The art that unleashes the essence of the soul

"The art that unleashes the essence of the soul" originally written by curator and art critic Miri Krymolowski.

The artist Meir Salomon has been living and creating in the Netherlands for the past 35 years. Salomon studied art in the Rietveld Academie Amsterdam and it seems that the Netherlands has a profound influence on his work – his occupation with flowers, flowering and the reoccurring window motif. Yet, each and every one of his works has a powerful Jewish presence; Jewish motifs appear over and over again – the prayer book, the "Star of David", varied ritual objects and biblical citations.

It seems that Salomon's entire work brings together both ends (east and west, modernism and tradition, abstract and figurative, colour and line).

Oil painting by Meir Salomon
oil painting by Meir Salomon

Following two years in Avni Institute Tel Aviv, Salomon left, as mentioned, in order to study at the Rietveld Academie of Art in Amsterdam, where he studied in the painting and graphic art. The graphic aspect is extremely dominant in his works and it is evident that he is highly sensitive to both colour and line.

Salomon is without a doubt, consciously or not, influenced by the Dutch De Stijl movement. In nearly all of his works, there is a clear division of horizontal and vertical lines; the same division which was highly emphasised by the members of the De Stijl movement. For the members of this movement, the belief in this division originates in eastern mystique and western theosophy; the vertical lines are the active element and the horizontal ones, the passive elements; as both are visual equivalents for the basic facts of life. The manifesto of the movement's leading figure, Piet Mondrian, called for a "combination between the static balance and the dynamic equilibrium". Mondrian's quest for the formation of a pure reality resulted in his use of basic geometrical forms and primary colours.

Oil painting by Meir Salomon named "The Hand of God"
the hand of god - oil painting by Meir Salomon

Salomon creates the contrast Mondrian called for, fields of colour created by vertical and horizontal lines on the one hand, and a clear poetic painting with an inscriptive, and at times even sentimental character, on the other hand. The correlation between the geometrical abstract and the figurative is defined and clear. In the majority of the paintings we find a division to three planes, separated by satin, like a modern version of a "triptych", generally associated to ritual work of art. Is this an intimation of a new, different piety? These very same satin fabrics function as interveners, for it seems that Salomon does not wish to create an illusion of existence, but rather, on the contrary, he positions the coloured interveners as theatre curtains, asking to remind us that what we see is a mere illusion, a seeming reality and nothing more.

One of the central motifs in his work is the written word: Hebrew traditional script letters, biblical texts and citation. The question that rises is do they have anything in common with the colourful modern world. “And God divided the light from the darkness,” Salomon writes and scribbles while next we can see a symbol, which seems as a paraphrase of the “Star of David”. He quotes from the book of Genesis:

“and darkness was upon the face of the deep,” while the golden letters float in the fierce blue, and the window with flowers appears on the side, perhaps a quandary on the act of creation? “God shall bless you and protect you,” alongside a drawing of a prayer book. Much like Mordecai Ardon’s work, it seems that Salomon’s as well, presents Jewish themes while using the twentieth century symbols. Salomon is not engaged with the Torah or Judaism, yet they are ever present and evident in his oeuvre. The exiled artist presents the core of his existence in each and every one of his works.

Oil painting by Meir Salomon named 'the nature'
the nature - oil painting by Meir Salomon

Biblical texts are a profound element in the works of two other Israeli masters – Mordecai Ardon and Moshe Kastel, each presenting the scripture in his unique way. Kastel transformed the letters to unique biblical figures. It seems that Salomon, as well, wishes to “play” with the words and that he is fascinated with their form just as much as with the meaning they withhold; Thus, the words become an instrument for the formation of interest in the pictorial composition. Despite the fact that Salomon adds a script to each painting, it is obvious that the language of his painting is the language of colour. He does not use solely primary colours, but rather seams to use combination of extremely intense colours, almost completely avoiding the use of pastel, calm, relaxed shades.

Over the past year, Salomon has been painting a new series with a different colourfulness – somewhat sfumato and stained – layers of colour spread with a unique stain, perhaps seeking to present a more hallucinated feeling to the easel. It might be an attempt to leave the clean geometry in favour of a more complex manifestation. On top of this complex colourfulness he inscribes the same portals and windows, wishing to glance at another plane, outlining a highly delicate inscription, almost a mere reference and nothing more.

In each of Salomon’s works, as mentioned before, the language of Judaism is coined. Salomon has been living in the Netherlands for past 35years, and throughout that time his creation has constantly shifted between east and west. Within his geometric abstract world, a variety of flowers are dominant – Hibiscus, Lilies, Bougainvilleas, and Almond tree branches; yet in spite of the rather precise botanic drawing, he is not really interested in the flower itself but rather in the flower as a symbol, a symbol of blossoming and withering, a symbol of life and death.

One cannot look at the flowers he draws without thinking of 17th century Dutch still-life and floral paintings. Those were a reflection of the rich and prosperous society of that time. They appeared on the overflowed vase, not as a part of nature nor as a eulogy of nature itself, but rather as a symbol for human extravagance. Salomon’s floral paintings are also not ingrained in their natural surroundings but rather float and rise outside their naturalist – realist context.

Illustration - fire and water drawing by Meir Salomon
Illustration - fire and water drawing by Meir Salomon

The blood red Hibiscus is so salient on top of his bright coloured background that it, without a doubt, constitutes a symbol – a symbol of love, passion, perhaps of pain. Salomon’s flowers, planted in a non-specific space, are clearly symbolic. So he cites from “The Song of Songs” where Shulamit attests on herself in the great poetry of love “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys”; and from the distance of time the poet Zelda of Jerusalem uses the same imagery when describing herself “The Sharon lily rising towards me from the dampness and the emptiness”.

This symbolism is woven with the biblical text to form the artist’s other reality, a complex and highly personal one. So, in one of his most meaningful paintings, Salomon cites the Tenth Commandments while, in the background, is his easel and a bright mandorla through which a modern urban landscape glances. This very same mandorla or bright circle, appear in many of his works, and specifically in his paper work series, and are connected to the Kabalah.

It seems that Salomon links the biblical act of creation to the artistic one and to our present existence. He ponders about issues of place and identity, and perhaps about the conflict of his being both a man of faith and one for whom art creation are at the core of life and beliefs.

It seems that in his unique connections, Salomon deals with all the existential questions concerning us all, wishing to take the viewer on a journey to the depths of his soul.

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