Art Review: ZION MOR, Beit Castell, Safed Gallery

ZION MOR’S PAINTINGS inspire one to keep looking, thinking and moving (photo credit: Courtesy)
ZION MOR’S PAINTINGS inspire one to keep looking, thinking and moving
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Zion Mor’s style is unmistakable and to use that perhaps overused word – original. His approach is wholly abstract, with curious hints of the visible world. I saw his work at the Castell Gallery in the Old City of Safed and also had the pleasure of talking with the artist at his studio nearby.
He is interested in the abstract quality of line, color, composition and scale. He speaks of a kind of mathematical and scientific approach, in measuring intuitively and consciously the weight, value and workability of certain combinations. Many of his works are suffused with a deep black, and from there emanates flecks of color and precise line. The meaning is the form, although as intimated there are hints of a narrative as some of the lines amidst the deep black rectangles suggest buildings or landscape. One might even see an effect where many of his paintings, particularly the smaller ones, look like monochromatic photographs or as a painting on a photograph.
But that is not the most important aspect of his work for the artist. He is not telling a story culled from the world of things. He is interested in “pure art,” the kind of rhetoric one might have heard in the heyday of abstract painting.
Zion Mor studied at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv some decades ago with a scholarship. He was haredi for a while but felt being ultra-Orthodox did not suit him. He has always stuck to his art, and one can see the influence of his work as a sofer (Torah scribe) in his art – deep concentration, a sense of abstract form and precision.
But there is also a more playful and musical side. He listens to classical music and mentioned to me that the texture and tone we ascribe to sound is a similar kind of subtle sensitivity required when working with the basic elements of art. He sees himself as a kind of scientist; his studio a laboratory in which he engages with the energetic quality of line and color value in order to find the right combinations. The result: many of his works allow the eye and mind to contemplate what is akin to mystery, a certain secret behind the veil of the blackness and the emerging lines and colors, flickers and flecks of light.
Even the black, like the black fire of the Assyrian script, has a certain depth and light as its shiny surface reflects and mirrors. His minimalist style is intentional in the way it brings out certain features rather than the clatter, clutter and overabundance – perhaps the outgrowth of a materialistic age.
Mor has lived in Safed with his family since 2010. Before that, he called Jerusalem home. He may be elected chairman of the Safed Artists Community. Given the quality of his painting and the deeply spiritual nature of his pursuits coupled with a good eye and hand, I am sure he will steer the community in the right direction. It is indeed satisfying to see an abstract painter whose interest lies not in the conventions of the still-life, landscape and figure, but in the purity of design and the co-mingling of forces inherent in the fusion of the elements of art. That, too, is subject matter. As an intrigued viewer, his paintings inspire one to keep looking, thinking and moving.