Israeli-born Raquel Egosi had a lot of paths to choose from — and she followed many of them. “A city girl in the Tel Aviv metropolis, working as a fashion model,” she ticks off, recounting her teen years. That was followed by Israel’s compulsory military service, “some carefree time as a fun-loving hippie hedonist on the Red Sea shores of the Sinai desert,” marriage, farming, and raising three kids. In 1988, she and her family emigrated to the United States, and then to Brazil, where a career in the arts first presented itself.
The roots of her subsequent body of work can be traced to her first mentors in Brazil; while there, Egosi took private classes with the Russian artist Elena Nikitina,“a relentless academic realist and figurative artist” who taught her the rudiments of working with pastels and oils within the strictures of genre painting. However, it was fellow Israeli artist Na’ir Kramer who opened the doors for her creative imagination. “He advocated complete artistic freedom, which resonated with my own tendencies,” Egosi says. She began experimenting with non-conventional mediums and materials, including various industrial chemicals.
Also working in Brazil when Egosi lived there was Vietnamese artist Tran Tho, then in his eighties and long known for his delicate silk and watercolor painting. Egosi found herself attracted to the spare aesthetics of Asian art and often visited Tho’s studio to watch him work.
“He used to create his images sitting on the floor, without glasses and avoiding artificial light,” Egosi remembers. “His use of various materials, including eggshells and metallic foils, was very inspiring.”
That discovery has informed Egosi’s work ever since. She infuses her abstracts and semi-abstracts with just about anything that can be attached to a canvas and integrated with more traditional oils, inks, and pastels. Foil, paper, cloth, and unusual found objects are all fair game.
“I do not plan, nor do I sketch,” Egosi notes. “I rarely know how any of my work is going to look, or even what its artistic messaging would be … a testimony [to] a carefree flow of consciousness.”
That flow, she says, “can change at any time. I become as much a part of the painting as any of my materials.”
By the time Egosi arrived back in the U.S., settling at first in Miami in 2000, she had made her name. She became influential in several South Florida organizations promoting the arts, showing her work in galleries around the state. Today she teaches mixed-media classes in the U.S. and overseas, and her work can be found in numerous galleries and private collections around the world. (Traveling with her family, she says, “we realized that of all the places we visited, Asheville was the one we literally fell in love with — wonderful people, lots of art, profound culture, and mesmerizing nature.”)
Her process may go against the grain of her earliest training in academic painting, but really, she abandoned those boundaries decades ago. First, Egosi prepares a canvas with thick textures, perceives the shape or concept that most appeals to her, and chisels away at the layers of color until the right look emerges.
It’s a technique she shares with her workshop participants to encourage their own creative flow — especially those students who have no prior art education or experience. She wants them to “find their own bond to their creative self, with no fear.”
Raquel Egosi, Leicester. Egosi will participate in the Come to Leicester studio tour on Friday, Aug. 15 and Saturday, Aug. 16, 10am-6pm. 78 Big Sky Drive, Leicester, 727-452-3121. For more information, see http://raquelegosi.com. For updates on the tour, see cometoleicester.org.