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Yasha Blumin


Born in Kiev in 1927. Graduated from the Mukhina Academy of Arts and Industry, Leningrad (Department of Wood Artistry), with the first post-war class. Emigrated to Israel in 1973 and has since lived in Jerusalem. Works with wood, mainly in Judaica art. Has exhibited his drawings only once.

Yasha Blumin about himself:
My family is originally from the town of Belaya Tserkov. All in the family were Hasidim, and clever with the hands. My grandfather was a first-class shoemaker, and my father was a jeweler. Thus, semi-precious stones – amethyst, topaz – have been in my memory since childhood. There is a family legend about my father. It goes that he has made an earring for Countess Bronicki, as a replacement for a lost one, and she could not distinguish the remaining earring from the replacement. Afterwards, my father had to leave his profession (jewelry became to be considered a form of bourgeois art, an attribute of the exploitative class), and he began to teach gymnastics because he had always been a good athlete.
I was born in Kiev in 1927. My father was killed in the war, and we were evacuated, living in Tashkent. I remember that our teacher caught some turtles and prepared soup for the children, which was really delicious. But of course it happened only once; we didn’t usually eat turtle soup…
I began to draw and make paper cuttings when I was very young. There was an artistic paper cutting class at the Young Pioneer Palace. Our teacher, Viktor Shevchenko, used to arrange open demonstrations and take me with him. While he spoke I made cuttings “illustrating” his narrative: for example, an airplane, which could immediately be sent up and it flew through the entire room with the propeller rotating, or a crow opening its beak, or a figurine of a girl standing on a platform. The girl and the platform were cut in one piece, and when one blew on the girl she would start running.
During the war learning was irregular. I studied in Stalinobad for two years at the Military Department and then quit due to illness, which was a stroke of luck. In Tashkent I studied in a Special Artillery School, then moved with it to Leningrad and joined the local College of Aircraft Instruments. A year later, in 1947, I was admitted to the Mukhina Academy of Arts and Industry. After graduation I worked at a construction company as a jointer and wood carver. One summer, when everybody left the city, I was lucky enough to receive a large order from the local Arts Fund to make wood carvings in a Jewish eatery, which became something like a Siberian meat dumplings restaurant in 1957. Afterwards, I began working full time for the Arts Fund.
In about 1959 I started thinking about joining the Artists’ Union, and with that aim in mind I began to actively exhibit my works. Mainly I carved animals. Some were “patented” ones, for instance, a bear holding a bottle, and some were penguins, cats, owls that were comic “portraits” of my acquaintances. The Russian Museum in Moscow has bought my cat sculptures.
I have already been married to Alena (who is actually Galina Nikolayevna) for 53 years. We came to Israel in 1973. It became too much for Alena in the USSR, particularly after the events in Czechoslovakia, and as for me I simply wanted to become free, to see the world. Since then we have been living in Jerusalem. Alena worked as an accountant in a nuthouse, so the entire world seemed a paradise to her…
I brought almost no works or sketches to Israel. I have been making woodcraft items, mainly Arnot Kodesh for synagogues. There is a large work of mine 6 meters high in Beytar Elit, there are also aronot kodesh in three synagogues in Har Nof, and many other places contain my works.

On art:
I have been drawing throughout my entire conscious life; to me it is the basis for any creative progress.
Wood is a material which I know well and which attracts me. Drawing is first and foremost an analysis of form for me; it enables proper handling of material, be it carving or modeling. The mere ability to draw helps to avoid falsity., Drawing refines your eventual plastic solution with any material the same way that practicing fragments by a musician or exercising certain muscle groups by an athlete improves the eventual performance.
Painters such as Wrubel, Serov, and Degas created sculptures as preparatory stages for making drawings and paintings. In my case, it is the other way around – drawing is important to me as an analytical stage preparatory to modeling and eventually creating a life-size work of art. I learned in childhood that drawing is the basis for all plastic arts. And when I create a work of art I try to create a visual concept; for example, I carve a “bear formula” – two rings and a ball – rather than a mere “bear”.

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