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(photo credit: Barry Davis)
There's more to artist Gordon Frickers than meets the eye. Though he resides in far southwest England and has a typically British name and appearance, the landscape painter is, in fact, of Jewish descent, Jewishly identified (he attends an orthodox synagogue in Plymouth regularly) and quite connected to Israel.
"My grandfather came to England from Poland and my father served in the British army during World War II," Frickers explains prior to an exhibition of his work in Jerusalem. "As my father knew Yiddish, he stayed on in Germany after the war and helped as an interpreter, liaising between survivors of the concentration camps and the Allies authorities."
Frickers Jewish identity combined with his artistic skill, produced works that are now considered important historical pieces. He came to Israel 25 years ago to paint a series of works, including landscapes from all over the country. Several of those works will now be accessible to the general public when they go on display this Friday in an exhibit called "Lost Paintings of Israel" at Jerusalem's renowned 1868 restaurant.
Frickers' Israel series languished in some dark recess of his studio for a quarter of a century, and may have continued doing so had it not been for a group of Christians who came to visit him. "They were devout Christians and were excited about the religious aspects of the works which came from the Holy Land," Frickers recalls. "I wasn't sure they were very good works but, when I had another look at them twenty-something years on, I discovered they were actually very good." The BBC soon got wind of the "lost treasure" and decided to make a documentary about Frickers and the collection.
As chance would have it, the 1868 restaurant was in the process of refurbishing and was looking for something special to display. The owner initially saw Frickers' wine series on the Internet, but his interest soon moved on to the Israeli paintings. The forthcoming exhibition will include works from both series.
Naturally, Frickers was happy to cooperate. "Last year the restaurant wanted me to give an exhibition of my French work of wine regions, but I was unable at the time. I am delighted they now want some of the works I did in Israel all those years ago."
The Israeli collection includes works done at locations all around the country, including Masada, Avdat, Mount Carmel, Tiberias, the Citadel of King David and a view of the eastern side of the Old City of Jerusalem. "Lots of things have changed since I was last here," said Frickers when he visited Israel to set up the exhibition. "Some of the paintings are, in fact, time capsules that show the way things were a quarter of a century ago."
Frickers' individual approach to art is also the result of a vision impediment. In clinical terms he suffers from a form of color blindness. This means he sees colors and shades differently from most people. Instead of treating this impairment as a disability, Frickers uses his medical condition to use color, and combine shades in a unique way.
There is also a strong romantic element to Frickers' landscapes and seascapes reminiscent of the works of some of the great British romantic painters - like Turner and Constable. The documentary aspect of his works is also enhanced by Frickers' highly realistic approach. "I research subjects before I paint them," he says. "When I paint a ship I make sure I get all the details right." As a keen sailor, Frickers takes particularly pleasure in his seascapes.
In many ways the forthcoming exhibition is something of a homecoming for Frickers. "It has been wonderful to come back to this very special country again, even without the religious aspects. I wouldn't mind spending some more time here - there's plenty to paint."
The Gordon Frickers exhibition opens at the 1868 restaurant on King David Street, Jerusalem this Friday at 11 a.m.-4p.m. To reserve a place at the event, register at www.frickers.co.uk/1868.php or call 02-5701717 .