Flowers (26/10/2006 - 7/12/2006)
Flower Painting in the Israeli Art
From time immemorial, paintings of flowers have served as a theme with which artists thoroughly enjoy to indulge in; flowers as a theme contrasted with color and light or as an inanimate object in a wide open space all encompassing.
When Bezalel Ben Uri constructed the Tabernacle he worked on the seven-armed candelabrum opulent with flowers, symbolizing the earthly versus the spiritual gold, containing the infinite light.
For many Israeli artists, who for the most part arrived from countries with cold climates, the light of the Land of Israel was a source of difficulty and in the theme of flowers they found a corrective and balancing element between light and color. Flowers served as the bridge between the familiar colorfulness and the bright and blinding light that was new to these artists. Examples of this may be evidenced in the painting by Reuben Rubin "A Father and Son on a Donkey with Flowers", in the work by Arie Aroch "Flowers on a Table", a work by Leon Engelsberg "Vase and Landscape", and in the watercolor paintings by Anna Ticho and Yosef Zaritsky.
Later on, when the artistic style studied the dismantling of forms – flower painting was influenced by this trend, too. Zvi Mairovich, for instance, contends with Cubist artwork through "Still life and Flowers", the flowers being transformed into an integral part of the background, dismantled and assembled in a restructured form.
Yossel Bergner, representing Jewish surrealist art, employs the imagery of the broken vessels as representing the post-Holocaust shattered Jew. When he paints flowers they symbolize the new Jew – a perfect flowerpot with complete legs at the center of the painting, and the flowers blossoming and blooming in rich colorfulness. The flowers symbolize a new, beautiful and utopian world.
The naive artists, whose source for their potent artwork derives from colorfulness and tales, painted flowers as the mainstay of their artwork in bold and sensuous colors, as may be observed in the painting of Moshe El Natan ("The Jerusalem King of Falafel") "Flowers in a Vase". Here, the vase is positioned on a flat hill, perhaps symbolizing Mt. Sinai, while the vase containing the flowers resembles colorful Tablets of stone (containing the Ten Commandments) unfolding before us.
A different approach may be evidenced among artists who painted according to the Socialist Realism style; among these artists the painting bears a social message. Naftali Bazam, for example, paints a "Self-portrait with a Flower" in which we see an artist holding a single flower, a black sunflower: the artist and the flower alike are painted in black-grey against an orange backdrop, resembling the final act of the period ending in disappointment, an apocalyptic vision of the end of socialism. Conversely, Yohanan Simon, paints as though the Kibbutz movement will never disappoint. He paints the flowers in an interior setting next to the image of a mother and baby, as representing the continuation of the ideology which is reflected through the window: growth, blossoming and the warm Kibbutz family life.
Among contemporary artists, flowers become an object. Yoav Ben Dov installs flowers with petals in blood red erupting from a steel board. As an artist whose work of art emerges from a mountain and earth, he leads us to an encounter with a bright force of steel flowers, in which the paint is imprinted in, thus bringing it back to the image of the natural flower.
Amir Weinberg, an obsessive photographer, photographed the anemone for hours on end, aiming to capture the light that passes through its petals, while creating a colorful texture of sky-blue, blood-red and black. In both cases, the image is transformed into a fragment of the collective memory, as expressed in Alterman's poem "Anemones" performed by Shoshana Damari.
The photograph of Shai Zakai, an eco-feminist artist, depicts her lying in a field of anemones and becoming Mother Earth whose children blossom about her with red petals against the backdrop of green grass and blue skies above. Behind her are terrace paving stones separating her from the jeep trail, juxtaposing the pastoral scene with the wild landscape.
At this exhibit, Meir Natif, an artist who mostly paints still life, presents a calla flower, the white flower with a blossoming stem bearing a thick yellow rhizome, carrying female shaped flowers, with male flowers on top – a flower which is in fact androgynous. The light bursts from the white and royal blossoming; this technique is reminiscent of the works of American artists Georgia O'Keeffe and Mapplethorpe, who also grappled with the images of this flower as bearing significant sexual ramifications.
Malachi, an 87 year old artist, Holocaust survivor, and observant Jew, often engages in the theme of music. In his work "Fireworks" when he paints flowers, they are demonstrated as colorfully blooming out of musical pieces, as a tribute to Handel. This is an oil painting on paper hanging in the sky, with the light traversing the paper, behind the painting, such that the picture becomes third dimensional akin to blossoming fireworks. Noam Ben Horin uses colors in a pointalistic style, echoing the works of Impressionist Alfred Sisley. Inspired by Jean Michel Jarre's music, he creates flowers as though they were fireworks, constituting an anchor of stability within the psychedelic illusion depicted in the paintings.