Dafna Van Gent was born in an Israeli Kibbutz in 1982, the youngest of three sisters. Her affinity for art began to manifest as early as kindergarten when she discovered she could make new colors by mixing the ones she had. This interest continued into her teenage years, and her studies in a specialized high school for the arts led her to be influenced by the great abstract painters of the 20th century: Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko.
In her first years as an artist, Dafna focused on abstract paintings, using sticky tape in various ways to create textured stripes. As time went by, she began to incorporate new techniques into her work, intentionally adding elements of randomness and imprecision. Several techniques can be found in her stripe paintings. Stacked in multiple layers, straight, precisely-drawn horizontal and vertical stripes contrast against vague, watery, textured areas of color applied at varying levels of opacity.
When preparing to work on a painting, Dafna would place a sheet of plastic under her canvas, to protect the floor. On one occasion, a few weeks into her painting process, she noticed that some paint had leaked on to the plastic, and her tools had left markings on it. The traces she had left behind inadvertently resulted in something no less interesting than the painting she had created intentionally.
This discovery led Dafna to the idea of placing canvases underneath the paintings she worked on. The resulting paintings, which Dafna called “Testimonies”, created themselves. Dafna had no control over the composition, the texture, or the interplay of color. The testimony paintings call attention to the creative process and its many trepidations, prioritizing it over the finalized piece. They reveal the numerous flaws and failed attempts concealed underneath the perfect final layer.
After years of concentrating on abstract and spontaneous paintings, Dafna gradually began to shift to figurative work. This began with a series where the same image appears again and again against differently colored backgrounds: a fetus in its mother’s womb, its umbilical cord extended upwards from its body and wrapped around the mother’s neck like a hangman’s noose. The series is marked by the stark contrast between image and background. Drawn in light-colored oil pastels, the fetus and mother appear blurry and indistinct, almost fading into the intense, vividly-colored background.
The next phase in Dafna’s figurative work focused on the female body and sexuality. Using subdued colors and near-imperceptible brush strokes, Dafna creates twisted, provocative, and sexualized images of women’s bodies. The clash between the provocative image and the gentle, appealingly feminine color scheme invites a dialogue on issues of female identity and sexuality, the feminine beauty ideal, and postmodern feminism.