An intimate Israel through painting

The artist desires to teach by example and demonstrate what can be achieved if one is willing to venture beyond the limitations of scope or habits of mind.

A Sabra cactus, from which the name for a native Israeli is derived. (photo credit: IGOR MOJZES)
A Sabra cactus, from which the name for a native Israeli is derived.
(photo credit: IGOR MOJZES)
I am about to embark on a journey in writing about an artist with whom I have shared the past 20 years. I have known the painter, Igor Mojzes, as his wife, best friend and colleague. If one’s life is a work of art in the making, then living with an artist certainly makes one that much more aware of this fact. Since our life together began, not a day has passed without my being immersed in thoughts about art, its functions and those of the artist within society as a whole.
Igor’s art is a record of human honesty. In the pursuit of excellence, of mastery, the painter seeks to perfect, purify, polish and reveal the essence of the subject he paints.
It is easy to see how Igor’s interest in gemology inspires him. Indeed, his works can be described as gems in themselves. “My work is a consequence and record of my search for answers to fundamental existential questions,” he says. “Looking, painting and then again looking is the way I do this. I believe this to be the process which contains all answers.”
To see with one’s own eyes, on the one hand, and to see things as they truly are, on the other, the artist moves back and forth from the position of observer to that of participant.
For Igor, art is work, and to create is more than directing one’s course toward improvement. For him, it is a purification process. The actual work is often tedious and requires complete concentration. All attention is devoted to the acts of looking and drawing. The artist is totally engaged and at one with the process. It is the focused, uncluttered, clear state of mind that allows for the process of creation to take place.
Perhaps out of all subject matter in art, portrait painting is the pinnacle expression of truth. It demonstrates the whole of a creation from start to finish by way of the merging and interchanging of a soul and the self, revealed in another. To draw a face is to expose and educate the soul. The painter turns a face into a whole world. The portrait can lift souls up to where they belong.
For the painter, looking is taking action, and actions speak louder than words. The word “process” implies that by way of looking, effort is made to grow, develop, improve and, above all, reach. The act of painting, “the doing” within the mindset of total concentration, allows the artist to be pure of mind and heart. Then, the artist can be true to himself and also see things as they truly are. To Igor, a masterpiece is visual prayer or meditation. It is an island for the mind, heart and soul that does not need words to explain it. The painting draws us into pure experience.
The artist pays homage to and makes treasure out of the chance encounters in life we miss or even reject and suspends them in time perchance that some soul might awaken to his own life. The meditative clarity is there giving the audience peace. Here there is a metaphorical visual Sabbath as the work has been done and all there is to do is to rest one’s eyes and gaze upon the completion. The focus and devotion applied by the artist during the work’s creation has left nothing undone. Its images seem to have been drawn by a flame rather than a pen or brush. Nothing is forgotten, so the final image, when encountered, leaves an indelible imprint on the soul.
Igor was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and moved to Toronto, Canada, when he was 18. At the age of 10, he chose to devote his life to painting. Born and raised in Toronto, I studied landscape architecture and started my own design company after graduating with a master’s degree. Our friendship began in 1995 and we were married in 2000. We are blessed with two children, Daniel and Joshua. In 2012, our family made aliya and we currently reside in Jerusalem.
After so many years of looking and seeing, I have discovered some of the secrets of the master painters. One of them is the degree of intimacy or closeness they reach by listening with their eyes. It is the private space designated for pureness of heart that artists go to in order to reach beyond our world. This soul space is the vantage point from which one ought to look and listen to a painting. If the viewer would do the same, he or she could sense the silence, the focused concentration of the artist, and hear the heartbeat of the subject, the flow of the river, the hum of a crowd.
The onlooker enters the space of the artist where he can, through his or her own eyes, feel the texture of a sweater, the pensiveness in a pair of eyes, or the heat of the afternoon. These are examples of what the listening painter seeks to capture on canvas.
To the artist, the painting or drawing is complete only when it rings true. In the context within which the world functions today as a whole, the skilled artist continues to serve an important role as teacher, liberator and guide.
According to Igor, there are two fundamental rules that govern the universe. One is, “In order for something to stand, it must be supported.” This is no doubt a very personal statement that he makes about life. Where is this support to be found in his work? It is sometimes expressed literally in his subjects, but, most importantly, it can be found in the way he paints or draws. One could say that to draw, which is also to seek, reach, grow and learn, is also to support. Drawing, in itself, is the act of creating a foundation.
The other rule is, “Water always runs downhill.” Life requires constant reaching and, therefore, constant support. To the artist, life is the defiance of the heart against gravity. Igor takes to painting water as if it were for him his natural habitat. In his landscapes, he is able to relax into the process and lets it carry him where it may. Here is a man who explores water from every vantage point – from a distance or close up. These “close ups” can be seen as abstract paintings where the imagination and anything that is possible can and does happen.
In his work, Igor boldly expresses the courage to look, see, reach beyond and seek with his own eyes, and the courage to invite others to do the same. He has chosen to walk the path of uncompromised will.
The artist desires to teach by example and demonstrate what can be achieved if one is willing to venture beyond the limitations of scope or habits of mind. His conviction comes from the depths of his heart to tell us that to see others as they truly are and for them to see you in the same way is the highest honor one can give or receive. That is the reason that, if you were to ask Igor about his work, he would say, “Look and see for yourself!”
Jocelyn Mojzes is a Jerusalem-based writer.
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