The Wandering Jerusalem. Leonid Zeiger

10, April 2015 · Events / Exhibitions

A personal exhibition by Leonid Zeiger “The Wandering Jerusalem” was opened on April 8th at the Jerusalem gallery “Agripas 12″. Text: Irena Gordon. Closing: May 4th.


The Ghosts of Art / Irena Gordon

In the video “The Wandering Jerusalem” we see six men unhurriedly carrying an enormous painting through Jerusalem. The long canvas floats along the narrow streets of the city center, across the green slopes of Independence Park, and finally ends up in an open, deserted area. The appearance of those carrying the painting – their faces, their hair, the soles of their feet, which pass in and out of our field of vision, their heavy and measured steps – somewhat parodically alludes to the image of Christ on the Via Dolorosa, with his cross-bearing journey which pilgrims to Jerusalem recreate over and over in an act of sacred performance.

On the canvas, narrative and geometrically abstract symbols form a semblance of a city, an interweaving of ancient and modern elements. The greater part of the canvas is white, with an image reminiscent of Jerusalem showing through. One that exists – or else, one that does not. The image of the city advances; it is carried on shoulders like a cross. As it travels through the physical space of the city, the art acquires authenticity; it permeates reality and wanders within it, while the real city becomes more and more illusory. The artist presents the creative act as an act of self-sacrifice and examines the interrelationship between art and life, challenging the division between the two.

In the novel “Invisible Cities” Italo Calvino describes Zobeide, the white city, built by men who dreamed the same dream: in vain they would pursue a naked woman running through an unknown city. Each one would later recall his pursuit and, in the spot where the stranger had evaded him, he would arrange the walls in such a way that next time she would not be able slip away. Gradually the dream was forgotten. But men from other lands kept arriving, men who had seen the same dream, and these newcomers continued to alter the city. “The first to arrive could not understand what drew these people to Zobeide, this ugly city, this trap.”

So what sort of interrelationship exists between reality and its visual form, and how much does it depend on the viewer‘s perception? Zeiger’s works, in particular “Anthropomorphic Cosmos” and “Quadriptych in Terracotta,” address these questions through apparition-like images and white planes. These works are the result of multiple acts of demarcation and erasure, creation and destruction, layering and manifestation. Each one imitates the natural flow of time and its effect on objects of art, the process whereby the painting surface decays and the layers are laid bare. The painting reveals to the viewer that which is absent, which is not there, and in this way virtually offers him an entire world; a world with a prosaic present, a heroic past, and a transcendental future.

The vertical canvas “Anthropomorphic Cosmos” is reminiscent of a stained glass window bearing an image of a saint. It simultaneously recalls Byzantine or Russian church frescoes and allegorical medieval ornaments of tapestries and manuscripts, in which floral arabesques combines with religious and social symbolic elements presenting a flow with no beginning and no end. This painting is akin to an alchemical laboratory from the Middle Ages, yet at the same time its language is abstract; it defines anew the interrelationship between form, space, and color, while following the contemporary view on the ideas of modernism. To a significant extent it echoes the early works of Kazimir Malevich and the theatrical works by Oskar Schlemmer, which dealt with notions of space and form, even as the human body remained the focus of the composition. To quote Walter Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus: “If it is true that the mind can transform the body it is equally true that structures can transform the mind.” His words are a precise characterization of both the modernist and kabalistic constructions in Zeiger’s works.
Works of small format, also part of the exhibition, appear in this context to be variations and studies of the relationship between form and color, figurativeness and abstractness. Yet at the same time they are an invitation to a direct lyrical experience of the painting. Painting here is a sort of hieroglyph, a visual sign allowing for a number of interpretations, which in turn lead to a layering of meanings.

Zeiger: “For me, painting is a framework through which I come to understand what is “me,” what is the world, what is their interrelationship, and what it means to live, seeing that our inner world is much richer and more complex than we are capable of realizing. Breaking free from the dictatorship of ratio and the habit of assigning labels widens the confines of perception and opens up infinite worlds.”

Researchers and thinkers associated with the “Pictorial Turn,” notably Georges Didi-Huberman, Hans Belting, and David Freedberg, are concerned with the image as the unique personal experience of the artist, which manifests itself in the viewer. The image is capable of “breaking” time, since the encounter with it occurs in the present, regardless of when it was created, while the creative act itself becomes an allegory of the spiritual, transforming itself into the material.

The work “Quadtriptych in Terracotta” is divided into eight squares, a nod to a kind of magic geometry, like the magic square or polygon in Dürer’s engraving “Melencolia.” This painting provides a space for understanding the world and one’s very self, returning us to the times of the interpenetration of science (or pseudo-science) and art. It is carried out by means of a multi-layering technique: glazing, erasing layers of painting, and applying them anew. In these layers, one can divine traces and echoes of the broadest specter of sources of inspiration: from the engraving “Battle of the Nude Men” by Antonio Pollaiuolo (1465-1475), through the cartoons to the fresco “Battle of Anghiari” by Leonardo da Vinci (1503 – 1506), to the heroic scenes of Socialist realism in works like “The Defense of Sevastopol” by Aleksandr Deyneka (1942). All of this is imbued with mythological motifs, sexual tension, ancient beasts, and medieval attributes. At the same time, the painting resembles a faded icon, on which the play of chance, nature, and time has left its traces: worn-out, whitish figures at the forefront, a discrepancy between separate sections of the painting. At first one notices that which isn’t there, and only prolonged contemplation reveals the work’s manifold nature. The painting asks viewers to free themselves from all that is familiar and expected, so as to develop a dynamic way of seeing, full of possibilities; at once ancient and revolutionary, dramatic and parodic, bringing about a momentary order in the world, and in the next one opening a window to a new labyrinth, to a flooding of other possibilities.

March 2015

Translation: Anna Shevelyova

Один комментарий

  1. Liora K.
    5.05.2015 в 6:57 pm

    I really enjoyed watching the video you made- an organic creature cum art work wandering through the city- having a life of its own, but your large canvas, with its ethereal white figures intertwoven with other figures and limbs in hues of browns, greens, orange and yellows -made an immense impression which continues to stay in my mind. – the colours, movement and thought provoking content. Its a truly masterly work which I hope will find a home in a public space/museum.

    bravo on a wonderful exhibition – am looking forward to seeing the next one.

Оставьте ваш комментарий

Поля отмеченные * обязательны для заполнения



Сайт оптимально работает в: Internet Explorer 8.0, Mozilla Firefox 3.6, Google Chrome, Safari 4.0. Если у вас старая версия браузера, вы можете скачать новую на сайте производителя бесплатно.