to make an erotical use of it, she proposes us the letter KOUS, word that designates in both Arab and Hebrew slang – for once unified – the female sexual organ. As an oriental ideogram, the new letter is represented by a form that corresponds, in a schematical way, to the site of female pleasure: an inversed triangle, or a great U, shot through by a small slash.

             Profane Kabbalist, Ody Saban dared to represent what nobody else had until now imagined; a new letter, charged with the magic force of love. Her KOUS water-colours and canvas are not only glowing and tender works of art, but also the intervention of a new erotic grammar.

 

Michael Löwy

Emerit  research director in sociology, CNRS 5National Center for Scientific Research), Paris. Author of – among other books -

Redemption and Utopia. Libertarian Judaïsm in Central Europe, Stanford University Press, 1990.