Keeping Safed art alive - comment

All in all, as always, a pleasure to come to the old city of Safed amid a number of galleries and signs of artistic life.

So many synagogues –  Safed (photo credit: JACOB SOLOMON)
So many synagogues – Safed
(photo credit: JACOB SOLOMON)
With its illustrious history as a meeting point of Jewish artists and the formation of the artist’s colony in Safed, the General Exhibition reveals traces of that past as well as forging a connection to the future. This is achieved by the selection of a number of contemporary artists in Israel, particularly from the holy city of Safed. The official date given for the opening of this important gallery is 1952.
The exhibition at present is divided up into various sections that range from an early modern stylistic convention with hints of expressionism, impressionism, cubism, futurism and abstractionism, that is the modern European Western tradition. Yet in each case, one sees a peculiarly Jewish spirit and one can find this with the likes of Moshe Raviv and Leonid Zikeev’s work. This is evident I conjecture in both subject matter and method.
The next section somewhat extends the modernist influences with what might be aptly termed the geometric abstraction of the likes of Steffa Reis and Ludmila Feigen. Nevertheless, there is a twist once again and we find hard abstraction dissolving into soft organic and playful forms, though one would be pressed to define those forms and thus even verbal descriptions do not suffice. Such is the power of art, namely in the transcendence of language. It is more akin to the immaterial notion of an idea or an emotional stirring of some sort.
One then finds an intriguing section that develops the abstract theme in the work of Ilana Zimhoni, Tzion Mor and others, and I would venture to say here the abstract and the symbolic, the liminal point of the undefined and the defined interact, suggesting a narrative – and then as soon as one so determines as such – it disappears.
There is also a refreshing section of what might be called naïve art, a romantic caricature-like way of painting and presenting the subject with the likes of Efrony and some other large sculptural pieces by Mike Leaf that I really recommend actually physically coming to see. Boris Peisakov certainly fits into this sort of category, one which beautifully fulfills the quest both for the dream-like and more enduring form.
There are yet further sections – the Surreal-like imaginings of Lana Laor; the technical efficiency of Masha Orlavich whose work has the uncanny ability of appearing finished and unfinished at the same time, and contemporary reworking of the traditional still life and landscape. The latter probably consolidates the feel of the gallery: Modernist European influence; the subjectivity of the artists and his/her narrative as Jewish artists in Israel and the contemporary artistic endeavor to find creative solutions to the flux, that is, the everchanging natural and social and individual environments.
All in all, as always, a pleasure to come to the old city of Safed amid a number of galleries and signs of artistic life. However, much of the glory of such cultural expression is no longer quite there. Artists have left. Tourists are rare. Yet let’s hope, as the cloud of the plague has lifted, that Safed will be a cultural hub of Israel – and galleries such as the General Exhibition in their endeavor to preserve and inspire art making, will be a beacon of light. Art indeed can generate light.
For inquiries: The General Exhibition – 04 692 0087