Curator Monica Lavi
In Shimon Pinto’s paintings, the desert around Arad, his birthplace, becomes a clear, arid space filled with visions. This is a space of childhood, freedom, and wandering – a space of place and no-place in which angels practice meditation, birds with snakes on their bellies take off into the skies, and divine beings mate with daughters of men.
Arad rose up on the edge of the desert, established as Israel’s first planned city, is a city of dreams and collapse of the dream; a city whose founders had a vision of Zionism and a practical Utopia, but whose sons and daughters left town to yearn for it from afar.
In his paintings, Pinto returns to the desert encompassing the city, locating himself facing the dream spaces while before his eyes visions take form about angels, divine beings, birds, dry trees and snakes. The sensation of religiosity is an important element in his oeuvre, familiar to the desert-born who face a landscape open to the horizon, whose dry, clear air imbues it with extraordinary sharpness. In Pinto, the piercing desert gaze merges with the artist’s gaze until it is impossible to know which came first: did the gaze create the painter, or did the painter create the gaze?
The feeling of the supernatural that arises when one stands before the desert plains in Pinto’s paintings is not due to his potentially explosive subjects, but it is precisely because of their clarity: like the painters of the Northern Renaissance who preferred the linear to the painterly, and the known over the visible, Pinto paints both the near and the distant with clarity. This combination creates a vision in nature, a theatre of sacredness requiring the viewer to make an extra effort when observing Pinto’s oeuvre. This observation seems to make a demand on the viewer to cast off doubt and believe in faith, or at least to believe in the artist, who is a man of faith.
The Midrash is another of Pinto’s worlds. His intimate closeness to Jewish source texts opens up spaces for him of wondrous images. Pinto himself is a returnee to religion, but knowledge of the Jewish sources is not only for the newly religious: there are many learning centers for the secular to immerse themselves in Jewish culture.
The name of the exhibition is taken from a midrash discussing the plague of frogs, one of the Ten Plagues visited upon the Egyptians in the biblical story of the Exodus.
The artist invites you to meet with him among his paintings every Friday, before the Shabbat begins, and share your thoughts with him. Each visitor will receive five minutes of attentive listening.