Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Trelex Times

A Residency made in Heaven

It all started in late 2014. My friend Ora Ruven recommended I contact artist Nina Rodin for a free residency she's been offering in Trelex, Switzerland, saying "I know you like these things". And surely I do (Free residency! Switzerland!), so I wrote immediately and got to stay 6 weeks in the summer.
If you looked  at the website and read some you may think - oh, how nice. Well you have no idea how. It's my third week here,  and
I am still finding out more about the possibilities of using my time here - everything, just everything, overflows or grows on trees. You just tune in and bathe yourself in calm delicious waters, ideas, beauty, serenity and inspiration.

I wasn't sure how much I would like Switzerland. Italy was still on my mind from my previous trip. Its northern neighbor looked much less colorful,  the architecture of old villages here mimics the mountain ranges with their pointed slopey tops. Often cloudy and rainy, much fewer people in the  streets, pricey of course. That was my first impression. But then I arrived into the micro-country of Trelex and things changed. In short, we (there usually are two artists or more at the same time) can use the residency in any way we like, there are no restrictions. There's ample materials to use in the studio itself and a zillion appetizers in the nature outside, even looking through the windows. What really started me up, strangely enough, was an innocent set of color markers left by one or more of the previous artists. The other thing was the heat wave - a long week of ever increasing temperatures, which forced me to wander away from the house into the woods, where I would sit under the heavy shade and look around me. The following works all from the same window show my progress with markers.

Trelex Residency garden

Trelex Residency garden

Another view of the same corner of the garden

Then I went to look out the other window...

Again started in pastel, then (below) pen and watercolor

And the outdoors, just  a few minutes away from the house.

Same view in markers (below) and pen and ink (above)

Finally, wandering about to the forest and some nearby places that look like it...

Watercolor, postcard size

Pen and ink, postcard size

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Painter’s Gaze

It came to pass (according to legend, surely) that two eminent painters in ancient Greece, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, one day decided to hold a contest to decide which one was the better realist painter. On the day of the contest, they walked to the town square. Zeuxis was the first to unveil his canvas. On it was depicted such a perfect bunch of grapes, that the birds flew toward the painting and tried to nibble them.
Zeuxis turned to Parrhasius. “Now take off the fabric that covers your canvas”, he said. But when he tried to remove it, he found that the cloth was… a painting! Therefore Parrhasius won, because, said Zeuxis, “I fooled the birds, but Parrhasius fooled Zeuxis” - a painter, someone with a superior power of perception.

When we were just beginning to learn painting, we had to do dozens of tedious exercises with the sole purpose of teaching us how to see. See - not paint or draw. See, because seeing is the basis of all painting. The artist sees what no other eye can behold. He looks into the soul of things. He is far-sighted and delirious, he has imagination and dreams, he has the mysterious power to blow life into dead matter.
John Ruskin - the 19-century poet, art critic, artist - wrote a few books on art, among them about the art of drawing (“The Elements of Drawing”). He argued that everyone whould acquire this ability, if they would like to truly understand the world. He claimed that until you have tried to draw a tree, or a bird, or a house - you haven’t truly seen them.
One of my friends would second him on that. My friend was very excited to describe how he, with no previous experience, sat in a garden and toiled about drawing a few branches of a tree. The more he observed and tried to pass them onto the paper, the more he became aware of the structure of the tree and how complex it is - something he has always taken for granted.
Observing nature makes one humble. And being humble is the greatest gift one can give oneself.

Shortly after I began to study realistic painting and drawing, I found myself gazing at trees for long periods, because painting such a huge organism is all but easy. I patiently observed the interwoven branches, the rising canopy, the play of light on the foliage and the transformation of color, the dark shades. A few minutes into this, (no idea how few - you lose your sense of time when trying to draw) I was suddenly seized by a rather mysterious sense. Observation has resulted in something close to trance, where I had an enhanced perception of the beauty of the trees, and that beauty has taken over me. It was a most peculiar discovery, as if for a short while I have been part of the soul of the tree.
It is common to say that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, maybe even more than that: they may be a opening through which the soul can come and go as it pleases, merge with the world, feel the unity and joy and beauty. Perhaps beauty is nothing but a feeling, which resides "in the eye of the beholder”, or better: in the soul of the beholder.

They were the most common cypresses and eucalyptuses, but suddenly they were talking and singing to me, suddenly I could understand them and they could understand me. Ruskin was right in his suggestion that everyone should study drawing. You owe it to yourself, to your family - your larger family, the one which includes all things large and small.
I asked myself a simple question: how come I didn’t see it so far? And more questions followed: Why did it turn up just now? And what else can I see that I couldn’t see before? (And I began to make an effort to try to see more and more, to obtain more of that sweet stuff).
And so painting, having been a goal in itself, reveals its true purpose: to see. Because to see means to know the world, and knowing the world is knowing myself.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Rona in Wonderland or: Bella Italia
So, Venice.
Everything in this city seems to be glowing - probably a result of the presence of so much water; objects radiate light and vibrate color. The  effect is so intense that totally overwhelms the visitor, especially the art-minded, that needs to stop every  second to appreciate a new beauty.

Before Venice I went to Civita Castellana, in the drawing above, a place onsidered "legendary" among plein air painters. Corot and Turner painted here; I was curious and the place took my breath away. It reminded me of dreams I had in the past - what a surprising encounter, to discover a  dreamscape in reality!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Drawing, by the Way

It's been a very dry winter so far in Haifa, and I got used to taking long walks - sometimes longer than the drawing/painting session - and discovering new places nearby. I always need to improve nature a bit; I did it with my "Back Yard" series; I am doing it again with "Khayat Grove", a secret garden that's been neglected for decades but is kept afloat thanks to volunteer work (initiated by Eyal Friedlander and Abed Abdi, two artists from Haifa).
These are a few drawings done recently, all pen on paper. Sizes vary - 25x35 or 35x50.

The Grove is at the foot of the Carmel, right where Wadi Siah - a graceful semi-dry stream (flows in rainy season) that runs through a modest wood - ends. This is what I was drawing a bit higher up. 

Elsewhere in Haifa a miniature rocky slope captured my imagination.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

City Breaks and Forest Dreams

oil on canvas 40x50 cm

Dorit Barak invited me to take part in this year's Open Studios. She has a big studio in South Tel Aviv, in a building shared by many other artists. It allowed me to stay a few days in the big city, and made me feel like I needed more of that, because Haifa is so, well... quiet.
Not that we don't have our own city life. But it's very modest and you always meet the same people. Tel Aviv has this pulse, rush and multiple opportunities. I chose to live in Haifa though, and judging by the creative surge I had in the past few years, my choice seems justified.
But since Dorit invited me to show in Tel Aviv, I just sat at the desk, so to speak, and began to work, producing a whole body of work in just 5 months.
Here are some examples of the stuff I've been producing.

oil on canvas 48x52 cm

 engraving and oil paint on opaque (white) plexiglass, 65x64

oil on canvas 106x44 cm

This last one is an experiment in painting from imagination. I started with my back yard - the first painting in this post - and then inserted the forest in the space stretched between the buildings. 
So the back yard becomes CityForest... and maybe when CityForest project is ready, my back yard will indeed be part of it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Forest Life

170x80 cm, oil on canvas, 2013

It's been a while. I have been busy moving from one rented apartment to another, trying hard to keep up the good work. The first move was to an apartment you wouldn't believe existed within my financial limits. It was a dream home, but as in dreams, it could not stay mine for long.
But the good news is, the Tigers project has given me a nice push to continue working as it was received so nicely. One of the Tigers is now decorating an office of a big company, another has landed in a private home.
Apart from drawing and painting like crazy all that which surrounds me - the view from the balcony is an old and somewhat romantic ruin - I have started working on the next thing. The forest above, a gift for my brother, is part of the new project. I have been dilligently procrastinating, if you can say such a thing. Sketches fill the room till there's no air but still no end, nor beginning (of the actual painting) in sight.
Forest has taken over my life. I seem to be thinking of nothing else, even contemplating moving to Europe for a while just to live in a forest and paint it until I'm satisfied. It could be West Europe (France is my favorite) or East (Georgia) or something in-between, like Slovenia, which I believe is covered up to its nostrils with moss. I just need to avoid bears, and then the forest will just fall into my arms and surrender, I suppose. Or I should just rely on the few sketches (in oil) I made here, in the humble strips of green we mistakenly label "forest" and use my imagination instead, - anything goes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Opening at P8 Gallery

Well, wasn't that fun?! I didn't realize there was going to be yet another opening for the same project, but Josef said I must go on showing this to the world. Tigers need the exposure. So here I am again following Ora Ruven's generous, fabulous invitation, smack in the middle of Tel Aviv. I mean, Yafo. Same thing from here - Haifa is so far away from everything.
We celebrated till 10:40 PM when we had to chase the last visitors away (a pair just stepped in, so we let them be for a moment). I had some interesting visits, including an old flame of mine (yes! yes!) - we still have to catch up sometime - and people I did not expect to see there at all, chance meetings, potential buyers and more.
The next few days some more interesting stuff. I am thrilled - a strange mixture of anxiety, hopefullness, intoxication and even some unexplained pain. Working in the studio, challenging and frustrating as it is, is still being in your own world, see?... But out there in the real world, the wolves are on the loose and no number of tigers, however magnificent, can save me from their cold grip. I am scared and don't even know why. But I'm happy too. I guess... take a deep breath and go on. (I haven't a clue where I will be living in two months).
Anyway, to end on a cheerful note, I need to be in Tel aviv quite a bit now, and will greet you at the Gallery myself plus free speech(es) about the tigers, if you're not too tired of them by now. And there will be Gallery Talk too, on Friday June 11 at noon. Let me entertain you.

Panthera Tigris Nisnas - at P8 Gallery till June 11