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Universe Des Arts
Univers Des Atrs, April 2009

Malachi: Music and Painting

An exhibition in a Paris gallery has introduced us to an Israeli artist with great inventive and original talent. Born in 1919 in Hungary, Shmuel Engel, with the artistic pseudonym Malachi (“My angel” in Hebrew) is a self-taught person. In 1949, he immigrated to Israel together with his wife and settled in Jerusalem, where he lives and works until today.

His artistic biography is closely connected with the history of young Israeli art. Indeed, in the 1960s and 1970s, Malachi opened the first gallery of arts in Israel, and his rich personality endowed with passion the artistic scene of the city of Jerusalem. He acquired also certain prominence, but it did not satisfy him, and he decided to make Israeli art known outside the State of Israel and in particular in the United States, where he introduced the works of Israeli artists to various influential people in the field of art. His efforts were not in vain, since works of the artists he has presented were purchased by museums and collectors. But simultaneously with this work as a mediator, Malachi continued drawing and painting, while participating in numerous collective and personal exhibitions. Gradually, the recognition of his art broadened, and his works were purchased by some American museums.

For the eighty years that Malachi has been painting, he does so while listening to music, and that’s the reason he is called “the painter of sounds”. He manages to translate into paintings with talent and subtlety the feelings and the emotions evoked by music. In honor of his 90th birthday, the exhibition devoted to the subject of the Desert is held in the Art Montparnasse gallery in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris.

One can admire there two distinct styles of works, belonging to two different periods: the first one consists of a series of drawings in black and white, inspired by works of Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, or Zoltan Kodaly; the second one groups together the desert landscapes inspired by the Judean Mountains. In both styles, the techniques used are not very conventional, since Malachi likes to triturate his materials, sculpt it, and play with different materials he uses. Most notably, it is seen in the desert landscapes where the mixture of sand, glue, pigments, and pastel-on-oil techniques is used.


Malachi has told us about his desert landscapes: “During my last trips to the hills of Jerusalem, to the Judea desert, and to the region of the Dead Sea, I did not paint, since I was not accustomed to the intense luminosity of the desert but, as I am accustomed to the effects of light, I have managed to see the beauty of the interplay of thousands of colors, hues, and shades. The mountains in the desert have a very powerful appearance, reminding me of the castles and the columns of the Middle Ages, but in fact they are creations of nature, rain, and wind. All these visions have captivated me as much as have so many enchanting sounds of the desert.”

It is certain that in the works of this non-typical artist there is such a richness of remembrance, such a feeling of presence, and such a spirituality, that they go beyond a mere picture, while directing us towards the depths of enrichment of our soul. The desert, under the hand of Malachi, thus becomes a place of all the possible things, of all the desires, and of all the responses.

In the expression of this silent life, the light shoots up before our eyes and hails us, forcing us to question things that we take for granted. One is then also aware that it is this almost religious inspiration that Malachi harbors most deeply in himself that helps him to create with such indestructible enthusiasm and ardor. This can be confirmed when one sees Malachi at work; one feels he is relaxed and radiant, filled by the music that is indispensable for him. As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Without music, life would be a mistake”. A work of art such as the one that Malachi paints will remain in people’s memories.
(translated from french)


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