Faith & the Artist
What the eye sees
by Yoram Raanan
The Hebrew word for faith is 'emuna', which shares the same root as 'oman', artist (as well as 'amen'). In the Kabbalah, faith is the highest power of the soul, beyond the reach of the rational mind. The artist also strives to access an experiential reality that is beyond logic, and tap into divine creative expression.
Yoram Raanan has been painting in Israel for over 30 years. His studio is located in a rural community in the hills leading up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been considered by many as the centre of the world and the eye of the universe. for thousands of years, the Jewish people have directed their sight and hearts to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Even though the Temple was destroyed thousands of years ago, Jews believe that the Divine Presence never left the Western Wall, the remaining outer wall of the Temple known as the 'kotel'.
Over the years Raanan has continually returned to painting the kotel, a wall of great stones, communicating the spiritual energy and ancient history of the place. Says Raanan: "It has been a challenge to paint concrete blocks of reality, in an abstract, modern and meaningful way. I try to capture the spiritual essence and bring light out of hewn rock".
In order to do this Raanan says he must transcend mundane reality and trust his intuition to create art that is 'beyond' what the eye sees. Art has the power to make the invisible visible - and in the back and forth play between reality and imagination the 'hidden light' is revealed.
In Kotel Window, the wall opens amidst rays of light, suggesting the inner spiritual realm of the western wall, as an opening to a world beyond. The many figures on the bottom were painted with just a few strokes of a palette knife loaded up thickly with colour. They blend in with the wall, adding warmth and cheer, as do the viridian greens and blue. The stones are silent...yet they speak with joyous light, which produces a jewel like effect of precious stones. They shimmer in the sunlight, conveying a ray of hope and a doorway to a redemptive future.
"What appear to be merely abstract blocks of pure colour, the rectangles and shapes in Kotel Bookcover could just be a study in colour and design", says Raanan, "but what I really had in mind were the massive stones of the Western Wall." Simple, but powerful, it is painted with vibrant energy and joy.
The heavy impasto oil paint on an opened bookcover resonates with a rich buttery subtlety. The wide range of tones and hues from the fleshy pink to the viridian blue greens dance in celebration. Just as the body is the covering for the soul, the western wall is a covering for the beauty that is hidden within. It has been said that there are men with hearts of stone and there are stones with human hearts (Rabbi Avraham Yitzcak Kook). Here, in the painting, the stones join together forming a tapestry of stones with human hearts, having been warmed by outpourings of prayer.
Jerusalem Rose captures the depth of the southern slope of the Temple Mount and the walls of the Old City, and the golden rose quality of Jerusalem.
Raanan says that when he painted this panoramic view, he was not only focusing on light and shadow, colour and movement, but was also in touch with the "holiness of the place - the quiet majesty of the Temple Mount and the how the hills are emanating a palpable spiritual energy".
Light permeates the painting as it comes flowing down onto the hills in shades of soft pink. There is a sense of movement of a breezy, peaceful day exuding a sense of calm and optimism, although sadly Jerusalem itself still awaits peace.
The upper part of the painting started as billowy white clouds. With strong downward movements of the palette knife, Raanan scraped away paint in order to break the sky open creating the suggestion of a heavenly Jerusalem.
Jewish tradition believes in a celestial Jerusalem, an upper sanctuary that was never destroyed and which is the source of all blessing. The Temple was the meeting place of both the spiritual and physical worlds. In Temple Waters the upper waters of the heavens and the lower waters of this world meet among the golden pillars of the Temple in a spiritual reservoir. This is where they are destined to meet again in the future when water, carrying blessings to the world, will flow out from Jerusalem.
Top image: Temple Waters (front & back covers)