Noa Ironic (b. 1993, Eilat, IL) lives and works in Tel Aviv. Ironic was raised and educated in an orthodox Jewish household, and self identifies as queer fem presenting. A graduate of Shenkar Multidisciplinary Art School (B.F.A., 2019). Represented by Rosenfeld Gallery (IL) since 2020 and Plan X (Italy). Emerging artist award from Edmond de Rothschild Foundation Center, Tel Aviv (2021). She was the recipient of the America Israel Cultural Foundation Award (2019). Her work was featured at the Spring exhibition in Kunsthal Charottenborg (Copenhagen, Denmark 2020), Freshpaint art fair Special Edition 2020 (Tel Aviv, IL), Bull in a China Shop at Tchotchke gallery (New York, USA), the flow at Fir gallery (Beijing China), House Party at Carlye Packer (Los Angeles, USA) and a residency group at Unit1 Gallery (London UK). Her solo exhibition “Ride your Ego” was exhibited at Plan X gallery (Milan) in 2020, and her solo show “Much Respect” was presented at Rosenfeld Gallery in 2021. Ironics work is included in private and public collections worldwide.
Hi Noa, it’s a pleasure to sit down with you! First question, that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Tel Aviv, Israel ?
Hi back, the pleasure is mutual.
Well, a regular day here usually consists of me going to my favorite coffee place around 10:30 to meet my friends and play some backgammon for like an hour, then I go to my studio to paint till I can’t no more, some days I go to the gym after if i’m not totally fried.
With these next couple of questions, I’m going to go back in time. I hope it’s cool with you… Growing up, what kind of kid were you? What did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?
Wow umm yeah like back in grade school I was this too smart for my own good kid,no one likes a sarcastic asshole so socially was shit lol. luckily after some bullying I got hot and cool so I got to be a terrible stoner who gives people hurtful nicknames. I actually studied music for years and only drew as a pass time, I wanted to be a musician so bad but I was really not great at it haha. I spent most my time high as a kite and hanging out at the beach, I taught myself oil painting when I was 18 and bored at home, found out I really liked it and never stopped.
What was it like growing up in an orthodox Jewish household, and going to an orthodox all-girl school?
It was mostly weird since I never believed in god, so I kinda just played along till I didn’t have to anymore. and I got kicked out of 8th grade because of my anti-religious behavior which made perfect sense. My parents split up when I was 6 and my mom dropped the religious customs quickly after, so I was part time religious till I was 12 which was extremely annoying cause I wanted to kill my sims family on Shabbat but couldn’t.
After your parents’ separation, you and your mother became non-religious, and you decide to end your relationship with your father. That experience, did it influence your work in any way, or just life in general?
I mean probably subconsciously since it changed my entire life, plus my work is heavily based on the study of masculinity and the perception of it so probably yeah.
Back in 2019 you graduated from art school. Can you talk to me a little bit about how life has been like post school. Is it everything you had imagined?
Honestly it’s better than I thought, the last year of school our professors were constantly preparing us to be disappointed by the void after school and struggle of being a young artist but I started working the minute I graduated. Thanks to social media I had many foreign opportunities that israeli artists don’t tend to have, this country is a bubble so you can be extremely successful within its borders but anonymous globally. Luckily I’m doing quite well both locally and globally, even though I’m never really satisfied with my progress for jewish reasons.
So, when did you start taking being an artist seriously?
i wanna say 2018 cause I stopped listening to most my teachers and started doing what I want which is figurative painting, which was a big no no ack then.
As I was doing my background research, I read a quote from you that said: “I have a weird sense of shame about where I’m from, I come from a place of such pain and conflict that cancels out everything else, I felt that if I dare bring it into my work I’d be shun.” Can you talk to me about what you mean by that?
Sure. Obviously Israel is a pandora box of problematic behavior, and rightfully so. The injustice and suffering carried out under zionist oppression is a huge problem and I can understand why people can be scared off by the topic. With all that being said, I cannot ignore or deny where I am from, I was born into this complex reality and it is part of me and so my work as well, my work captures and criticizes contemporary daily life that I experience. The people I paint are middle-eastern, the interactions and small details are culturally recognizable.
I personally did not serve in the army but any person who reaches the age of 18 here is drafted, that changes a person and so our society and culture is heavily influenced by militaristic manly culture and trauma which I find fascinating. It does not take away of its wrongness but it is a reality that exists.
Alright. Let’s talk about your paintings now. The sleek, round, soft strokes and edges, with a kind of matte look. How long has is taken you to develop that style to how it looks now?
I think the style of my painting is constantly changing and evolving. I look at recent work compared to things even from a year back and I’m shattered. I’m constantly viewing other colleagues’ art and seeing what I can take away from it to my practice, I believe evolution is key, especially for artists my age. If you are not evolving and just banging out the same sellable shit for years something isn’t right, art is a form of research and we cannot let the market stagger out evolution because if we do we are no better then product creators.
I know that your paintings and the characters in them, has a rich backstory. So with that in mind… Horses and jockies are recurring protagonists in your work. Can you talk to me about that. What’s the backstory and who are they?
It’s funny you brought them specifically up as an example since I have shifted away from them in the past 2 years, also the jockey and horse were always a faceless place holder for masculinity as a construct.
The riders mostly had big hats and goggles on so they had this detached energy so I could pour any subject into their form. I started painting this theme back in 2018 when I was searching for imagery with rich roots within the history of painting as a medium from which I could push the boundaries of the medium itself since a lot of what I do is painting installations. Obviously I am more known for just painting since installations are a pain to ship and I am not at a highly budgeted point in my career yet.
Death, cheating, human nature, toxic masculinity, and beastiality. What is it about those themes, that makes you want to document them?
I think the fact that I am a very opinionated, maybe even angry person draws me to themes that are considered negative. I like using the term ‘optimistic nihilism’ which I define as a way of accepting how shit reality is but pocking fun at it as we go down in flames. Honestly with global warming and the constant threats of a nuclear holocaust I don’t know how people aren’t more negative.
Also these themes are key ingredients of our everyday lives and trying to overlook them or push them aside is stupid. I get it that its unpleasant, I’ve heard ‘wow that image is hard to live with at home’ several times in my life, living and accepting reality for what it is as a whole takes courage. Plus the act of denial is extremely privileged which I am not.
Can you walk me through your creative process. From beginning, to end result?
Definitely. I draw a lot, one would say compulsively. I have so many scattered drawings in my studio that it’s out of control. every small thought I have I try putting it down on paper. As the idea matures and begins to form I start using reference photos I take or google image results to create a more believable image. Of those drawings I create a final drawing that colmanets all the best points thus far.
Now that I have this final sketch that I am satisfied with its time to move to the canvas. (BTW I stretch and prime all my canvases myself cause I’m a control freak.)
I transfer the drawing to the canvas with charcoal by looking at it, every ‘mistake’ I make while enlarging the image can either be fixed or stay because I’m a fan of imperfection. Then I do a basewash which is usually red with a ton of turpentine because working on which sucks plus I can determine values and map things out better. from here it’s just regular ass oil painting, applying color and bending them to will, usually happens pretty fast cause I blast bad club music in the background and work like im peeking on speed.
Can you also tell me about your approach to color?
I really wish I could, I can’t really explain it. its like I know in my bones what will work and what won’t. Plus I think I have a very ‘let’s find out’ approach to it, I’m not scared to apply colors that are bold, worst case scenario I wipe them off.
What do you hope that we, the observers take with us after viewing some of your paintings? And what are you aiming to convey?
I really hope people first off are able to relate to my work, especially non art world people who just enjoy observing without having too much philosophical background and critical art thoughts. I am not saying that critical art knowledge is unwelcome in my work, I am saying that all are welcome to observe and perceive it, you do not need a 3rd degree in art history to get it but it’s cool if you do.
Since my figures are based on reality we can all see ourselves or someone we know in them in one way or another, it gives us the chance to be bystanders in our own life, a sort of otterbodyexperience minus the DMT. it’s a good opportunity to be present yet detached and to be able to take a good hard look at humanity as an experience.
What motivates you?
JK JK, I just really enjoy what I do, plus I’m a narcissist so success and ego stroking is the best orgasm. Most artists probably, it takes a huge amount of self obsession to want to share your thoughts and creations with the world.
How would you describe a perfect day?
Ideally a perfect day is one where I am being extremely productive in the studio and the air conditioner is at a perfect temperature, I go to take my coffee break to discover an email that I am invited to great residency or booked a show or made a sale, then I go back to painting plus drinks.
Alright, Noa. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?
Lol ok but no judgement please because I enjoy trashy things.
The first is Dodgeball with Vince Vaughn – I saw it in the theater with my mom when it came out forever ago and we had no idea what it would be about since we got the tickets as a gift from our cell phone company lol. I probably have seen it (with her and others) another million times, some days my mom calls me just to say ‘don’t forget the 5 Ds in dodgeball – Duck, dodge, dip, dive and dodge!’
And my second 2 top faves are Spirited Away and the 3rd Harry Potter, I had them on DVD so I would watch them on loop when I was sick at home from school. This is pre internet times so what hard copies you had at home is what you watched.
The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?
I’m just gonna list the top 5 most played off my spotify account ok?
1. Vixen – Destroy Boys
2. Kiss from a fist – Florence and the machine
3. For the love of god – Mindless self indulgence
4. Na na na na na – My chemical romance
5.Toxic – Ashinkko