Nahum Gutman Museum of Art - English מוזיאון נחום גוטמן לאמנות Image Map

The Third Eye /Jacque Katmor is Wishing you a Good Death

31.9.12 - 15.7.12

Jacques Yaacov Mori Katmor. This is a journey amongst cultures, identities and times. A journey  from Cairo to Europe, from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam and further back.  A journey comprised of fragmented lines between the Mediterranean and Europe.  Lines that connect desire to death connect the female, her body and genitals to the magical and the kabbalistic elements with the notion of redemption through the gutters. These lines connect the Wandering Jew to the sin, to the forbidden, to the volatile tension between Christianity and Judaism and to the edges and the borderlines of the Israeli identity.  Lines on top of the surface, the face of death of the pop culture, Lines combining the geometry of the Russian Avant- garde movement to the minimalistic conceptual and creating some dense territorial maps, multi layered and multi referenced; creating holes and graves. Lines reminiscent of cuneiform scripts.  A spiritual anarchism, an erotic drive.  An illusion. The lines reveal an enigmatic portrait bursts with contradictions and self-destruction. An individual and existential quest, he was the advocate of freedom and of sexual liberation, experimenting with recreational drugs in an attempt to expand the mind; an absolute artist.   

 Jacques Mori Katmor.  A black Jesus with a French charm. The first Israeli multidisciplinary artist that was active between the Six Days and the Yom Kipur Wars-  a period where euphoria delivered the voice of the unique and of the eccentric, the voice of the dreamer, the one that was not recruited by nationalistic ideas; a cultural revolutionist who dared to dream about utopia and then faltered.  An enigmatic, an intellectual and a complex character, someone who searches, dreams and dares. The indicator of a different Israeli notion or of a different 'Israeliness' that was forgotten or repressed perhaps not inadvertently. 


Katmor was born in 1938 in Egypt, self-exiled himself to Paris and Switzerland and studied Art in the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He was influenced by Surrealism, Lettrism and the experimental American cinema. He associated himself with the Dada subversive movement and the American Beat generation. In his journey of self-discovery he sculpted himself on Lettristic and psycho-geographical elements concocted by the Situationists. In 1960 he immigrated to Israel and joined the military service, served under the artillery force. He fought in the Six Days War but refused to take part at the Yom Kipur War. 

From the early 1960's he presented several exhibitions of his works in various galleries in Tel Aviv comprised mostly by lyrical lines and sketches of naked females, couples making love and orgies. As time progressed, he became an exceptional and a ground breaking cinematographer who was ahead of his time. His first movie, 'A Woman's Case' represented Israel at the Venice Film Festival. This is the first movie made in Israel by a painter, an artist who translated the aesthetics and concepts of art into film. The film's main angle according to Katmor as written in his journals was to deal with the vision mechanism, the cinematic mechanism through movement and light. This is a movie about the relationship between the eye and the screen, the eye and the image, the eye and the mind. It is a visual and a lyrical-poetic film. The viewer is exposed during the screening to various artistic, cinematic and comics references. The viewer is exposed to a network of cultural and historical nonlinear contexts. 

Over the years a following of friends and admirers gathered around him.  The group was formed and based upon the idea of self-liberation through Art as an element of a mental transformation. The group operated as a communal collective in the apartment of Katmor and his then wife, Hilit Yeshurun in Tel Aviv. In 1972 they named themselves 'The Third Eye'. The members lived together, thought together and dreamed together. But by the end of 1973 all was gone.  The war, the police pursuits, the shattered utopia. In 1974 most of the members left Israel. Katmor resided in Amsterdam with his second wife, Ann Tuchmayer for almost 20 years. The fragmented lines of his oeuvre continued to accompany him in his journey of demolition and destructiveness.

Getting lost as some sort of a quest. He dealt with elements of transparency, eroticism, the clown; he dealt with women wilting away letting the signs of decay rule over themselves. The erotic nudity became much more perverse, the glamorous girls in his shots and paintings became strippers, local bar girls and heroin prostitutes. The couple returned to Israel by the late 1990's, and Katmor gradually faded away but continued to fight his inner demons until his death in 2001.     

The works on display at the exhibition were handed to me by the late Ann Tuchmayer, Jacques Katmor's second wife. A touching gesture and the result of a long and a meaningful acquaintance that included long meetings, heart to heart conversations, stories, tales and a longing. I received into my hands a treasure, a documented history of an erased period of time. Boxes containing files upon files with many drawings, paintings, dust-covered bags with scratched photographs, negatives, yellowish journals written in thick and dense hand writing, posters, items that time existed in them like dust, hair, sand, ashes, the artist's personal fingerprints. Objects that dissipated in the same manner as the women in his works.  As if Katmor tried in vain to freeze these works but never managed to stop the progress of time. A large part of the works were worn out and crumbled obviously un-presentable. I must hurry and present what's left of it before the 'Yellow' would take it all away.

The works had sent me on a long journey, a multi-layered one through different continents, times, passion and destruction. An authentic experience in order to try and re-built and restore his images from its ruins, putting the loose ends together, the fragmented sentences, sorting out the meaning of the Levant quest for an identity, a journey in the footsteps of the Jew who combines cabbalistic tales with cosmic psychedelic pilgrimages in which the woman is the cosmic mother, a genital, a triangle, a hole, the center, a fertility deity, a model, a mother, a prostitute, a decaying body. It is a journey that centralizes snaking around his torturous self. Holes, graves and passion.  A journey to Tel Aviv of the same years, a journey to a fractured nation as a state of mind. 

The exhibition presents Katmor's works from the early 1960's in Tel Aviv until the end of the 1980's. An assortment of automated drawings, vibrate repetitive lines, paintings, engravings. It showcases an obsessive preoccupation with sex, death and life.  Nomadic journeys, an apocalyptical coming of age adventure, Cabbalistic images, geometrical shapes, maps of the consciousness. This is an invitation to his inner world as participants and not as viewers.

"And yes I said yes I will yes" said Molly Bloom the heroine in James Joyce's Ulysses.  Molly's soliloquy and her closing lines that were quoted by Katmor numerous times in his journals and not without a reason.  A motto. Yes to life and yes to decay.    



Curator: Ori Drumer

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