Giyora Bergel – Prometheus

Past Exhibition

26.01.23 - 16.03.23

Prometheus / Gavriel Engel

Giyora Bergel – artist, warrior and Shotokan Karate instructor.

In the exhibition Prometheus Bergel displays images of life and death.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus “The Fore Thinking” is one of the Titans. According to the myth Prometheus created man from water and earth and gave him fire, to protect him during his harsh living. After Zeus punished mankind and took away their fire, Prometheus stole a spark from the gods and returned the fire to the humans. For that Zeus punished him as well.

Bergel paints journalistic photographs and iconic imagery like the atomic mushroom explosion of Hiroshima, the nuclear reactor of Isfahan in Iran, a pilot ejecting from an exploding plane and an oil rig emitting its fire to the heavens from the middle of the ocean. Bergel paints realism which strikes the cords of Israeli news cycles as well as international ones and mostly the nuclear threat hovering over our heads day & night.

In his painting of the submarine Nautilus which is seen as a giant whale sailing across the ocean’s waters while dolphins jump and swim around it, a single buoy stands firm and five crewmen stand and watch as if protesting toward us. The painting doesn’t have any defined borders only the water through which the Nautilus moves, cutting the waves and creating its wake, as a homage to William Turner’s horrific paintings of naval ships. But this is not romantic, it is the first war instrument that shattered the glass ceiling of nautical weaponry and was the dread of the seas.

The pioneering submarine is considered the first vehicle in history to be powered by nuclear fuel. It was launched in the American naval base in Connecticut on the 21st of January 1954, and its construction costed 55 million dollars approximately. However, beside the technological achievement of its construction, the crowning glory of its operations was the journey beneath the ice cap of the north pole four years later in “Operation Sunshine”.

Nautilus, named after Captain Nemo’s legendary submarine from the book “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne, the journey beneath the ice cap of the north pole was possible because of its nuclear engine, which allowed it to break diving depth records. It also allowed it to pass long distances in record speed and without floating, as contrary to old submarines with diesel engines, it didn’t need constant supply of oxygen to its engine. It was the Nautilus that began the nuclear race of launching ballistic and tactical missiles from the decks of American, Russian, British, Chinese and some say Israeli submarines.

Another subject that occupies Bergel in his paintings are the reactors themselves and nuclear explosions.

In the painting of the reactor in Isfahan we delve into the innards of the Iranian death machines manufacturing nuclear weapons.

The nuclear reactor and the machines assembling it, shiny in their cleanliness and the feeling of a lifesaving medicine factory, the efficiency of the scientist moving between the machines with a face mask as someone who wouldn’t pollute or be polluted from his craft. But as the title of the painting states this factory’s declared objective is the destruction of the state of Israel and undermining the delicate balance of the middle east and maybe the whole world. Bergel as a second generation of Holocaust survivors puts the reactor in front of us as saying this is happening now, pay attention!

Never more.

To the paintings of nuclear explosion mushrooms Bergel gives names like “Broccoli Atom on Orange” or “Atom #4” while in reality, the aforementioned paintings of mushroom explosions are Bergel’s interpretation of the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima and the deadly consequences of nuclear manufacturing. But anything in nature has order, and form to every phenomenon. a mushroom cloud is a pyrocumulus cloud of water vapors or shards of rocks and dust created from a large explosion. Even though the famous “mushroom cloud” is mostly known in relation to a nuclear bombing, in actuality this kind of cloud can manifest following any strong explosion (natural or artificial). So a mushroom cloud is a rain cloud that revives the earth and its inhabitants while at the same time a cloud that destroys and could destroy all life on earth.

In the entrance to the exhibition the artwork “El Al (heavenward)” is installed, a light sculpture covered by opaque plastic material and painted as a large eye and on it the writing el al. The sculpture spreads light upwards and illuminates its surrounding, venous capillaries intertwine in its upper and lower part as an all-seeing eye of which there is no hiding.

Two other exhibited artworks leave room for cautious optimism. The one, a thick wooden plank, and carved on it is the word “BaSaD” (abbreviation of BeSa’ida Deshmiya, which is Aramaic for “With God’s Help”) in popish vibrance, the skies are the background for the word while the letter “Sa’mech” in the center of the painting as a bright red eye saying “with god’s help?”

The image of the painting “The Canary, The Joyous Songbird” was taken from a collectible card booklet from Bergel’s childhood. The cards and the booklet “Olam Ha’Chai” (The Living World) were collectible cards that children collected and filled during the 60’s and 70’s of the previous century which were a source of knowledge, like an early printed google on flora, fauna and general knowledge. Bergel takes the canary and places it as a test bird for poisonous air. The canary was used by coal miners to warn the presence of poisonous gas in mines. If the canary would show signs of distress then it would be an indication for the presence of poisonous gas.

Prometheus is a super realistic exhibition on surreal subjects, worlds of beauty opposing the horror as we experience the reality of our lives, the will of the individual and society to a life of peace and sanity, and at the same time loaded with violence and destruction sprouting from all over.