Leonid Balaklav- Togetherness (11/02/2010 - 25/03/2010)
..."'I always used to have a fence. Now, finally, I broke it. I am not in exile any more’ Leonid Balaklav tells me as he points to a long wooden fence in a Chagall's painting of Vitebsk. Balaklav remembers the fence from his childhood in Moldavia, with the threatening dog in the passageways. I am thinking of Bialik's story Behind the Fence and the poles of the fence that separated between the region of the Jewish town and the new challenging world outside, in Joseph Budko's paintings. This way or another, Balaklav is dismantling the fence, and it seems that the thin planks piled up in his studio in the Gilo quarter in Jerusalem, on which he has painted more and more skinny and elongated portraits, are planks that have remained from the dismantled fence. Balaklav has set himself free".
Leonid Balaklav acquired his reputation mainly in the 1990s, due to his tormented self-portraits. Later, came the portraits of family and friends, that revealed the painter’s enchantment with the local natural light, and there were still lives, and occasionally landscapes. But it seems that only now, once the ‘fence’ has been dismantled, the artist has the ability to confirm the world as achieving a balance between synthesis of inner and external worlds, that radiates physical and spiritual light, while projecting a feeling of goodness and blessing. True, one can remember a few giant landscapes painted by Balaklav in Mitzpe Ramon in 1992, two years after he immigrated to Israel, but these were landscapes that were not part of him yet, but expressed his desire to quickly integrate himself with his new homeland. Only now, Balaklav can point to his goat paintings and express his true feeling: ‘These are self-portraits’...
In his paintings of the 1990s, Balaklav employed light as a means of body perishment and freeing the soul (‘with this light I erase things’ he then said ). At that time, his anorectic plank paintings, too, carried portraits that looked like transparent, nearly disappearing, ghosts . In his present paintings, on canvases, planks, and cardboards – the light is not erasing things: it builds, it confirms, and it says a ‘yes’ of pious thanksgiving.
- Behind the Fence, Gideon Ofrat, 2010