Metrotainment: Netanya’s many faces

Festival of Contemporary Mosaic Art creates continuity between history of mosaic art from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Muslim periods to present day.

mosaic 521 (photo credit: Igor Sarni)
mosaic 521
(photo credit: Igor Sarni)
Besides being famous for its seven-kilometer boardwalk, the coastal city of Netanya is also becoming well known for its promenade statues and other art pieces, particularly its large pieces of three-dimensional mosaic art. These artworks, creations of Jerusalem-based Ruslan Sergeyev, will be featured at Mosaic Netanya, the first Festival of Contemporary Mosaic Art being held in Israel. Scheduled for Hol Hamoed Succot (Octobeer 15- 18), the festival is a project initiated by the Netanya Municipality in cooperation with the Italian city of Ravenna, known as the mosaic art capital of the world.
In addition to Sergeyev’s 11 mosaic sculpture depictions of lizards, whales, fish, desert flowers and spirals, other mosaic artwork will be featured, such as a giant mosaic carpet made of discarded socks that will be built on Independence Square in the city center. This work will be created with the cooperation of city residents and visitors, under the direction of international artists Yuti and Anat Shamai.
Sergeyev, 55, was born in Minsk, Belarus, and earned a MA in design at the Belarus Academy of Art in 1981. He made aliya in 1992 and began making mosaic artworks in 1996 together with Igor Sarni at Sarni’s studio in Jerusalem. In addition to completing several mosaic sculptures for municipalities and other locations in Israel, Sergeyev has completed a number of sculptures abroad. These include Lion of Jerusalem for the Great Reform Temple in West Palm Beach, Florida, and a similar sculpture for the Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, Russia. His Sacred Cow sculpture was donated by renowned Israeli-born mentalist Uri Geller to the city of London. And a Genesis sculpture was created for Ravenna.
Sergeyev’s mosaic sculptures were recently featured in the exhibition “The Design of Landscape Sentiments,” which opened September 21 in Minsk in cooperation with the Israel Cultural Center. This is followed by the First International Festival in Contemporary Mosaics in Ravenna, which runs until November 20.
The Netanya festival begins tomorrow, October 15, with the opening of the international art presentation Mosaic Code of contemporary mosaic art at the Al Hatzuk art gallery on the Shaked Promenade. Thirty well-known contemporary artists from Israel and Italy will display works including wall paintings, 3-D sculptures and video art photos. Some of these artists are Miriam Buber, Galit Glazer, Gali Kamil, Nirit Keren, Rachel Navon, Nira Ben-David Peled, Laurie Recanati and Ayalet Sela.
On the promenade, near Al Hatzuk and the Seasons Hotel, a sculpture of international artist Francesca Fabbri of Ravenna will be dedicated.
The purpose of a mosaic art festival is to create a continuity between the history of ancient mosaic art from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and ancient Muslim periods and its modern connotation and techniques of today. The Hebrew word for “mosaic,” pseifas, comes from the Greek word pasifous, which means “pebbles.” But over the years, the term “mosaic” has come to mean artwork done using pebbles, glass and precious and semi-precious stones.
One of the more unusual parts of the festival, and one that visitors can participate in, is the giant mosaic sock carpet. “We have been doing community art projects for more than 30 years,” says Anat. The last large project they were involved in was in New Zealand, where they did a series of three projects in Auckland and Hamilton and the seaside town of Opotiki.
“The Auckland project involved making a work called Train of Trees of Hope, using pieces of discarded textiles. The one in Hamilton involved children who had been expelled from school and came from difficult home environments. There we made a tree out of discarded aluminum and another from discarded cardboard. But the most meaningful project was in the community of Opotiki, where 80 percent of the inhabitants are Maoris. We made two large “holy fish” from pieces of driftwood and had to first receive a blessing from the village Maori priest, which was held in a unique ceremony on the beach.
While the ceremony was in progress, a nearby volcano blew out puffs of white smoke, and suddenly two large whales appeared. This phenomenon so excited the Maoris that they considered Yuti and me to be ‘holy people,’ and this added to the entire experience.”
The sock carpet project will involve the assistance of people ranging from kindergarten age to senior citizens. The socks, “from mismatched ones people wind up with after laundry days,” will be sorted by size and color and then bundled into packages of 10. The socks, brought to them by “everyone who wants to donate them,” will be made into a giant mosaic carpet by weaving the socks into special netting. “We have a big container at our house in Hofit to collect the socks,” says Anat. The carpet’s central design will be a large white lily, the symbol of the City of Netanya, with other designs surrounding it.
“We are trying to break the Guinness record book for number of socks used in such an artwork. These kinds of projects are a great way to get people working together in a spirit of peace and harmony,“ she says.
The Shamais want to do a similar project in Ravenna. They have done a number of local community art projects in Israel; including one that involved Palestinian children collecting discarded items on the beach and turning them into a mosaic.
Sergeyev’s mosaic sculptures are mostly located on the part of the promenade near the Argaman Beach and Beit Goldmintz. These large combinations of concrete and mosaic tile coatings have already become a colorful addition to the promenade, where other sculpture pieces, including those of bronze and other metals, are on display. Sergeyev’s sculptures in Netanya and Jerusalem are rapidly making Israel a mosaic sculpture center, comparable to European cities like Barcelona where the work of Antonio Gaudi is evident everywhere.
“Gaudi is Ruslan’s role model, and he patterns his designs after him,” says Sarni, adding that Sergeyev only began doing his mosaic art projects after arriving in Israel.
Another feature of the mosaic art festival will be decorating flowerpots with mosaic patterns. And in front of the Netanya Museum, a giant mural will be formed using pictures from the history of the city.
This will be accomplished by mosaic artist Arik Halfon, who will create a five-meter wall on the museum with the help of the children of Netanya.
Within the framework of the festival, there will be a universal exhibition displaying contemporary mosaic masterpieces of various techniques and media such as traditional stone mosaics, painting, sculpture and video art. Also included is an academic antiquity art convention, held in cooperation with the Antiquities Authority.