A new exhibition from painter Avi Schwartz, opening in October, unveils an original source of inspiration for the longtime professional.
The day Schwartz sat for an interview with The Jerusalem Post, it was his 80th birthday. His relaxed, quiet demeanor belied a man who possesses an art career that had spanned nearly his entire life, as well as the vividness of color and Oriental scenes which are his trademark.
And yet, even on his 80th birthday, he spoke with energy about new work he is painting.
Schwartz’s most famous pieces are scenes of markets, particularly from Rosh Ha’ayin, where he would stand for hours captivated by sellers and customers engaged in conversation, and he would catch their mannerisms in the most deft of moments. He would paint either from afar or from his car, spending hours every week at these markets.
As one would suspect in the twilight hours of life, the memory and recall of such moments would be hazy – but it is precisely within this realm that Schwartz ventured into a new direction for his artistic inspiration.
“Because I’m at such an age: 80 years old,” Schwartz said, “I wanted to paint my memories and what I remember, not from a photograph.”
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Schwartz fondly recalled a painting of his mother and sister visiting a fortune teller, and the crystal ball that captivated his childhood memories.
“The memory is the best gift a man can have,” he said. Even memories of his time at the markets that he did not capture in earlier years, he even now recalls images of a watermelon seller and his donkey-drawn cart. The images of days gone by are still fresh for Schwartz, although the scene of the market has changed over time.
The authenticity of the market has faded, Schwartz said. An easy aesthetic example for him is how market fashion morphed through the years.
“I look at an Israeli guy, with blue jeans torn in many pieces, and you don’t know if those clothes were bought from Armani or Zara, or if he took them from a trash bucket,” Schwartz said. “Years ago, when a seller was from Morocco, he would wear a Moroccan dress.”
SCHWARTZ WAS born in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to Israel at age of 10. His talent as an artist was revealed at a young age by his art-collector father, who encouraged Schwartz to develop his talent.
He studied at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv, and learned with the well-known teachers Marcel Yanko, Yehezkel Streichman and Avigdor Steimatzky. As Schwartz was less than enchanted with their push for abstract and the “New Horizons” group’s method, he took a nearly 10-year hiatus from painting.
Schwartz returned to study with artist Zvi Schor, and fell into the company of Shimshon Hollzman, Aryeh Lubin and Nahum Gutman, who were of the Paris School and more influenced by artists such as Cezanne. The friendship of Jaffa coffee house meetings and trips to the port together helped rekindle Schwartz’s surging return to art.
The present and nostalgia became Schwartz’s playground, as he roved between post-impressionism and fauvism. He unabashedly defined his own style as taking European technique that has been steeped in tradition and applied it to Oriental subject matter. Schwartz took on oil in bright colors for his frontal positions of figures with bold outlines.
The scenes of regular treasures in flea markets became his most common theme. Schwartz found his great fortune in discovering his “market,” where he was able to derive vivid scenes of market interaction. While he has not changed his style over time, or attempted to adopt trends in painting, his stubbornness to stick to his style has nonetheless brought him commercial success as well.
“I use it my way, although I am not Frank Sinatra,” Schwartz said with a side smile.
He beamed more brightly to talk about his success with another exhibition at the Petah Tikva Artists Association. His 35 new paintings are the fruits of the past three years, a remarkably productive period for Schwartz. In one month, Schwartz was able to complete four paintings, he said.
His relationship with the Petah Tikva artist community has been ongoing for many years, said Sara Raz, chairman of the association and curator of his exhibition. The opening of his new exhibit at the association’s gallery was a fitting choice to be close to home.
“We are building heritage in the city, and inspire the community to fall in love with the local artwork,” Raz said – of which Schwartz has lent a hand with his quality of work.
Avi Schwartz’s exhibition “Memories” opens October 6 at 8:30 p.m. at the Petah Tikva Artists Association, Rothschild 75, Petah Tikva.
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