«Jewish Observer»
March 2002
5762 Nisan

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Jewish consciousness is ambivalent. On the one hand, there are strict bans and recommendations for every moment of everybody's life. On the other hand, a Jew cannot live without expecting a miracle, without a fantasy world, without a mystery, without realizing the ephemeral nature of the material world. The world of a Jew is a dialogue with God, the Tanakha, the Talmud, the Galakha, the Agada amid a modern city. The material and spiritual are the two sides of one shell. In the Hasidic tradition the feeling and insight may guide the search for ways to God. The innermost secret of the universe is likely to be discovered by one's heart rather than one's brain. To all appearances, the same is true about the mysteries of creativity, the secrets of art. May these be a painting without the feelings the artist tried to express or his inspiration? At the same time, it is no good for a professional " to sail in the sea of emotions without steer and sails of purpose". Nor is it Pavel Fishel's nature. His exhibition was held in February in the "Mykola's House" Gallery.

The display was very logical and rational. Having found an exact place for every piece of painting the artist put the stream of impressions in order and planned all the interruptions. Fishel used to give a good deal of attention to calculations in art, but, as he himself said, he had understood that after careful calculations one needs to fall out of step deliberately. And what is falling out of step is beyond the artist's intentions? What if accidental error that has crept into the work against the artist's will has made his creation more attractive, intriguing? Pavel doesn't seem to be tempted by the prospects of biding his time. A professional is always keen to achieve a planned result. But the completed work lives its own life, independent of the author, and no matter what he says the dialogue is not with him but with his creation. Fine arts have their own expressive means. There is no doubt that explanations and comments of the artist are interesting, particularly if the artist is a "Haham" like Pavel. But it is up to his audience whether to accept or reject his ideas. Everybody sees something different in shadows, reflections from drawings in silver on the transparent surface of the glass, in quaint wooden structures, paper relives.

Pavel Fishel is a scenery designer. His teacher at the Ukrainian Academy of Fine Arts was the well-known scenic artist D. Lider. At the exhibition one could see his sketches for the play "Don Quixote" staged by the Ivan Franko National Drama Theatre. A theatrical performance is a living organism. It is here that Fishel's improvisation and the freedom of moving in space are needed so badly.

The artist demonstrated these qualities again when he was designing the scenery for the festival of the Jewish book, which was held in December 2001 in the "Sunflower" community center in Kiev. The scenery hid the walls of the community center, made them invisible, unreal. What was real was Kyiv of the early 20th century. The gap between two epochs was bridged skillfully. The eternal ancient Hebrew script served as a background for the scenes from life in the old city. The indigenous Jewish art of micrography reflected well enough the artist's bend for "mathematical" calculations of the ratio between the print sheet and the intuitive sense of proportion.

The Hebrew script is also used in the graphic sheets whose main theme is "Prayer". In this case the letters are shrinking, ephemeral. Their disappearance hides a mystery that can hardly be approximated.

Pavel Fishel's exhibition "Commentary" was held as part of the Agada program carried out by the Institute of Jewish studies. The main aim of the program is to organize exhibitions of the works of artists who develop Jewish themes.

At the same time it is not easy to give a quick answer to the question: What are Jewish themes in fine arts? The great artist Mark Chagall wrote in his book "My life": "If I were not a Jew (in the sense that I understand it) I would never have become an artist or would be a different artist..." Apparently, our thanks for the exhibition should go, firstly, to the artist, and, also, to the audience; and, finely, to those who sponsored its organization, namely, the American Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.


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