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Khen Shish

Khen Shish

The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Painter
Countries Israel
Occupations Painter
Gender female
Birth Safed
Khen Shish
The details

Khen Shish (born 1970) is a painter and installation artist.


Raven and the Maiden, 2007, acrylic on paper, 550x700

Khen Shish was born in Safed, Israel, in 1970 to parents of Tunisian-Jewish origin. She studied art at the Art Institute, Oranim Academic College, Tivon, receiving a BFA in 1995. After graduation, she spent several years in Europe, living in Paris, London, Rome, and Berlin. In 1998 she returned to Israel and completed an MFA at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1997-1999). Shish is also a graduate of the New Seminar for Visual Culture, Criticism and Theory, Camera Obscura School of Art, Tel Aviv (2000-2001).

Artistic practice

Shish works in a wide range of techniques. Her oeuvre includes paintings, drawings, collage, works executed on television screens, large-scale wall paintings, and installations. Her works introduce expressive sites oscillating between chaos and horror, nature and culture, refinement and excess, frugal and Baroque. Her works have been exhibited in leading museums and galleries in Israel and abroad. Shish currently resides in Tel Aviv with her daughter Tamar-Louise.


Shish's work reveals diverse influences and sources of inspiration, including popular culture: cultural heroes such as Bruce Lee, Egyptian cinema stars, horror movies, handicrafts, round the world travel, outsider art, Arabian Nights, Zen chants, and ancient synagogues. Other influences originate in theoretical texts and prose: Julia Kristeva's Black Sun and Powers of Horror; Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the "Narcissus", The Mirror of the Sea, and Heart of Darkness; Jorge Luis Borges's Seven Nights and The Craft of Verse.

The eye motif

"During the acquaintance phase with Shish's artistic world," curator Ruth Direktor wrote, "one ought to linger on the image most present in her works – present, metamorphosed, reemerging in the form of another image: The eye. Eyes. Countless eyes. The eye sometimes appears as a leaf; it may, all of a sudden, float on its own on a large pink canvas. At times it is torn from a self-portrait photograph or crossed out with aggressive masking-tape strips. It incarnates into the image of a light bulb. It can be identified in the hangman's noose, while at other times it is a flower. It is at once poetic and violent. The violence is directed primarily toward itself: a plucked, torn, absent, covered eye. At the same time, the empty gaze directed at the viewer from the works is startling and deterring. Inevitably the viewer becomes a part of the reign of terror of what Bataille calls 'the gelded eye'."

Ongoing project: Khen | Djamila (1999–2002)

The Khen | Djamila project was installed as part of the exhibition "Mother Tongue" at the Museum of Art, Ein Harod (curator: Tal Ben Zvi) and at Wigmore Fine Arts, London. In the catalogue text, Ben Zvi wrote: "The project began in 1999 with a journey to London, where Shish moved into a primarily Arab immigrant neighborhood, presented herself as 'Djamila from Tunis,' and collected fragments of random encounters with second-generation Arab exiles. Some fell in love with her, gave her photographs, and wrote her letters. In 2002, she traveled to London once again, as well as to Paris, this time documenting the journey. She declared Djamila dead 'in the Twins' (9/11), but forced to contend with her Arab persona when people spoke to her in Arabic. Shish assembled her identity—born of these journeys and the gaps between them—into an installation. Postcards, objects, papers, collages, and stickers tell the story of the deconstruction and reconstruction of an identity. Together, they form a powerful Mizrahi female 'Self.' Postcards of Arab movie stars bought at the Arab World Institute in Paris, were cut up and reassembled. In one collage, Muhammad Abdel Wahab can be made out sitting on the legs of a Moroccan woman whose feet are decorated with Henna. Other works are based on papers photocopied at the Pompidou Center in Paris. Shish photocopied pages out of art books, and scribbled on them in Hebrew: 'Kusit from Tunis' and in English 'Tunisian' and 'Tunis.' The photocopied images have no accompanying text that might attest to their origins, nor do they bear any explanatory captions or artists' signatures. Thus, Shish appropriates art history in the service of her personal narrative."

Painting, drawing, black: encounter with the grandiose

The Eagles, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 370x210 cm, collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Shish's oeuvre includes a series of large-scale paintings, over twenty meters wide, marked by their black color. These works have been described as monumental tributes to Expressionist art. Some of them overflow onto the museum floor, ostensibly attesting to their infinite quality, reflecting a daring practice, rare in the art world. The color black, which plays a major role here, offers a key through which to observe these works, be lured by them and even sucked in. In her catalogue essay for Shish's exhibition "In the Black Distance" (with Lea Nikel), curator Naomi Aviv wrote: "In Khen Shish’s work black is a default choice, a given. Like using a pen for writing. Through the years, black has come to be identified with her painting, sometimes turning into dim pink underlying spontaneous images in black. Even when she recently started using deep, dark green, blue or purple, they have been seen as an extension of the black family – engendering also her wide use of gold, which often replaces the surface's white."


Shish uses collage to construct an autobiographical archaeology. Her collages are made of cardboard, newsprint, stickers, stamps, double-sided adhesive tape, gold leaf, pictures of cultural heroes, photographs of volcanoes or erupting lava extracted from National Geographic, and mundane materials. One of them features an eye being plucked out, against the backdrop of photocopies of the artist's self-portrait. The black and white Xeroxed portraits are attached to television screens with masking tape, their pupils torn out. The television operates in its basic mode: a flickering blue screen devoid of any image. With the eyes torn out, the blue of the screen bursts forth through them. It is sky-blue, the glowing blue of Gothic stained glass windows, and at the same time – it is also the most synthetic, technological blue, the alienated and impersonal blue of staring. The silence of the television complements the eyes' castration and the hollow blinding of the blue screen.

Nerves Sing

General view, "Nerves Sing", 2008, Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv

Nerves Sing was an installation staged at Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv in 2008. In the catalogue text curator Ktzia Alon, Ph.D., wrote: "Khen Shish cuts the gallery space with large-scale paintings, a partition made of construction planks, and flattened cardboard boxes in an installation consisting of a work table and a 'boat' which is, in fact, an upside-down table. […] The painted portraits transform into a sculptural figure made of onions, newsprint, and empty bottles, in an architecture of teardrops and masking tape, […] Shish's familiar symbolism, a poetical dictionary of painting-drawing constantly attempting to shield exposed nerves. […] With "piercing" aesthetics, Shish presents agitated performances of the 'Theater of Cruelty.' Her face is mutilated, her eyes are gouged out; her body becomes skeletal […] the plates are painted black, the boats sink, nooses dangle about, and only wings are left of the angels. […] The overt cover offered by the exhibition is but a part of a mutilated objecthood, introduced to be charged with a range of new meanings."


  • 2013 Landau Foundation Prize for Painting
  • 2009 The Ministry of Culture and Sport Award
  • 2007 Legacy Heritage Fund Prize, Tel Aviv Museum of Art
  • 2007 Artist in Residence, Cité des Arts, Paris
  • 2004 Young Artist Award, Ministry of Culture and Sport
  • 2004 America-Israel Cultural Foundation Grant for a stay abroad
  • 2003 Eugen Kolb Foundation Award, Tel Aviv Museum of Art
  • 1999 The Anglo-Israeli Photographic Award (Multi-Exposure): grant to make a project in London
  • 1996-1998 America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships
  • 1994 America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship

Solo exhibitions

  • 2017 upcoming exhibition, Anna Marra Contemporanea Gallery, Rome, Italy, curated by: Giorgia Calò
  • 2015 "Tunisian Bride", Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2015 "De Kooning and Me - Family", The Gallery of Kibbutz Beeri, curator: Ziva Yalin
  • 2014 "Hand Made Bombs", C1 Gallery, Berlin; curator: Doreet LeVitte-Harten
  • 2013 "I Didn't Have the Heart to Wake You", Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2013 "All The Tears I cried For You", Gordon Gallery booth at Fresh Paint Art Fair 6, Tel Aviv
  • 2010 In the Black Distance: Lea Nickel and Khen Shish, Ashdod Art Museum; guest curator: Naomi Aviv
  • 2009 Fire, Smoke, and Scales, Oranim Gallery for Israeli Art, Kiryat Tivon; curators: Students supervised by David Wakstein
  • 2009 Ornements et plis, Hagalleria, Paris
  • 2008 This Damned Heart of Mine", Habers Gallery, Vienna
  • 2008 Nerves Sing, Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2006 Transit, Kodra Visual Arts Festival, Thessaloniki, Greece; curator: Tal Ben-Zvi
  • 2006 I was Kidnapped by Indians, The University Art Gallery, University of Haifa; curator: Ruti Direktor
  • 2005 La Vie en Rose, Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2003 Birthday, Hagar Gallery, Jaffa; curators: Tal Ben-Zvi, Naomi Aviv
  • 2000 Buongiorno Giotto, Department of Photography Gallery, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem
  • 1999 The Goat and the Sesame, Antea Gellery, Jerusalem
  • 1998 Part Time Witch, Jerusalem Artists House; curator: Nahum Tevet
  • 1997 Henna", Beit-Hagefen Gallery, Haifa (with Rana Bishara); curator: Hannah Koppler
  • 1995 Installation at the Protestant Church, Wadi Nisnas, Haifa

Selected group exhibitions

  • 2016 "Art Camp", The Negev Museum, Be'er Sheva, curator: David Wakstein
  • 2016 "From Inside and from outside", Gottesman Etching Center, Kibbutz Cabri
  • 2016 "(Dis)Place", Ashdod Art Museum, Curators: Yuval Beaton and Roni Cohen-Binyamini
  • 2016 "The Circle of Life", NordArt, Kunstwerk, Büdelsdorf, Germany, Curator of the Israeli Pavilion: Carmit Blumensohn; Chief Curator of NordArt: Wolfgang Gramm
  • 2016 "Fragile": ZDSLU Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia, curator: Olga Butinar Čeh; guest curators: Rachel Sukman and Hana Kofler
  • 2015 "Beuys, Beuys, Beuys", The Artists' House, Tel Aviv, curator: Liav Mizrahi
  • 2014 "Mazal U'Bracha - Myth and Superstition in Contemporary Israeli Art", Beit Hatfutsot, Tel Aviv; curator: Carmit Blumensohn
  • 2014 "Confron Tation", Galerie Le Minotaure and Galerie Alain Le Gaillard, Paris; curator: Marie Shek
  • 2013 "Print Time, Works from the Jerusalem Print Workshop and Gottesman Etching Center, Kibbutz Cabri", The Open Museum, Tefen Industrial Park
  • 2013 "Momentum — Paris – Tel Aviv – Paris", Minotaure Gallery, Tel Aviv; curator: Marie Shek
  • 2013 "Scar", Petah Tikva Museum of Art; curators: Drorit Gur-Arye, Sigal Kahat-Krinsky and Hila Cohen-Shneidermann
  • 2013 "Curator: Yona Fischer Beginnings of a Collection", Ashdod Art Museum, Ashdod; curator: Yuval Beaton, Roni Cohen-Binyamini (catalogue)
  • 2013 "Time of Human Experience", Inga Gallery of Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv
  • 2012 "The Happy Mummy", Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan; curator: Mira Hannan Avgar
  • 2011 "The Museum Presents Itself — Israeli Art from the Museum Collection", Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv; curator: Ellen Ginton
  • 2011 "New on Paper", The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; curators: Ronit Sorek, Nirit Sharon-Debel, and Eva Sznajderman
  • 2010 "Day Light", Nechoshtan Compound, Tel Aviv; curator: Yoav Hirsch
  • 2010 "Recipients of the Ministry of Culture and Sports Awards", Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art; curators: Dalia Levin, Dana Orland
  • 2009 "Osculation Point: A Dialogue Between Image and Word, from the Benno Kalev Collection", Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2009 "In Drawers", Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; curator: Guy Morag-Tzepelewitz
  • 2009 "Selected Artists", Hagalleria, Paris
  • 2009 "Spring – Summer", The Gottesman Etching Center, Kibbutz Cabri
  • 2009 "League: 101 Tel Aviv Female Artists", Amiad Center, Jaffa; curator: Galia Yahav
  • 2009 "Consolation", Inga Gallery for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; curator: David Adika
  • 2009 "Israeli Art Now", Naomi Arin Gallery, Las Vegas, Nevada; curator: Omer Shani
  • 2008 "Short Cuts", Habers Gallery, Vienna
  • 2008 "Near and Apparent: Connections and Contexts from the Benno Kalev Collection", The Open Museum, Tefen industrial Park; curator: Ruth Ofek
  • 2008 "Rooms of Their Own: Art, Video, and Installation", Ticho House, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; curator: Timna Seligman
  • 2008 "NOIR", Bineth Gallery, Tel Aviv; curator: Ben Tzur
  • 2007 "Young Israeli Art: Recipients of the Legacy Heritage Fund Prize", Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv Museum of Art; curator: Olga Cohen
  • 2007 "Traces 3: The Third Biennale for Drawing in Israel", Jerusalem Artists House; curator: Dalia Manor
  • 2007 "Manual Labor", Beit-Hagefen Gallery, Haifa; curator: Dalia Markovich
  • 2007 "Selected Artists", Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2007 "The Other Sea", Jerusalem Artists House; curators: Dalia Markovich, Ktzia Alon
  • 2007 "Looking at the Trees and Seeing More than the Forest: from Raffi Lavie's House", Givon Art Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2006 "Sigalit Landau, Gal Weinstein, Khen Shish", Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv
  • 2006 "Present Now: Art of the Land 5", Reading Power Station Compound, Tel Aviv; curator: Tel Ben-Zvi
  • 2005 "Recipients of the Ministry of Culture and Sport Awards", Tel Aviv Museum of Art; curator: Ellen Ginton
  • 2004 "Intensive Care", Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv; curator: Doron Rabina
  • 2003 "Young Israeli Art: The Jacques and Eugenie O'Hana Collection", Tel Aviv Museum of Art; curator: Ellen Ginton
  • 2003 "The Promise, the Land", OK Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria; curator: Stella Rolig
  • 2003 "There are Flowers", Line 16 Gallery, Tel Aviv; curator: Galia Yahav
  • 2003 "Scar", The New Gallery, Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem; curator: Hedva Shemesh
  • 2002 "BodyCase", RAM Foundation Gallery, Rotterdam
  • 2002 "Mother Tongue", Museum of Art, Ein-Harod; curator: Tal Ben-Zvi
  • 2000 "Exile: Recipients of the Anglo-Israeli Photographic Award (Multi-Exposure)", Hamumche Gallery, Tel Aviv; Wigmore Fine Art Gallery, London
  • 1999 Biennale degli Artisti Giovani, MACRO, Rome; curator: Alfredo Pirri
  • 1999 "Hidden, Latent, Unknown", Ami Steinitz Gallery for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv
  • 1999 "Look Mamma Look", The Old Bezalel, Jerusalem (in the framework of Art Focus); curator: Yitzhak Livneh
  • 1999 "Artic: Recipients of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships", Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan
  • 1999 "Here and not from Here", WIZO Design College, Haifa; curators: Students supervised by Anat Gateniu
  • 1999 "Sister", Jerusalem Artists House; curators: Shula Keshet, Rita Mendes-Flohr
  • 1998 "The House in Musrara 3", Musrara Gallery, Jerusalem; curator: Rachel Sukman
  • 1998 "Seeing with your Fingertips", the New Art Workshop, Ramat Eliyahu, Rishon-Lezion; curator: Sharon Barak-Bachar
  • 1997 "Artic: Recipients of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships", Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan
  • 1997 "Sixty Horsepower", Installations in Wadi Nisnas, Haifa
  • 1995 "Gathering on the 5th Floor", New Central Bus Station, Tel Aviv
  • 1995 "Point", Pyramida Center for Contemporary Art, Haifa
  • 1995 "Artic: Recipients of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships", The Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery, Tel Aviv University

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