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Hillel Kagan
About this artwork
Head #2
oil on canvas
h.23cm w.18cm d.0cm
Dec 2004

Hillel's Description: I had done some very early paintings (post artschool) on this theme and wanted to re-explore it.

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Hanjo Schmidt

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2007-05-24 00:46

Here I am again, looking at your Rabbi heads, late at night , while everybody is sleeping. Dont know why, guess curiosity and a mixed feeling of strangeness and tenderness, that is what they make me feel . I read your comments and they take me back to a book I read a long time ago, called “ Grietas como templos” in spanish, I dont know if it is published in english, and Im too tired to translate that. But in a way these heads remind me of that book, your faces seem to dissapear underneath a turmoil of slashes and colours, but somehow they struggle out again to the surface. That book talked about the great loss of talent that ocurred in Europe during the second world war, with the almost complete anihilation of the jews, that constituted a stratus of musicians, writers, artists, etc. A long list of emerging intellectuals dissapeared, and the book studied how terribly it affected European culture. But somebody wrote about them , and I read the book. And still remember it. I like those heads, although they seem so strange and far away from me.
As you can imagine I feel closer to your circular nudes, who hasn’t felt that way sometime? Trapped, nude,crouching and alone under a hard light,or is it a total silence ? dont know, but the thruth is your work is bursting with human anxiety, and that is what makes me love it, It’s hard to find an artwork that expresses loneliness like “cafeteria” or “confined figure II”, and I think that is the main theme of your subway images.

2007-05-24 19:59

Karen, that is very well spoken. I have exactly the same feelings for Hillel's work. Thank you for putting it into words.

2007-05-26 00:05

Karen, I want to thank you for your comments, it's not the first time you've astounded me with your profound depth of thought and feeling both in your paintings and words. When I first started this series of "Fundamentally Heads" my intention was to explore the whole scope of the worldwide trend towards fundamentalism found amongst all the religions. With my typically Jewish tendency ( a bad habit born of being on the outside) to find commonality I started with my own group first. Painting is strange in that obviously you're not going to unravel mysteries of behavior or change the world in any way but it does afford you the time for contemplation. I had intended to carry on with other images I had collected but found that I couldn't in good conscience make the connection between Jewish orthodoxy and people who believe fundamentally and totally in a book, be it the Bible or Quran as complete and utter moral and historical truth. To be sure there are some similarities, a tendency towards stricter regulations. Outward displays of religiosity and a dogmatic belief in the correctness of their positions. However the book that the Jews believe in fundamentally is the Talmud. The Talmud literally means "study" (of the Torah) and since the belief is that the world was created for the Torah and the Torah contains the whole world, that has made the Talmud an open ended, never to be finished work on every subject imaginable. Extreme views and outer religious displays are frowned on in the Talmud. Modern science and medicine and technology have to be reconciled with Torah seeing as the Torah is the repository of all truth and therefore must be logical and in keeping with what we know to be scientifically and historically true. The Talmud's mandate is one of question and response and interpretation and re-interpretaton until finally consensus is achieved, although contrary opinions are always left in for one's consideration. That is what brought me to The Great European Torah Scholar series. because I truly believe that the type of open minded questioning culture of the Talmud, when it was applied secularly to the arts and sciences was extremely productive and beneficial.
I don't know of the book you read. I found it but it was never translated into English but I had read something by Anshelm Keifer where he said that when Hitler wiped out Germany's Jewish population he also wiped out half of Germany's culture, an amputation that will be felt for years to come. That also inspired those paintings.
As for your other comments about solitude etc. I think you're right but I really don't concern myself with it. I've always maintained that for an artist the best thing is just to deal with formal aspects. One's own inner torment, demons, joy or whatever will always come through so there's no need for contrivance. There's more angst in Cezanne's apple than Bacon's total oevre.


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