The economic method deeply rooted in our culture is the background of artist and fashion designer Ronen Raz. "A good friend of mine once told me that if she ever found herself in the middle of the Sahara Desert she would find some way to buy something - with money."
Raz addresses consumerism as if it has become a parallel to the force of gravity. In his practice he attempts to create an encounter between disciplines, stimulating experiences and linking together physical processes and drives, awareness of origins, and ecological aspects.
"As a former fashion designer, I am quite familiar with the seductiveness of consumerism so essential to the definition of fashion."
In his solo exhibition, 'Silver Pharm' he tried to examine where and how his own physical and sexual desires are reflected while wandering around in a Super Pharma store, the modern temple of consumerism, taking a close look at the health, cleanliness and cosmetic products – the three spheres of self-improvement that can be purchased, the facade of proper functioning. In the exhibition, he referred to products that attempt to attract and divert the healthy, instinctive 'animal passion' to alternative, false needs and desires seemingly embedded in trained, controlled consumer products.
Ironically enough, the exhibition, which addressed consumerism in a more distinct way, drew a great deal of interest, and brought him into the world of art. This says something about art itself as a consumer object with a similar function, replicated, shiny, glittering, and seductive.
Raz has an ongoing fascination with skin, "I observe my own skin, with its little dry, raised bumps like islands, stained with red marks, constantly peeling off. Since childhood, I have been suffering from complex skin problems, pains, ups and downs, mood swings, traumatic separations that hurt me are imprinted on my skin, and will remain there until I pass away."
He maintained an insect collection as well as a taxidermy collection of birds which he stuffed.
His works contain some degree of the uncanny that is not easily described verbally, nor easily digested. The successful imitation of materials deluding the viewer leads to a certain emotional distress evident in the objects, such as in a display of still life linked to a dark, deadening infrastructure maintaining an intriguing, humanistic relationship of attraction-repulsion.
Raz leads the Fashion Design program at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv, and he understands very well the challenges of starting a career in the creative industry. "Young designers are full of passion, hope, strength and innovation. They are ambitious to succeed, but the know-how they acquire in the schools domesticates them, which is actually the source of many problems. When a dream encounters learning, a conflict of interest ensues, because various disciplines are necessary to realize the dream. This is why I advise young designers and artists to rebel against the disciplines, shake things up in order to arrive at the right look that they wanted, or the precise sound and feeling they wish to achieve, the one they dreamed up."
The experience Raz acquired as a fashion designer turned him into a professional in the discipline of Haute couture, in which the garment is valued as a breathing, life object.
"Among the characteristics of this type of work is the use of intimate practices and excellent processing of materials associated with recycling, restoration and the like. This means that things that stopped living can continue on to a new life, or things that have fallen into disuse can come back to life with a repaired, renewed, or totally new appearance.
Along with ever-increasing social awareness, the fashion industry is growing along with contradictory trends. For example: due to animal rights activism, the environmental movement and a collective moral sensibility, fur and exotic skins farming has almost entirely ceased, which is a good thing. However, at the same time, a massive synthetic fur production industry has developed, so that consumers are buying huge quantities at a much lower price so they can have a clear conscience, but the non-recyclable materials involved are increasing contamination of the environment."
For the past two years, Raz has been collecting used leather items and bringing them to his studio – shoes, bags, jackets, and more. "I peel them and deconstruct them, measuring their life signs between their organic and non-organic states. I feel that I am drawing closer to the earth."