Dina Hoffman Exhibition - How the Days Go By, PenelopePenelope Time, Chequered Time
by Tali Tamir
Greek pottery artists in the 5th Century BCE drew geometrical designs in the spaces between the figures and objects
featured in the tale they were portraying. Studies have identified a sort of archetypal horror vacui, fear of voids, in
this tradition which, prior to the triumph of canonical form, was still preoccupied with filling in empty space and
creating rhythmic and visual unity. Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, who delayed his return from his journeys. She
was preoccupied with her own horror vacui - the absence of her beloved husband and, even more, the uncertainty
about his return. Her obsessive spinning is an exact metaphor for the hoarded energy of anticipation: time that flows
and accumulates with no knowledge of the end, winding and unwinding in keeping with the cycle of day and night.
Throughout the long anticipation of her husband's return, Penelope cunningly handles the suitors who come to ask for
her hand, sending them back and forth with the excuse that she has to finish the task of spinning her husband's
Dina Hoffman's work is her way of coping with horror vacui: she camouflages her own void so successfully, that its
existence is unknown , apart from the evidence of its instructive coverings. The interchange of "emptiness" and
"fullness" ( graphically equivalent to a chequered pattern ) like the interchange of Penelope's spinning and unwinding,
produce a basically ambivalent situation which relates to the fantasy of "the suitors": are they really being invited
into a vacant space, or does the spectacular fullness, perhaps, fill the whole void? A mural entitled "Penelope, see
how the days go by" occupies a wall opposite another wall, entitled "The suitors' party", that display a row of
T-shirts with slogans drawn from male - female relationships. The glittering, splendid, butterfly-wing beauty that
Hoffman spins/ weaves/ stitches is also a product of emptiness: an aesthetic emptiness, a tortured paucity full of
prohibitions in which she spent her kibbutz childhood. The absence of any legitimacy for ornamentation, glitter, glow,
abundance in kibbutz society during the 'fifties' , induced a wild, insatiable hunger for everything in the realm of
beauty, however cheap, simple or over-the-top kitsch. The fact that Hoffman was born a few months after her
father was killed in the War of Independence is what opened the "black hole" in her soul, that absolute and final
absence - the "horror vacui".
In "Small Bequests" Hoffman relates to the fear of death expressed in a series of mysterious still-life watercolours.
Here, with her wonderful ability to contain abundance and multiplicity and create "capsules of happiness and beauty"
Hoffman documents collections of her personal belongings. She produced the paintings day by day, working on her
kitchen table. From these collections, Hoffman groups small "bequests" to the loving and needy that contain hints
of private fantasies and dreams. The process of separating from her father, her lover and from life itself derives
power and vitality from the personal, aesthetic freedom that she takes for herself in creating a burning vision of
splendid, colourful beauty.
Translated from Hebrew by Riva Rubin