MANIC SHAMANIC - Meet the one and only Amit Elan

by Javier Melian, co-founder

Read on at your own risk of being swept away by Amit Elan's creative tsunami and becoming a ship wreck in the paradisiac Philippines island where he sometimes base his studio. If Amit wasn't an artist, he'l probably be a pirate, a shaman or a prince. His kingdom is certainly not of this world but of the one inside his portentous head. This cosmopolitan, multitalented, prolific wonder will make you question your own reality, as one can live in a permanent joyride like him and not regret it

I met Amit three days before the opening of 'ID', our launch show at Display Gallery, London (closes 30th April). I had chatted to him online previously to persuade him to come to London, as to our view, he had to be part of the show. He had certain commitments and it was not going to be straightforward as Amit lives between Germany and Israel, with frequent trips to a remote Philippines island which has become a sanctuary to him. I am glad everything worked out at the end as his totems at the entrance are a real crowd magnet. Display Gallery is well located between the law and financial districts in London, and Amit's exotic artwork act like magnetic gates to city escapism. 

I was aware of Elan's riske, frequently off the mark, violent and sexual works. i didn't know what to expect when I first saw him at the gallery three days before ID's opening night, so I approached him with caution just to be greeted by the most welcoming, shinny eyes and a personality that is like a giant hug. Amit is Zen in legs. But behind this apparently careless attitude there is a real perfectionist that cares about every little detail of his art, and about the process. He worked hours on end until the very moments before the exhibition started. For the uneducated eye, the job was almost done when the totems were stuck to the wall with tape on the first set up day, but afterwards they had to be carefully flattened, little by little, with blue tag. He also painted shades using a projector, and the horizon line that all the sudden gave an incredible three dimensional perspective to the composition. 

He involved a few of us on different jobs, at the same making us participants of some kind of ritual. He does exactly the same with disadvantaged kids from local school in Berlin next to his studio. He told me how much he loves the experience and how much the kids enjoy it. A group becomes a community, a task becomes the discovery that is part of man to create beauty. 

I was there, as hopeless as I am in any manual job, sticking art to a wall, happy as Larry, preoccupations forgotten, caught in the magical world or a man I now recognise as Amit Elan, the manic shaman.

Amit Elan was born on April 30, 1989 in Boston, USA. He was raised in Israel, where he attended Hamidrasha Arts Academy before fate brought him to Berlin- his home base since 2009. Amit’s diverse body of work includes painting, performance art, mixed media installations, photography and comics. His work is characterized by a bold approach to materials and themes, combined with a strong notion of sexuality, vulgarity, the physical presence and beautiful fragility of bodies. He is exploring the realms of stripping, spiritual shaman practices, city/nature, continuousness and dreams. Amit has exhibited in many group exhibitions throughout Israel, Europe and Asia. In 2011 he has completed a six month “Tao Philippines” artist residency on a remote island in the district of Palawan Philippines, in the South China Sea. In 2013-2015 he has published two graphic novels and has been involved in several different art related projects such as cooperation with “Agora” and “Mica Moca” art collectives , and has worked as a journalist for the I.G.B.K  a.RTISTS IN TRANSIT magazine.

Berlin - Tel Aviv - remote Philippines island. Which one is the best to make art?

Working on a remote island is Amazing and extremely inspiring it put me in a completely different dimension my work became very tropical and it got me in a great time work schedule since there was no electricity i had to work with sunlight, the natural sun cycle allowed me to work only until sunset which is opposite from my usual night person tendencies when i work in the city.

Berlin is also amazing and inspiring in completely other way the cities super exciting and wild so that takes my work to a more edgier urban feeling i think.

You are a very polifacetic man. Which area of creativity do you feel more at ease?

probably dancing and painting come to me most naturally since I've been doing that since childhood.

but at the moment I'm totally into doing performance art and working with voice and sounds so thats been occupying  my mind a lot lately.

You work with large formats. What are the advantages and disadvantages of that?

i love working big its more expressive and less careful for me . I can use big brushes and full body motion painting strokes. I always did bigger stuff till the last couple years where i got much smaller with my work because i started making graphic novels, and also for convenience reasons like transporting pieces across the globe for exhibitions, and  its easier to sell smaller works.

In your work it feels like u are really having a ball with life. Is it important for you to have a good time? 

for me life is a mega powerful journey. which is very easy to numb up to, forget the amazingness of or just sometimes fall into autopilot. one thing i do to keep awake is i love to go on adventures around the world and always keep completely open to what ever may come my direction while experimenting and exploring unknown territorie . being in that state of travel and constant new experiences makes me feel most connected. My work is usually a reflection of my state of mind and whichever adventure i happen to be on at the moment.

Is there a meaning in your art? 

i guess theres always meaning though i work very intuitively and i see it more as a purging out of my internal world. i like somtimes not to define a specific meaning to my work, so than it becomes really interesting - that way it gets a completely different interpretation from each viewer with input from their own perception and where they are coming from.

Have censorship interfered in your artistic live at all? 

I´ve done lots of so called "dirty" works before that involved  sex, fetish and stuff of the sort that some people are not so open to. so sometimes in more commercial projects ive been involved with than i´ve been toned down or been asked to change things in commissioned pieces to make it less "hardcore".

Above: Agora collective - Project Space Festival Berlin - August 2015

There is a lot of shamanic and pornographic references in your art . Is sex a way to spirituality?

for me shamanism is the best practice iv´e encountered to inspire me in my work and mainly expand me as a person, i use the visions i get through shamanic exercise in my work - colours, entities, textures. 

i think sexuality has a lot to do with it. i see spiritual practice as a working path towards liberation of the mind heart and spirit. sexual energy is a vital life force,

and being consciously in touch with it is a part of that path.

Above: Vigilante. Crohns Performance.

From the Right: Stephanie Balentine, Gal Naor, Moran Sanderovich and Amit Elan. Masks by Moran Sanderovich.

B&W photograph by Stephanie Balentine

How do you think ChromArt could help emerging artists ? 

i think it´s great what Chrom-Art is doing so far defiantly continue on this path, i´m very happy to be doing this collaboration with you here and exhibiting first time in London. 

Where can we buy your art?

my work can be seen on my website

for sales can contact me by mail or come around my studio in Berlin

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