Initially trained as a potter, Yael Novak creates wheel thrown objects that are characterized by minimalistic simplicity and serve as a point of a departure for vessel-based sculpture. Thrown porcelain objects are combined with found readymade objects to create a body of work which is idea oriented and challenging to the viewer. In addition to striving to provoke thought and dialog, Novak’s quest is a constant search for harmonious connections – both rational and intuitive, which will bring the artist’s highest aesthetic values and goals to the fore: perfection, control, and clarity of form and concept.
My current work addresses issues of excess in modern life and engages in a humorous critique of humankind’s endless cravings for more. Through the adoption of visual cultural icons originating in our everyday utilitarian essentials, I create objects offering commentary on the contemporary culture of mass consumerism and on life in the absence of boundaries.
Within the context of consumerist infatuation, the tribulations of having too much: stuff, information, stimulation, etc., calls for serious measures of restraint and control. In an era devoid of limitations and uncontrolled consumption, measures of sifting, screening, filtering, distilling and auditing are a reality as well as a necessity in all aspects of life. An assortment of filtration and distillation objects combined with wheel thrown porcelain forms to create sculptural objects and installations with both gravitas and whimsy are a response to this phenomenon.
In my work, playfulness in dialogue with sincerity parallels the need for moderation and limitation. Excess is trouble. The necessity to filter and assess, to distill and preserve in order to get to the essence of things, to distinguish between the important and the mundane, will inevitably allow for the freedom of choice, options and opportunities.
— Yael Novak
As a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the early 1970’s, Novak became involved in art education in the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum. Later, at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, she taught highly gifted children with special needs who came from both East and West Jerusalem. Here she taught her students in a space that was originally a warehouse for Nabatean pottery and she incorporated the museum artifacts into her curriculum. In this environment of exquisite ancient pots is where the artist’s fascination with ceramics began. Her career path changed and a lifelong commitment to clay ensued.
Over many years, Novak has been an active participant, both locally and internationally, in the clay community. For the past twenty-five years, she has served as Director of Foreign Affairs, initially with the Ceramics Artists Association of Israel and currently with the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center. In this capacity, Novak invited and hosted numerous artists from around the world. During this time, she also participated in several international workshops, symposia and conferences.
Novak’s contributions to international dialog also include her concepts for exhibiting Israeli ceramics. As a result, an extensive exhibition of contemporary Israeli ceramics travelled throughout North America. Additionally, the artist, lecturer, administrator, and organizer is the Foreign Affairs Consultant and the International Residencies Coordinator for the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center in Tel Aviv. In these roles, she promotes close international ties in the clay community and realizes her vision of bringing the ceramic world to Israel and Israeli ceramic art to the world. This multifaceted professional strongly believes in international networking… “It expands and broadens our artistic spectrum, further contributes to personal, professional and communal growth, to the enrichment of the creative process and to the fostering of artistic and cultural exchange.”