An artistic revolution

Yossi Pnini’s latest exhibition is at the Jerusalem Municipal Art Gallery.

Curator Ziva Geva-Levin  (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Curator Ziva Geva-Levin
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Nothing in the life of Yossi Pnini, the founder and director of the Meitar program run by the Education Ministry in the framework of combining secular and Jewish focused programs, prepared him for what happened 20 years ago when he was on a mission in Russia. Pnini, a religious man and renowned educator, directed a summer camp near Moscow for Russian Jewish youth, which combined recreational activities with Jewish principles and values. According to the rules of the program he established for the camp, the teachers and counselors had to participate in the enrichment programs along with the campers.
“As such, I had to set a personal example,” Pnini recounts, “so I took the drawing and painting class, although I had never touched a paintbrush. Then something happened that I still cannot explain – I just couldn’t stop painting!” Pnini’s latest exhibition is on display at the Jerusalem Municipal Art Gallery at 23 Jaffa Road, opposite the municipality building.
The gallery is rather small, it could do with some renovations, and the lighting on the artwork should be improved, but nothing can diminish the powerful message that emanates from Pnini’s colorful abstract paintings.
Pnini says that since that experience in Russia 20 years ago, which he regards as an almost religious one, he has not stopped painting – something he usually does at night, after his family goes to sleep.
“Being a religious person whose life has always been intertwined with rituals such as prayers, I have discovered that painting enables me to go further,” he says. But he adds that in some ways that he can’t really understand or explain, the paintings are tools he uses when he needs some means of expression beyond words, even beyond prayers.
Some of his paintings have titles, although he is quick to say that the titles are the last remnants of the human incapacity to disconnect completely from forms and signs.
“I believe that only when I can totally dispense with giving my paintings titles will I be sure that I have reached the place I want to reach, although I would be unable to explain what it really means,” he says.
Pnini has already had several exhibitions. His artwork has been described by experts as “minimalist,” and his paintings focus on the yearning for human contact, connection and communication without words, while his use of color serves as a code to transmit the message behind his choices.
“It is a very delicate mixture of interior and exterior conveyed to the viewer through forms and colors in a totally abstract way that leaves a wide range of possibilities for them to choose what can be absorbed or not from the works,” says the artist.
The title of the exhibition, which will run until the end of the month, is “Like Summer That Touched the Autumn.” The exhibition is curated by Ziva Geva-Levin, manager of the gallery. A committee of artists assesses every request made by local artists to exhibit their work and determines which paintings or sculptures should be put on display. Entrance to the gallery is free.