Shay Id Alony: Shield of Achilles

Photographer: Ami Erlich

SHAY ID ALONY / Shield of Achilles

29.10.2015 – 12.12.2015

Curator: Yham Hameiri

The objects in the solo show of Shay Id Alony, who recently joined the Gallery’s artists, attempt to investigate and research the subject of the shield and its significance in the psychological, metaphoric and universal contexts, as well as the contemporary Israeli context. Through the objects that Alony creates, he delves into questions of the most basic meaning and development of the primary need for protection and our defense mechanisms, through his use of the shield as a protective force and a symbolic object that in parallel also represent the power of artistic creation.

Achilles is one of the central heroes of Greek mythology, the story of whose deeds and all his brave acts present him as the greatest of Greek military leaders and fighters in the Trojan War. The ‘Shield of Achilles’ is the special shield made for him by the Phaestus, the divine Smith, on which his entire life story is depicted. Achilles uses his shield in his struggles against his great enemy in the war, Hector. The shield cannot grant Achilles everlasting life, but is capable of immortalizing his life. The mortal Achilles is subject to Time which leads to his death, yet the plot of his life has been removed from the course of time, and has become eternal: the shield’s power is the power of artistic creation.The shield is described in Homer’s monumental opus, the Iliad.

The 18th poem of the Iliad concludes with the division known as ‘Shield of Achilles‘. In these lines of poetry, the poet tells of the process of creating the shield, and describes in detail its appearance. The reader, who is swept along while reading the depiction of the shield’s creation and the beautiful drawings that cover it, forgets that Achilles is doomed to die, and that his death is expected from the very moment the Greek hero decided to avenge the death of Patroclus, his beloved companion.That loss and the loss of Achilles’ first shield, which he lent to his friend Patroclus in that battle, and the creation of the need for a second shield – Shield of Achilles, symbolize the loss of inner protection within Achilles’ soul. The story of his deeds adds to and develops these interrelations, between internal and external reality.

Achilles’ Shield exists on two levels:  as a material, visual object, and as a verbal object created by Homer. We have before us a text that describes an object, a literary creation depicting a work of art, a verbal representation of a visual representation – an expression of a visual object, from which stems the tradition of a comparative discourse about the relations between written art and visual art.

In this show, the works relate to the need for protection, and development of a representative artistic language as a means to acquire that protection. The engravings on the shield by Shay Id Alony are influenced by the African tribal tradition. These engravings recall cave drawings that represent rituals of planning and going forth to battle, where the very act of primeval drawing in fact serves as a type of preparation and defense for the future. Shields function here as a type of mask. In this tradition of preparation for battle, masks mediate between the supernatural and the human, serving in various rituals accompanying man in each stage of his life.

Like the masks, the shield serves as a sort of external façade that represents Man. In the psychological teachings of Karl Gustav Jung, the mask – the representative “façade” with which we clothe ourselves and turn toward society — is called the “soul’s mask”, or “persona“, which in Latin means “role”. The mask helps a person defend himself from injuries, a barrier that helps to function properly. It hides and isolates, adapting itself to existing norms, while on the other hand it needs to fit the individual’s real personality, the soul of the person it is protecting. Therefore, it must not be far from the personality’s traits, not too rigid, capable of being removed or changed, and primarily aware of its owner. Without such adaptation, if the mask we carry with us is too rigid, the inner living, breathing soul is liable to be suffocated.

Making the shield involves crafts of soldering, welding, and use of pressure on the shields which are made from iron, and on the negatives that are made from wood. The shields represent a kind of inner world that did not gain protection, like the sheath that did not succeed in protecting its insides, due to external representation that failed to communicate and defend, and thus the sheath is harmed, remaining charred from being burnt or scarred.

This sort of inner conflict – overprotection associated with lack of ability to communicate, is expressed in the works via the shields which, as noted, symbolize more than anything an inner rift and basic yearning for protection. The objects ‘try to create’ a sort of mediation between inside and outside, yet simultaneously represent repeated failure – and the frustration stemming from it, in such a labor of mediation.  Nevertheless, the work of Art per se is to defend against total loss of hope.

Yham Hameiri – October 2015


Shay Id Alony, born in 1974, lives and works in Tel Aviv. He holds a Masters in Art from Haifa University (2005), has presented solo shows at the Line 16, Hezi Cohen and Braverman Galleries, and has participated in many group shows held, among others, at the Israel Museum, Petach Tikva Museum, Herzliya Museum, Haifa Museum, Bat Yam Museum, etc. He has been awarded various prizes, including the Minister of Culture and Sport Prize (2014), the Sharett Scholarship from the America-Israel Culture Foundation (2001-2003). Alony’s works are found in many collections, including the Herzliya Museum Collection and the Sergei Tiroche Collection.