January 24 - March 15, 2009
Ofra’s art began during her childhood on Kibbutz Barkai, Israel. Her mother and father came from Montreal and New York City respectively, to found the cooperative agricultural collective which gave Ofra her unique experience of growing up.
By her teenage years she was known in her community as a natural artist. Eventually, her residence transformed into a workshop for cutting, sewing and dyeing cloth, and hanging indigo products could be seen draped over her porch rails, drying in the sun. At eighteen Ofra served her two years in the army, as all youth are required, and when she returned, she asked to be sent to an art school in Jerusalem. Her request was declined. Determined to live the life of an artist, she took her first opportunity to leave for Canada and enrolled in Sheridan College School of Design in 1974.
Ofra’s student work formed the basis of her early efforts in the world of textiles, covering pattern design, colour theory, silk screen printing, dyeing with various fibres and, possibly most importantly, the tradition of painting silk. Upon graduation she began to take her wares to the small art and craft
shows which were popping up in the seventies. She also began to exhibit in public and private galleries, with her compositions in abstract designs, stylized floral images, and such products as hand-sewn and printed kid’s knapsacks and lines of silk-screened shirts. She worked with painted silk to make scarves, combined it with various materials to make jewellery, and other fashion accessories.
Along with this work, a bond with the Canadian landscape began to form. Ofra travelled to the east and west coasts to photograph and seek inspiration from Newfoundland villages and the Queen Charlotte Islands, curious to see how she could put her own mark on the art of silk painting. Preferring to treat the silk as ground for a landscape, she soon moved from her earlier floral compositions to using the resists and dye in a concerted way to create her unmistakable paintings for which she has become best known.
In 2001 Ofra made a decisive move away from her Toronto home to live in the Beaver Valley near Kimberley. This was for her a transition back to the more familiar natural surroundings which she had missed since leaving her kibbutz. The move spurred a further transformation for Ofra, away from most of her textile work, except for the silk landscapes. In addition, she has taken on canvas and acrylic paint, in a move towards greater freedom to further explore the subjects which she loves: the Niagara Escarpment, from Grey County and up the Bruce Peninsula to the northern end of Georgian Bay in Killarney, and down to the south in favourite places such as the Kolapore Uplands where many winter scenes have been generated. Here she celebrates the beauty of nature as each season presents its best colours.
Ofra, nowadays, is solely engaged in her paintings, creating acrylics during the winter and working in her silk studio in the fair weather. It is the distinction of the two disciplines which helps to fuel progress within each, as Ofra seeks ever new ways of depicting details and pushing her techniques to greater length.
- Dave Robinson, curator