ELA BELKERVEL
Jerusalem

Parthenon in my life

 

              A new exhibition by the artist Jan Rauchwerger called “Parthenon in my life” is taking place in Gallery “Gordon”, which is located in the center of Tel Aviv.

A connection with great traditions and world culture inspired the gallery owner Amon Yariv to make a special selection of art for this exhibition.

A meeting between the artist and visitors took place one week after the opening, and the main question posed was: “As a painter, why did you choose sculpture, and why was it concealed until now?”

The expansive essay by poetess Shva Salhov, gives the following answer to this question: “The object of Jan’s sculpture is volume. A dramatic shift from the real-life model into the sculpture is very obvious. During the work the object has been split and then re-integrated into the whole piece again. This process brings the artist to the more fundamental understanding of life and transforms the real model into a symbol of the female.”

Humanism of Renaissance, elusive and sensual, intimate and universal, connections and contrasts, flat and volume, organic, anthroposophy and symbolism – these are the diverse definitions used by Shva to describe her impressions.

Jan shared stories about how his sculptures, created in the 1970s, were stored in mezzanine “to make life easier,” and how they were cast in bronze in preparation for the exhibition. Some sculptures have signs of the dialogue with Giacometti, yet the female sculptures of Rauchwerger are closer to the Earth, and grow up from it. Powerful, expressive and restrained at the same time, they recall the works of Marini, Maillol, and to some extent Rodin.

In her article about the exhibition, Irena Gordon pays specific attention to the name “Parthenon in my life” – Athens, the Temple, the Acropolis – and suggests a full range of possible associations, from poems by the English poet Keats to a children's game of marbles.

Irena writes: “It is the search for new forms and relations between them, the search for points of connections and varieties of plastic ties for the last that forces the artist Jan Rauchwerger to sculpt in clay, papier- mâché and plasticine.”

The exhibit shifts from drawings and sketches to the sculptures, which attract special attention, and no wonder – even longtime admirers of Jan will have difficulty recognizing the hand of the Master in an unexpected conglomeration of works.“At this fifty-fifth personal exhibition in the Gordon Gallery, for the first time Rauchwerger has used sculpture to realize his architectural fantasies, which significantly expands the body of his work. The sculptures were transformed into real buildings and parts of buildings in such a way that they clearly mastered the volume of the gallery, and started cooperating with it.”

Jan says that in times past, gentiles used to practice a magic ritual where they would stroke wooden statuettes hanging from their belts. These amulets, which protected health, were stroked down to their complete erasure.

On the right-hand side of the entrance to the gallery there stand two-meter high, glazed columns that form aluminum cylinder pipes. While passing the cylinders, two mature visitors, an out-of-towner and a local, leave the Gallery.

The local visitor said: "…if you want pure realism, there is another gallery, not far away, just two blocks ahead…”

And this is how both ladies, having been so excited about realism yet overlooking the cylinders, missed the lower hall, where nudity shines to such an extent that gives no doubt about its realism.

An expedition of about twenty serious individuals, each carrying a notebook, walked into the Gallery. The young and curly haired guide talked about the role of Jan in Israeli art: “Favorite yet uncomfortable, talented but unusual. He is accepted by all, yet stands alone, not fully fitting into the surroundings."

Does it contradict the common opinion in the microclimate of Israeli art that: “Real Israeli painters are just like fingers of one hand, with Jan being one of them?” Or just the purely laconic, “Wow! Jan!”

The guide continued: “...some famous painters, with age, lost interest in painting, and drifted out from their habitual scope to start with sculpture. For instance, Edgar Degas. Definitely, this is what is happening with Rauchwerger.”

Jan countered: “What does it mean ‘losing interest in painting?’ It is just like losing interest in life.” He talked about Degas, being blind and making sculptures towards the end of his life.

“…One does not need to have eyesight to sculpt. Most likely, touch is sufficient. Degas did not create his works in metal. His works were found on the floor after he passed away, and only then were they made in bronze. The value of his sculptures is comparable with, or perhaps even higher than, the value of his paintings.”

A visitor to the exhibition shared her opinion, “In Jerusalem, a boy in a black kippah played with the same cardboard cylinders. He glued them to a string, put it around his neck, and turned it into the binoculars; he put it together and turned it into a spyglass; he then pointed it at a street cat – bang! And used it as a rifle. Purim is coming soon, the boy will be a military commander."

No need to make special efforts to bring the children's game into the exhibition hall of the Gordon Gallery. 

“The artist always plays,” says Jan. “Games are a part of life and present in both, painting and sculpture, too.”

Cylinders that are placed like this make a palm or a hand. Placed differently they will make shoulders and a chest. Numbered cylinders represent pieces of a historical building that was dismantled and then reassembled based on the drawing called “kroks.” And the female figure is drawn in chalk on a piece of black paper with arms, chest, and hips numbered 4, 5, and 7.

And the massive white columns are in fact playing the role of that which is harmonic and invisible to the human eye – the Parthenon.

Here is a fragment from another discussion about the topic:

-“So, what do you think about the two-meter high columns at the entrance?”

-“Where? Here, at the exhibition..? I did not see any…”

-“What do you mean ‘did not see’? In front, and the biggest sculpture in the hall. On the right-hand side next to the vitrine.”

-“No, there wasn’t anything like that. I did not see any.”

This dispute could continue indefinitely. In anticipation of seeing works of one’s favorite Artist, the “educated” viewer might simply not pay any attention to a sculpture that was taking up significant volume in the space. It blended into the construction, an integrated part of the gallery’s interior.

Associations take me to the past and I remember now, long ago, when my youngest used to believe my every word and asked me once: “If G-d indeed exists, how comes he is invisible?”

I managed to answer immediately: “He is so big that we simply do not notice him.”

Those viewers who have followed Rauchwerger’s career, saw photos of his new works on the Internet. They would not be surprised by the bronze statuettes, like the foot resting on the bench, a series of hands hugging legs, the female torso, or the cycle "archeology."

Jan insists that giving names to the works and formulating thoughts in a very precise way are his professional duty and a necessity. This is how he created the series of The Volcano First, Second, Third. Altar First, Second, Third. Golden Altar. Masks, Sofia N1, Sofia N2.

Answering the question, “Who is this Sonja?” Jan shares the story about the charming fifteen-year-old girl who refused to be his model because she was forbidden by her boyfriend. Four years later she found the painter. Meanwhile the model had changed, as had the artist, and after years of working together he created bronze shells: a head framed by fingers, petals on the thin stem base.

"In this series", - says Jan - "the outer and inner surface of the volume are equally important".

Exhibited in the Gallery is a leg standing on a bench and the other leg, which is bent in a graceful motion, may be seen as an invitation to complete the figure, to think it out, to dream it over. A velvet gown, emphasizing the veiled body, illustrates an ability to concentrate and feel while omitting the unnecessary and highlighting the essence. This is an invitation for dialogue, to collaborate.

Rectangles, splinters, running feet dug out of the ground – Jan’s archeology N1, N2, N3 naturally return the viewer to childhood.

Playing “sekretiki-secrets”– burning, valuable. A foreign stamp, a bright candy wrapper, a green beetle, buttons, a stone, and a dragonfly wing. Jewelry, that used to be placed in a ground hole, then covered with a transparent peace of glass and earth.

One must remember the location and bring his friends in a couple of days, who will then slowly dig into the ground to find and open the “secret,” then wipe a piece of glass to show the amused friends the self-made secret microcosm.

Art starts there, where the primitive antediluvian copying of nature ends. The process of working with a palette and overcoming material in sculpture – these are the primary tools and abilities of the artist-sculptor. This may result in not only understanding the visible part of life, but also the invisible portion of it, just like the surface and underwater part of the iceberg.

This is the goal and purpose of the artist. What is required of the viewer?

Credibility and trust to the Master, whose strength of talent is able to convince us of it, the Artist, rightness.

 

Beams, columns, floors. Parthenon of my life. Such SIMPLICITY.

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