Natural Forest

Natural Forest #1, by Chanan Mazal, Jerusalem

Natural Forest #1, 2016
Gouache on paper, 46 x 61 cm. Sold

חורש טבעי #1, 2016
גואש על נייר, 46 * 61. נמכר

Israel’s natural forest is low, small trees, with small hard leaves. We have none of the towering straight lines of the wet north. Like everything else here, our trees like complex multiple trunks. That is, other than the planted forests of the JNF, with their imported pines standing in even spaced rows.

When we were still engaged, hiked in the mountains of the Western Galilee. The path climbed down a steep ravine with one of the healthiest natural woodlands in the country. I was enthralled by the deep damp shade and barely passable maze of the oak trunks. There, near the ground, I found coolness on that oven hot day.

Sloshing through the Bezet stream, we crossed paths with an older gentleman, wearing a suit and tie, feathered fedora and wet rolled up trousers.

“Did you see that “Yekke” hiking a suit? I asked.”
“Ah, he is a relative.”

I often paint trees. If all paintings are actually self portraits, than one of trees is even more so. In this series, I am not investigating the solitary tree trunk, but rather trees as a part of an ecology. I am investigating man as defined and enriched by the surrounding landscape of his life choices.

Painted from memory of that hike.


Natural Forest #2, 2016
Gouache on paper, 46 x 61 cm.

חורש טבעי #2
גואש על נייר, 46 * 61

Bab el Wad, 2015 באב אל וואד

Gouache and multimedia on panels, 46 x 96.5 cm

Bab el Wad in Arabic, Shaar Hagai in Hebrew, the Gate of the Ravine was a battle site during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948.
The sole road connecting the Jewish majority in Jerusalem was cut off here, as it winded up the mountains. The water supply was cut as well, both at the Yarkon springs, and at pumping station within the ravine.

My in-laws met at ages 5 and 8, while waiting on line for their water ration, during on of the pauses in shelling. She was living in her home. He was staying with relatives across the street.

His apartment building was bombed, and the Jordanian army had reached their courtyard. His first grade teacher was on the roof, with a sten gun, and pinned the Jordanians down, to allow the residents to flee in their pajamas, across a rocky field.

The one and half lane road from 1948, is now being widened again, to 6 lanes. So once again we are under siege, from the construction crews.

Two Persian Flasks, 2014

2-Persian-Flasks 2014, Chanan Mazal

Gouache 46 x 61 cm

With all of the confusion and conflagrations, in our Middle Eastern neighborhood, and all of the duplicity and duplications of social media – I seem to have forgotten to post this painting on my blog.

פורים שמח! ויהפוכו כל הלהבות, למדורות לאפיית תפוחי אדמה עטופים בנייר כסף.

Nine Persian Flasks, February 2015

.9 Persian-Flasks, 2015 by Chanan Mazal

תשעה בקבוקים פרסיים, פרואר 2015, גואש, 46 * 61 ס”מ

Gouache 46 x 61 cm.

I keep on finding new ways to approach the challenge of turning a lovely mess, into a non-functioning painting, and then to restore its dignity and intellect.
If only the real world was this simple.

כל פעם אני מוציא מסלול חדש  בדרך לאתגר: להפוך בלאגן חינני ויפהפה, לציור לא מתפקד. ואז להחזיר לציור הנכשל את הכבוד, עצילות ותבונה
הלוואי שהיה כל כך פשוט לעשות כך העולם האמת

8 Persian Flasks, Feb 2015. Gouache and Ink, 46 x 61 cm

8 בקבוקים פרסיים, ציור של חנן מזל ירושלים

8 Persian Flasks, Feb 2015.  Gouache and ink on paper, 46 x 61 cm
שמונה בקבוקים פרסיים, פברואר 2015ץ גואש ודיו על נייר 46 * 61 ס”מ

One more in the series, this one being particularly challenging.

I often tell my students that simplicity is important: When challenging the viewer with something confusing, they must limit additional stimuli.
The way that Braque and Picasso used restricted, neutral palettes for their Cubist still lives.
And as in cooking: Best not to use every spice in the kitchen, in each dish. Choose your direction, and emphasize it alone.

Good advice that I chose not to follow.
I did not to practice what I preach, in order to stretch my abilities to a new limit. I wanted to see how much chaos can still be contained in a viable composition and in a pretty, pleasant painting.

The Orphaned Synagogue in Lomnice, Czech Rep. Built 1780-85

בית הכנסת בלומניץ 2014 ציור חנן מזל ירושלים

Synagogue in Lomnice.

 1780-85 בית הכנסת המיותם בלומניץ, צכיה

בציור הראשון וישן יותרממוקם בגלות האירופאי. בשניבשיבת ציון. מה שנשאר בעיירההיא רק בית הקברות היהודי. בית הכנסת עבר שיפוץ, ומשמש למרכז תרבות

In the first, older painting from 2012, I placed the  synagogue in the gray European exile. In the second painting from 2014 it is surrounded the Mediterranean fruit trees and sun of home.

בית הכנסת בלומניץ 2014 ציור חנן מזל ירושלים

Bohemia and Moravia once had the densest Jewish population in Europe. Jews were prohibited from living in the same municipality as Christians, and separate Jewish towns and villages were created, usually cordoned off by a stream or wall.

Other than Prague, which also had its own famous parallel Jewish town, Jews were not allowed to live in or near any other cities.

Discrimination reached a new peak under the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. “Familiant” laws were introduced, restricting the number of Jewish households in each locality, and in the country as a whole. Accordingly, only one son per family was permitted to marry. Any secret “attic” weddings among younger siblings were unrecognized and illegal. Their children were considered to be illegitimate, and forced to emigrate at age 14. The mothers were sent to forced road construction as punishment for “wanton” behavior.

The Jewish population froze, and was forced to remained scattered in a vast number of tiny communities. Their physical reminders can still be found today in almost every townlet in the country.- such as this synagogue building. During the 19th century, these residence restrictions were gradually lifted. Most Jews moved to the cities. Many rural synagogues closed.

By the 1930s only 30 Jews were left in the Lomnice. The last sign of Jewish life is in a grave, from shortly before their deportation to Terezin, and onwards to death.

Jewish cemeteries were mandated to be built “over the hill” and out of the sight from Christian homes. The beautiful cemetery dating from the 17th century is well preserved, as are many old homes in the ghetto. The synagogue was used as a warehouse, but has been restored, and now serves as a cultural center and wedding venue.

Seven Persian Flasks, 2015

Seven Persian Flasks - Gouache painting by Chanan Mazal 2015

Seven Persian Flasks, 2015. Gouache and ink on Arches paper, 46 x 61 cm.
שבעה בקבוקים פרסיים, 2015. גואש ודיו על נייר 46 * 61 ס”מ

This series has been most interesting to create. As I wrote earlier, each painting begins with a chaotic splash of ink. I am often content with it at this stage, as is. But Jackson Pollack passed away long ago. Therefor I work hard to bring this joyful mess, into a polite conversation with the billowing curtains of pattern.

These Oriental bottles confuse and entertain the eye. Sometimes they appear in the painting – and sometimes are camouflaged, playing hide and seek.
And I wonder… does this series, with its Middle Eastern name and imagery, have any deeper political and cultural significance?


Roll Reversal

Red Cypresses 17.1.2014

Cypresses in a Red Field, Gouache, Jan 2014

I completely forgot that I had painted this last January.
I must have been playing with my old positive/negative reversal toy, after giving that assignment to an art class.

עבודה נשכחה, מלפני שנה. גואש.
חזרתי לשחק בצעצוע היישן של פיטיב/נגטיב, אולי לאחר שנתתי את התרגיל הזה לתלמידים

When I hear the protest “But I don’t know how to draw!” I hand students scrap paper and scissors and tell them to cut simple stencils. That way we get past their childhood comparisons to the project of the kid sitting next to them in art class, and begin learning about painting!

The second secret is in the mess: To free the the class up for experimentation, I put on some crazy music, and tell them to to attack the page with paint, while moving with the rhythm. Working standing up, with the weaker hand helps too. Once that undercoat is happy and uninhibited, we begin to work with the stencils.

My students’ results are often better than my own work! I certainly learn a lot from them.

Older graphic works with Hebrew lettering.

Borrowed from my third day of the Facebook Art Challenge – Older graphic works with Hebrew lettering.
While these were intended to be more commercial, possibly for an art calendar, they all contain influences carried over from my “Art”.

שאול מהודעת יום השלישי ‘לאתגר האמנות” של פייסבוק – עבודות גרפיות ישנות עם כתב עברי 

חיטה - ציור של חנן מזל

If you will it, it is not a dream

Shalom Aleichem - Peace be Upon You