Kobi Assaf – Prima Facie
Text by Dani Yahav Brown

Kobi Assaf’s painting, a sophisticated paraphrase of the case in question, is both seen and unseen; in other words, despite its occupying presence, we are required to have an amount of healthy skepticism when we look at it; Assaf’s painting is all that the eye wants to devour, but with a finger that emerges from within the painting and penetrates the eye, and is forever disturbing; the deeper you dive, the more you will find yourself thrown out, again and again; the painting is so beautiful that it hurts, but it refuses to be submissive; it is an eye, as well as the sty that infects the eye; a universe of ancient tradition – “whatever, on canvas” – which implodes over and over again into itself; but let’s not be mistaken, the spoiling point in Assaf’s painting is a cultural value in and of itself,  in other words, it is part of the content; part of the painting’s narrative; Assaf’s painting cannot exist without the disturbance, it cannot take itself seriously without sticking its tongue in its cheek; without winking  (and maybe it’s because of the eye that is swollen from the sty?), it is asking questions concerning the very nature of its existence; this is content that is in conflict with an impressive corpus of high-grade ‘trees’; it clings on to Chardin, Courbet, Gericault, and Vermeer. The list is long. This is a painting that clings on to itself and metastasizes. It is a painting that defeats itself but then presents the medicine. A kind of medical miracle.

So, of course, you’ll ask, why the disturbance? What is the purpose of the discomfort? What is so good in rejecting the satisfaction that exists in the ravenous devouring of this beauty to the point of satiety? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time – that’s how it is.  Or, because that’s how it is in life; and in this regard, Assaf’s artistic ethos is no different from the trees that he hangs from. One second, one second, I’ll explain… Assaf’s painting is always a reference point, it symbolizes that we apparently (or not, but that‘s less important) assume a rich and respected reference; think for a second about the screen that opens when you turn on your phone, the one that is supposed to show off the unique beauty of your loved ones; but oh no, the sweet face of your daughter is obscured by a graphic showing the time, date, and WhatsApp notifications and the like… Indeed, behind them the beauty is hiding, but you have to act, to remove the disturbances in order to expose it; this begs the question of whether each time that we open that screen that is filled with all of the graphics that pop up over the picture of your beloved daughter, are we indeed cracking through the surface in this act of “cleaning” that will enlighten her face? It is almost absolutely certain that we are not. And precisely herein lies the answer: we do not need this act to know beauty. In other words, in our daily lives, that are uninspired and “dirty” from disturbances, are still meaningful; and Assaf, precisely like “his forefathers,” paints what he sees – shards of photographs, the internet, the market, kids, a little nature, pieces of classically painted clouds; the most AM:PM thing in the world. It touches the heart; these references, which in and of themselves are satisfying, and for which the work of mediation is superfluous; and no matter how much we desire and strive to reach refinement, life itself is here to stay.

Prima Facie” is a juxtaposition of words that almost always assumes a continuation; it is a juxtaposition that is a revolving door that can always attack the assumption that “Prima Facie” assumes; my favorite translation of the expression “Prima Facie” into English is, “a legal term that indicates that something is completely clear, such that it can be assumed to be true until it is proven to be false”; I think about Assaf’s arrangement of portraits without faces, where the place of the face is taken by a round moon; prima facie, this is another brilliant disturbance, the hiding of subjectivity, of the referenced idea, of identity; a magnificent tradition of painting is thrown under the bus without a second thought. Can you believe it? Not really. Assaf paints a moon and a body that carries it; the subject of the painting, its many pieces are equal in my eyes; none of the pieces is more important than the other; and thus is created, a body with the face of a moon, or if you like, a moon with a body; the question that the painting asks (if it could) of the viewers is not “who is this?” but rather “what is this?” and that is already a deviation at the level of portraiture. So, this is the essence of “Prima Facie.” Period. And it is sublime, hidden, and clear as the moon, despite the fact that on its face it appears to conceal this essence; but who cares, we won’t reach it anyway until the age of 20.