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Interview: Israeli illustrator Geffen Refaeli

foto Pavlína Schultz

Geffen Refaeli is an illustrator who makes the famous instagram series Dailydoodlegram with over 104 000 followers. Recently she has been staying, exhibiting and working in Prague. How is it for her?
How do you feel here?
I actually just left Prague after spending 3 weeks there. It has been great. I feel surprisingly natural and at home there. I suppose because I lived in Prague in the past but I also think it holds something that feel familiar to me in the atmosphere and the ambience. I love it a lot.
What is the art scene in Israel like? What do you like and dislike about it?
I don’t feel I can really speak much about the art scene in Israel because I don’t feel I am strongly involved in that scene. I've graduated from Bezalel in 2010 and have been working as a freelance illustrator since. I am exhibiting and collaborating from time to time with people and institutes that I appreciate and love in Tel Aviv, and have been part of a few group shows and one solo exhibition in the illustration library in the Israel museum that I was invited to do, which was a great experience and honor, but I am mostly working rather privately and stay in my own small circles and space.
I think until recently illustration in Israel was usually not considered as a very valued form of art, or was regarded as a niche field or commercial, a rather limited form of expression, and not part of the fine art discussion. It was mostly exhibited in small and usually independent galleries and exhibitions, and discussed mainly in the small circles of illustration and design enthusiasts. In the past few years I feel that illustration is slowly gaining more respect and interest, making its way into the spotlight and there is a change in the perception of this form of art. I see very good illustrators who are wonderful artists showing in different exhibitions, which makes me happy. 
Israel and Tel Aviv in particular are very small, and people in the different art circles are usually familiar with each other personally. Many studied together in the big art schools, and there is something both comfortable and supportive about this familiarity between people and artists on one hand, but also difficult in regard to the lack of opportunities and the competitiveness that results from being such a small scene.
Have you stayed in other countries, and how do you see them?
I traveled a lot, sometimes for a few months, but the only city I've really lived in for a longer time was Prague. I did a student exchange for one semester and stayed for a year. I loved it. It is very different than Tel Aviv, it’s colder, it has a different culture, history and temperament, but it also reminds me of it. Maybe it’s that it’s not so big and the scene is also rather small compared to cities like London or New York, and there is quickly a sense of familiarity. I think it’s also very interesting, it is changing and growing a lot, there’s a very lively and creative young scene, a lot of independent initiatives and projects. There is also a sense of mystery that I love in it, at least to me. 
What has been the residence at Petrohradska like?
It’s been truly great. I had no idea what to look for, if it’s going to be very demanding, stressful, serious, or the opposite - if I’m going to be completely left to my own and lonely there. It turned out to be really fantastic - the people I met and the guys who invited me there (Daniel, Editha and Veronica who run the collective) were so nice, we became good friends immediately. In a few days there I felt so much at home and loved working there next to them in this really cool and quiet space in Petrohradska. They helped me with everything making it possible to actually put up 2 exhibitions in 2 weeks :)
What was your artistic journey and why did choose social media as your platform? 
I still don’t know what my journey is.
Regarding social media - I didn’t really choose it as my platform. I was and still am using social media heavily (too much really), like most of our generation, so a lot of what I do is naturally assimilated in it. That’s how this project came together really. It was random and unplanned that this one project will grow and spread to these dimensions. I’m glad it did though, it opened some interesting doors and opportunities for me, and I hope that in the future I will discover and come across new ways to reach audiences and also other artists to make new projects and collaborations. 
Is it hard to come up with new ideas and fresh takes so often?
Yes, it gets harder for me. Especially because Dailydoodlegram is a project that is limited to the Instagram platform, which is in a sense unlimited and never ending, but in reality is highly repetitive - people are using it in very similar ways, posting thousands of very similar photos according to fashion and trends, reproducing the same ideas and images. It is sometimes hard for me to come across and find images and objects that feel new and that inspire me and spark a new idea, but I try hard to do that as a personal practice too :)
What else are you doing apart from Daidlydoodlegram? 
I live, I illustrate a lot in different styles, working on my own small projects and also work as a freelance illustrator on commissioned work from different clients and publishers. At the moment I am also thinking about doing a Master degree in illustration somewhere in the world, and i’m also open to interesting collaborations with artists and groups which I found is really mind opening and makes me very happy!

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