Oil on canvas, 60×70 cm. Painted during lockdown, in Jan. 2021
I am honored to participate in this years Jerusalem Biennale – in the group show “A Sense of Space, A Sense of Place, curated by my talented colleague Mallory Serebrin. The show is in a unique location – a century old Armenian villa, that served for half a century as a school for deaf children. The exterior is magnificent. The interior – reminds me of my artwork! The work is a polydych, of four panels, called “Common Cypress”, the botanical name of the Mediterranean cypress. In Hebrew – ברוש מצוי Each panel is named buy a line from a song of the Israeli cannon, revealing a strong connection to this unique place.
בחמסין בקרה – מ”ברוש” של אהוד מנור ואריאל זילבר
באב אל ואד – מילים חיים גורי
נומה עמק ראץ תפארת מ”שיר העמק, מילים נתן אלטרמן
מארץ מרחקים מ”אל הציפור” מילים חיים נחמן ביאליק
Images from the Gallery Talk
Cypress Trees in Late Summer Fields 2015
Gouache over mixed media, on a koalin coated panel. 41 x 66 cm.
ברושים בשדות סוף הקיץ 2015
גואש מעל מדיות מעורבות, על לוחות המצופות בחימר לבן. 46 5* 66 ס”מ
Yellow is a tricky color. It is easy to paint monochromatic works in all greens, blues or reds. One simply mixes in small amounts of other colors to gain a wide pallet, of varying depths and intensities and pureness. There are also many and so very different pigments in those families to start from. Yet, after all of that messing and punching and kneading, these colors easily remain what we consider to be the families of greens, blues and reds.
Yellows are so much more sensitive! How do we create a “dark yellow”? After adding what miniscule amount of another color, does the “yellow” stop being yellow? Very little!
So, how much must I stray away from that Crayola crayon definition of Yellow, to create a vibrant painting, with sufficient contrasts?
Those of us living with our bone dry summers are familiar with this pallet. The wild grass turns to dusty yellow. The red roofs and dark cypresses are coated with fine yellow gray loess soil, carried in from the Sahara and Syrian Desert.
Yet our summer is not merely sun burnt. Delicacy can be found in the dried thistles. The rhythmic curvatures of the rolling hills and terraces reveal themselves. The sun casts yellow, and shadows in the hills reveal a lavender hue.
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.
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?
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.
And I saw a cypress tree, standing firm in a field. Facing the sun, hot desert winds and frost. Facing off the storm.
The cypress had doubled over, and bowed down to the weeds, without breaking.
And now, that cypress stands up straight up facing the sea, and is still green and towering….
If only I could learn the path of that single tree….
From the upbeat song Brosh / Cypress. Lyrics by Ehud Manor, melody Ariel Zilber.
This happy song ends however with self doubt,
And I am like an infant, broken and incapable. Unable to stand firm, facing the sun, the desert winds and frost. Unable to face the storm. La la la.
This series reflects the battle between my hidden, wild and naughty exuberance, and my mask of decorum. While painting, I felt as if my own, real life value conflicts, were right at the surface. I enhanced my true confusion, by repeatedly reversing the sense of order and disorder, and of positive and negative images within each painting.
Tall cypress trees and falling leaves or else tall ladders appear in all paintings. Are they connecting Heaven and Earth? Or perhaps connecting body and soul? Balancing freedom with obligation? Symbols of mortality and the afterlife? Self-discipline and commitment?
16 Works in gouache over pencil, pastel and ink, on clay coated wooden panels. 30×30 30×40 and 40×50 cm. Painted in spring and summer 2014.
She sensed correctly whom to pick. Ehud left his coffee, and brought it to her with his modest smile.
Thirteen Persian Flasks, 2014. Gouache painting by Chanan Mazal, 46 x 61 cm
שלושה עשר בקבוקוים פרסיים, 20914. ציור גואש של חנן מזל
I started this one before my last visit to the US, and had a hard time going back to it. So I just went bonkers with splattering yellow and orange, and let it flow from there. Just let things go.
The controlled, cleanly drafted, identical bottles, all placed at an identical height, were in contradiction with the rest on the painting. So was my flat treatment of these bulbous forms, against the depth and flowing movement of the background