Click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Edward Ben Avram

Jerusalem, Edward Ben Avram
Over the years, I've written about quite a few Jewish painters (I'm not sure there are any Jewish sculptors). However, in nearly every case they have mostly been what I call "hyphenated" Jews. That means they were Russian or Polish or German, Dutch, Swiss, or Americans first and only incidentally Jewish--some very incidentally--perhaps more accidentally Jewish, in fact. Seldom have I written about Israeli artists. Despite the centuries-long artistic tradition of diaspora Jews (those having fled to Europe after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD), Israel, as we know it today, is a very young country. It dates back only to 1948. And, as with other such countries, the fine arts are among the last cultural elements to develop. In fact, were it not for tourists (many of them Jewish, of course), even today Israel might not have much in the way of an art market. In any case, one of the internationally known stars of that market is the Bombay, India-born painter, Edward Ben Avram.
Kotel (the Wailing Wall Plaza), Edward Ben Avram.
It's hard to say what part tourism plays in terms of art purchases and their impact on the Israeli art market. Despite the constant threat of international terrorism (and nowhere is it more constant than in Israel), tourism reached a peak of about 3.5-million visitors in 2013. However, since then, the numbers have gone downhill to an alarming degree. Having said that, Israel takes its own security and that of one of its major sources of income very seriously. Israel is a small country with a negligible domestic art market. To enjoy much in the way of success, Israeli artists must rise to a certain level of international acclaim, allowing them to market their work in major Jewish population centers overseas. Few ever reach that level. Thus, Israel's periodic little wars in Gaza and elsewhere inevitably have an impact on the tourist economy. And even though he sells his paintings and prints in galleries around the world, local conflicts are not good for artists like Ben Avram.

Noah's Ark, Edward Ben Avram
Edward Ben Avram
Edward Ben Avram was born in 1941. He came to Israel as a teenager, graduating from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. The vast majority of Avram’s oil paintings and watercolors depict present-day Israeli cities, religious festivals, and familiar Old Testament Jewish lore such as his expressionist view of Noah's Ark (above). He paints in creamy sensual tones involving traditional Jewish symbols such as doves, menorahs, and Shabbat candles. In other words, he paints what tourists come to expect in buying Israeli art. And what tourists come to see most, therefore what they yearn to take home with them, is the city of Jerusalem. Perhaps as much as half of Ben Avram's work involves various views of the city (below). The various ancient gates and the Western Wall (of the original Jewish Temple) better known as the "Wailing" Wall appear prominently in his work. (The wall doesn't wail and neither do most of those visiting it).

Ben Avram's style varies with his subject matter and media from nearly non-representational to Expressionism, even flirting with Impressionism at times.
The themes Ben Avram employs deal mainly with urban landscapes of his much-loved Jerusalem, depicting arched alleyways, steep, narrow streets, spires, citadels, and gates in the walls of the ancient city. Ben Avram's seascapes, are delicate watercolors, near Jaffa and Acre, having a minimal regard for nature's laws, instead reflecting the light and rhythm of the Mediterranean coast. If I had to compare Ben Avram's work with that of any other Jewish painter it would be Marc Chagall, as seen it the two examples of their work below.

Nearly as many similarities as differences.
As many painters native to the Mediterranean region claim regarding their local light, Ben Avram considers there to be something special about the sunlight and the local scale of colors in the Land of Israel. His work tends to reflect an understanding of this environmental element. Usually his subjects are "suggested" rather than explicit, with few details clearly presented. More than anything else, Edward Ben Avram stimulates our imagination while not imposing a detailed narrative. His art does not preach, but arrives at the heart of his subjects through allusions, as seen in his Jewish Wedding (below) and Jacob's Dream (bottom).

Jewish Wedding, Edward Ben Avram

Jacob's Dream,
Edward Ben Avram


No comments:

Post a Comment