Divine inspiration

Meet Adele Radievsky, a recent olah, mother, wife and artist, who carries forth Judaism in her art.

artist 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
artist 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Victoria (Adele's name before converting to Judaism) Radievsky has always been an artist at heart. She painted sporadically in Russia, but her career gathered momentum after arriving in Israel a year ago. If asked prior to her aliya whether her paintings would reach an apex of Israel's artistic scene, being displayed in the Knesset and Tel Aviv's Biblical Museum, she would probably have replied "yes." Such is the confidence and faith that emanate from this multi-talented woman. "I painted my whole life as long as I remember, first as a child the way children do, then as an architect, which is art in its own right," says Radievsky. "When my works were displayed at the Knesset, I felt proud. I was happy for our MKs who were to be surrounded by my work. I hoped that it would remind them who they are and what responsibility they have to the people." She began her conversion to Judaism shortly after arriving in Israel with her twins (a boy and a girl) and her husband, Yakov Radievsky. "The hardest part was to find a Hassidic family to guide me through the conversion, but I am truly fortunate to have warm and supportive people who have accepted me as their own daughter. We have spent a lot of time together and become good friends," she says. "Prior to leaving Russia we already had very few non-Jewish friends. It's difficult to follow traditions surrounded by non-Jews in Russia and our traditions were foreign to people - not that I purposefully avoided non-Jewish company, rather it was the inertia of us following traditions. I wanted to lead a Jewish life." "I observed families where the husband is Jewish and the wife is not Jewish fall apart," she continues. "I, on the other hand, embraced my husband's religion. In Russia it is virtually impossible to convert since the environment is not conducive. I know only one woman who was able to do it." Radievsky's genre reverberates centuries of biblical art. Biblical heroes and well-known religious themes recur as the centerpiece of her compositions, set in historic periods that laid the foundations for the People of Israel and Western civilization as a whole. One of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals, Shavuot, has found its way onto canvas: A painting entitled "The Gift of The Commandments" depicts Moses adjacent to the Ten Commandments. "Evenly spaced and floating in the air, the 10 stones with Hebrew writing create an impression of building blocks laying a foundation," she points out. "The painting achieves a thematically appropriate illusion of limitlessness - the infinity of the Ten Commandments." Having recently completed the painting, she has already begun a new project: "Nomads meeting near a water-well." "Our forefathers, throughout the centuries, traditionally met our foremothers near a well," she notes. "I'm exploring that heritage in my current work." Other noteworthy compositions whose titles speak volumes about the nature of her work include: "The Binding of Isaac," "Jonah the Prophet in the Leviathan's Belly," "Joseph Interpreting Pharaoh's Dreams" and "David and Batsheva," among other equally remarkable works. "Instead of talking about my work, I invite you to come and experience it firsthand. My work may be seen at the Kirya Tower in Tel Aviv. There are 13 paintings there, and in early July I will rotate and display another set of works. "The Gift of The Commandments" will stay there until it is transported to St. Petersburg, where it will embellish the walls of St. Petersburg's only yeshiva," she says. "The yeshiva, which is currently being renovated, ordered the painting as part of an effort to incorporate art espousing Judaism into its interior design." She is happy in her new home. "My husband and I first visited Israel in 1997, and were impressed. Truthfully, I didn't know what to expect but our expectations were exceeded. I found Israel then to be very developed and friendly - we felt welcome. One sharp contrast to Russia is that people who live here are alike, united by common tradition, one religion and one history, whereas in Russia one may feel lost as Russia is an ethnic, cultural, and religious melting pot. My first encounter with Israel as an artist was at the 'Anonymous' exhibition organized by Bank Leumi, where paintings authored by masters and beginners were displayed alongside each other, all without signatures. My painting was purchased first." Radievsky was born in 1973 in St. Petersburg, and now lives in Bat Yam. Visiting the family for Shabbat, one experiences the harmony of family life and Jewish traditions. "Yakov and I have known each other for 13 years, 10 of which we have been married," she says. Her husband, an active member of the St. Petersburg Jewish community, introduced her to Judaism. When he began to study at St. Petersburg's synagogue, she followed in his footsteps. "I followed and supported him," Adele says. "The passion for biblical art grew with my immersion into Judaism. I did not come from art to Judaism, rather I ventured from Judaism into art. I was drawn to Judaism's wisdom, logic and transcendence, and sought an outlet. My husband admires my current work, and since the first time he saw it he has not allowed me to stop. Yakov always supports me. At first I received inspiration from my rabbi's letters - one of the questions I asked the rabbi was about my painting, and I received concrete instructions and a blessing. I believe that talents are sent from heaven and we must fulfill and realize our talents." On entering the family's apartment, you immediately find yourself in her studio. Large canvases embellish every white wall while stocks of completed colorful works lean against walls. Radievsky sees her purpose in art. "Art itself should be devoid of emotion yet inspire its audience. If a person is brought closer to one's roots through my art, I have fulfilled my purpose. I seldom know what a composition will look like in the end - if I knew what would be the eventual outcome it would take away from the joy of the process itself." Radievsky attended St. Petersburg's Children's Art School in her early teens and subsequently trained to become an architect at Leningrad Industrial Polytechnic. "I grew up in a simple Soviet family, where I learned how to work. Born and raised during those times, my parents were atheist. Nevertheless, they were supportive of my decision to convert because they know that I do everything wholeheartedly and with good intentions. My family has always supported my artistic direction." Following her calling as an artist, she further honed her skills and techniques at the Artist's School studio workshop under the supervision of Vyacheslav Shraga, whose works are shown in Paris's Pompidou Center and New York's Metropolitan Museum. "Shraga's studio exists now more than 25 years. He is extremely professional. I remember Shraga used to tell me that an artist will develop his own unique direction. I found in him guidance, and a partner in thought. Shraga helped me to define the direction of my techniques. Of course, where I am today is not an end, I will always evolve." Radievsky has also exhibited in Russia. A few of her early works appeared in St. Petersburg's Matisse Club art gallery in 2003, at the seventh international "Dialogues" exhibition at the city's Manezh exhibition hall, and the "Formula of Change" exhibition at the Smolniy exhibition hall in 2005. "But while in Russia, I was not a full-time career painter," she says. "I will have more exhibitions in Russia, including an exhibition and auction in the Tretikovskaya gallery in Moscow this coming fall. After seeing my works in Israel, they loved it, citing how living in Israel has contributed to change in my techniques and color." And her future aspirations? "I want to paint my best picture. It has not yet been created, it is my goal. I want to inspire people, remind them who they are and where they belong, of their responsibility to society and the world. People's future is in their hands and I want to be a conduit for inspiration to realize that future."