Born 1924 in Kibbutz Degania Bet, Israel Died 2007 in Holon, Israel

Noa Eshkol was an influential choreographer, dancer, researcher and textile artist. Together with Avraham Wachman, in the 1950s she created Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation – a thinking tool for recording and studying movement – which remained the cornerstone of her studies, and an ongoing subject for the rest of her life. Initially conceived as a way for choreographers to record and transmit a dance, the system is now used in a variety of fields, from physical therapy to animal behaviour.

Eshkol’s internationally renowned dances are structured and minimalistic, treating the body both as material and an instrument for movement. Characterised by their formalism and lack of theatrical artifice, Eshkol described the material of Movement Notation as ‘an abstraction of the movement of the body’.[1] Her pared-back aesthetic is reflected in gestures seemingly drawn from an everyday physical vocabulary, albeit distilled and refined, and with only the beat of a metronome for accompaniment. The Wall Carpets, which she began making in the 1970s, are, by contrast, richly expressive in form, colour and texture. And while these distinct strands of her practice are wildly divergent, both emerge from within a framework of structuring constraints she set for herself.

Eshkol first began making Wall Carpets during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when the only male member of her Chamber Dance Group, Shmulik Zaidel, was conscripted into the army. This led Eshkol to suspend work with her other dancers, saying: ‘This is no time to dance, we shall wait until the war is over.’[2] She then began assembling and pinning cloth remnants onto a blanket, later sewing them by hand; the result was the first of her textile assemblages. From then on, Eshkol only ever worked with found materials, beginning with her own clothes and scraps gathered from around the house. Once she exhausted her own stocks, she began searching further afield – kibbutzim across Israel sent their leftovers, and her dancers gathered offcuts from factories. This explains the repetition of shapes in the works; the negatives of identifiable garment parts such as shirt collars or sleeve openings, for example, appear frequently.

Created with pieces of uncut cloth – anything from kaffiyahs to uniform remnants – the elaborate compositions were stitched together by Eshkol’s dancers. Variously layered, folded, or collaged, she never used scissors to alter her source material, leaving much to chance and to the mood of any particular given day. While eventually resuming her work in dance, Eshkol continued to make Wall Carpets, passionately and prolifically, for the rest of her life. It has been debated whether the artist saw any parallels between her work in movement and in textile, and yet in different ways, both reflect her interest in the laws of geometry and kinetics, alongside the rootedness of her practice in the rituals of collaborative activity. Ranging from the figurative to the abstract, Eshkol’s unusual tapestries cast new light on a unique relationship between choreography and visual art.

Selected recent solo exhibitions of Noa Eshkol’s works include ‘Noa Eshkol | Wall Carpets’, Opelvillen Russelsheim (2013); ‘Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol’, travelling to Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012), The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv (2011); ‘Textile Tales; Noa Eshkol | Wall Carpets’, The Open Museum, Tefen (2010). Selected group exhibitions include ‘Seeking New Genealogies – Bodies/Leaps/Traces’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2015); ‘Out of the Circle: The Art of Dance in Israel’, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2014); and ‘Decorum; Carpets and Tapestries by Artists’, Musee d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2013).

[1] Beate Kemfert (ed.), Noa Eshkol: Wall Carpets (exhibition catalogue), Hatje Cantz Verlag, Germany, 2013, p. 123. [2] Noa Eshkol, cited in ibid.