Two artists in the desert
Curator: Ron Bartos
Very few Israeli artists have dedicated a period of their work to landscapes of the desert. An attempt to list them could include Moshe Raviv-Vorobeichic (Bauhaus graduate and one of the founders of the artists' colony in Safed) with his engravings and drawings of a journey through the Judean desert; Micha Bar-Am whose photographs immortalized the Negev and Sinai deserts when they were battle fronts; Azaria Alon (a founder of the Environmental Protection Association) photographed the vast spaces of the Sinai together with Bar-Am, and also photographed the desert alone, in his work as a guide and expert in knowledge of the country; Peter Merom took many photographs of the Negev; Eliahu Gat with his expressive paintings of the Sinai desert, the hills of Eilat, the hills of Judea; Ofer Lellouche gave expression to the Judean desert in the neighborhood of Jerusalem in many paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures. We can also include those artists who were German immigrants from the "Jaecke" Jerusalem group such as Anna Ticho, Leopold Krakauer, Jacob Steinhardt and Mordechai Ardon, who portrayed the Judean desert and the hills of Jerusalem, and there were other artists as well.Ludwig Blum, more than any other artist, dedicated a considerable part of his work to landscapes of the desert. Blum first became aware of the desert when he immigrated to Israel in 1923 and settled in Jerusalem, but its sandy spaces began to dominate Blum's paintings from the 1930's, and to a greater extent in the 40's and 50's. Blum was the great lover of the country and its landscapes. He toured its length and width and painted as if driven by a mission to document its landscapes and its people, as one who in real time identifies its seminal events and the processes of its establishment, and represents them in painting. Desert landscapes appeared and reappeared in Blum's work so often that they became his trademark, along with several other places to which the artist remained loyal (such as the Old City of Jerusalem). When I consider Blum's commitment to the subject of the desert I can only compare it to that of Uri Blayer – a realistic painter and hiker who treads those same brown pathways nearly half a century later.The desert is an anchor in the life of Uri Blayer, and so are the desert paintings in his work. Blayer came to the desert as a painter at the start of his artistic journey (1990-1995), and returned to it for limited periods of time in his visits to Israel while living and studying in the United States (1996-2011), and finally settled there on his return to Israel (2011). The spaces of the Negev, the hills of Eilat, the Ramon crater, the valley of Zin, Sde Boker, the Judean desert and Masada are only a few of the places populating Blayer's desert landscapes: places he visited over a period of over ten years of painting in the desert. The current exhibition shows Blayer's paintings from recent years which were mainly painted in the Dead Sea area, Masada and the Judean desert, and in the region around the hills of Eilat and the valley of Timna in the Negev.The period of desert paintings and its extent in the work of Blum and of Blayer is an artistic effort to absorb the essence of the desert – to trap its permanent qualities through an evanescent experience by means of artistic creation. Thus, when the artists carried their tools to the places they painted – Blum in suit and bowtie and Blayer in hiking attire, they reached the site of the painting surrounded by the subject of their paintings, the desert landscape. Then began the process of trapping nature in paint: translation of the values of the desert through the work of placing the patch of color on canvas, in its form, tone and texture, while assimilating the physical and spiritual characteristics of the place – the dryness of the desert, its aridity, sandiness, yellowness, brownness and heat, the curtains of air around it, its weather and climate, and the spaces open as far as the eye can see, to the place where the spirit continues to absorb the landscape and to be filled by being within it.There is something about the desert, which despite its huge spaces is very simple, and despite its sandiness and earthiness arouses the spirit. Antoine de St. Exupery expressed this well in his book "The Little Prince":"The desert is beautiful," added the little prince. This is true. I always loved the desert. When you sit on sand dunes in the desert, you see nothing and you hear nothing, but along with this, beyond the silence something beats and sparkles..."What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "Is a well hiding in it somewhere..."