Post-Zionism By Way of Matisse

What is reality, anyway? For the last 16 years, Broken Fingaz, a post-zionist art collective from Haifa (the city in Northern Israel that was on fire last week), have been taking any drug they have been offered, their hallucinations providing the main references for their work.

While their halcyon days of hedonism might not be up (I know them well) for their latest exhibition, presenting new paintings and domestic sculptures, they return to the real, both in technique and in subject matter.

Just off Rome’s Campo dei Fiori, where vegetables, flowers and other delectable earthly treasures jostle against each other amid the sing-song Italian of the market vendors, the collective have created their own intimate portrait of daily life and its detritus. Galleria Varsi–an independent gallery run by a group of young Italians–is a breath of fresh air in a city that’s saturated in antiquity, inviting artists to transform their space from top to bottom with their ideas.

The BF’s Reality Check is conceived as a living room and kitchen that looks as though it belongs to three uncles who have been taking acid for a decade, who now want to sit down in an armchair and stroke a cat (and there is a cat, although it seems by his bedraggled state that he was left behind during his owner’s ten year trip).

Paradoxically, the BF’s most realist exhibition to date is explored by way of Gauguin, Matisse and Klimt. In a series of post-pop paintings and sculptures, the artists mix references to their own surroundings and western art history, a history that doesn’t exist in their own 70-year-old nation.

A girl orgasms next to her favourite works of art (including, cheekily, the collective’s own previous works); on a table cluttered with bottles of booze and smoking apparatus lies a personal photograph; elsewhere the personal meets the political in a newspaper made of clay, lying on a table, with fictional headlines from the apocalyptic Holyland.

Reverent and irreverent, warped and wonky, BF’s answer to reality is that it’s only one version of what’s there. Or, as Matisse would have it, “there are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

‘Reality Check’ runs until 5 January 2017 at Galleria Varsi, Rome images: BLIND EYE FACTORY, Courtesy Galleria Varsi