Art-Cologne, gallery Pudelko, 2009
Liberation of Light.
Igor Ganikowskij (Cat.Museum Ashdod), 2006
My recollections begin when I was about three years old, we lived in the very centre of Moscow, in the “ Brusovsky Pereulok”. I’m sitting alone in the bathroom, splashing water around me, probably thereby causing the sunlight to sparkle on the wall. My second remembrance is of the same time: I’m rushing out into the garden in the winter and my eyes are struck by the untouched snow. No one has been outside yet, there is a thick layer of snow, it shines, and I felt so well, that I’ve remembered it for fifty years now, perhaps I’ve never felt better since. What’s important is that the first things to amaze me and remain in my memory were direct and reflected light.
I began painting at a rather late stage. In my first works I already paid tribute to the world, probably most fully represented by Chagall, of small Jewish villages (Shtetl), to the poetry of Jewish everyday life. Some of my first works were a small aquarelle, “Freylekhes” and a drawing showing a candle.
I remember very distinctly how difficult it was for me to draw anything in white at the time. Everything was consumed by darkness, even when I began something merrily and it was light, cheerful in the beginning, it would gradually become darker and eventually only a few white spots remained. Now I have works filled with light, white for the larger part. This progress is a liberation of light and is one of the major inner goals of my art.
The series of works which I called“Silhouetted”(catalogue Märkisches Museum Witten), and consider to mark the beginning of my life as an artist, appeared in 1984. On a dark background – light silhouettes, and vice versa. The light silhouettes are perceived as light from another world, coming in through a window-membrane, uniting and separating worlds at the same time. Contrariwise, dark silhouettes are black light, filling the light spaces. Analysing these works today, it seems to me that, absolutely intuitively, I touched upon a major theme of the Kabbalah: the interaction between Infinite Light and Vessel (“K’li”).
God is associated with infinite light by the Jews. The corporeal vessels – in our world – with man, with soul. The labour of amending the vessels, filling them with light is the main “task” of man. The appearance of light in the silhouettes is a metaphor for the “amending of vessels”.
The next series of my works – “Halls of light” ”(catalogue Märkisches Museum Witten) – represented constructions filled with light or restraining it, and was connected with an effort to achieve a more detailed look on structures.
The series “Candles” ”(catalogue Märkisches Museum Witten) also has to do with light. The candles of the works can be seen as letters and souls (to each letter of the Torah, a Jewish soul corresponds), and together they seem to comprise a conveyance of our sorrows, agonies and victories.
“The candle of God is the human soul. This means that the soul of the Jews, called “man”, is comparable to the light of a candle, by its nature unceasingly wavering and extending itself upwards. The light of fire by its nature wishes to separate itself from the wick and to unite itself with the its roots above …”, wrote Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
Further in my work, I freed myself more and more from figurativeness. Today, my works are abstract. This change is connected to the fact that geometric abstraction throws down the gauntlet to nature, to the motionless weight of matter. Thus, geometry is the outermost point, where the object disappears. Geometry doesn’t depend on time, hence it belongs to the ideal world. But some times, geometry can also allow one to determine something, for instance in the work “Red house”, dedicated to Felix-Nussbaum, the geometry of some parts hints at the pattern of the tallit (a shawl worn during religious services), of other parts – at the clothes worn in the concentration camps.
As to the abstract movement within painting, in my view it has discredited itself lately, striving to merge with design and thus leave itself only a decorative function, forgetting such great predecessors as Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondriaan, Barnett Newman who, breaking with the old tradition, opened new worlds. For them painting was an instrument for gaining knowledge Of course, this has to do with the processes in the world becoming more banal, capturing art as well, and by repetitions of postmodernism, which understands difficulty as gliding over a world of surfaces and an increasing rupture between expression and contents. Actually, the disruption of the true connection between expression and contents, tears apart the tie between man and the universe.
Occupying myself with abstract, geometric painting, I strive to return the symbol-sign (the less complex the sign, the more extensive its meaning) to it, to connect the two parts of the clay plate. For the mission of symbolisation is to create, where a scientific explanation of the world is absent, a decent system of all infinite connections.
All mystical systems are based on the principle of similarity, Kabbalists call this the language of roots and branches, spirit roots and material branches. The tree Seferot (one of the basic concepts of the Kabbalah) is rooted in the spiritual worlds and grows upside down. God seems to embody himself in the Seferot to support the world.
Living through something very deep in our world has always been very important for my work, as is the search for likenesses of these processes in the higher worlds. Perhaps this is the only possibility, not just to see the great and small worlds at the same time, but also to understand their configurative interaction. Moreover, moving from one hierarchal step to another, through a variety of levels of realities, the symbolisations grow, and the contents of the transcendent seem to glimmer through the expression. The symbol plays the part of the bridge between the rational and the mystical.
It is also important that the space of my works lives a double semiotic life, modelling the universe one hand, and being modelled by it on the other. Of course, it may be that we see only shadows, slight reflections, but even from these contours one can try to shape something, repeatedly verifying the result by the numerous reflections.
In the years 2003-4 I created a series of works, called “Projections or Reflections”. Therein, I tried to show the complexity of this translation – for projections, reflections, are a translation, an attempt to decipher. To quote Yuri Lotman: “The separation of what is one’s own and alien, the filtration of the outer, the translation of a foreign language into one’s own, is the way the structuring of the outer area occurs.”
Turning to three-dimensional painting, and even earlier beginning to use other materials in my works (wood, iron …) I try to represent the
solid, gradual opening of the very stratified reality and show the resemblance of worlds, but also different “building materials”, of which these worlds consist. The living through the dimensionality of the world, sensing it from all possible points of view in all its fullness, today is one of the most important elements of my work. The moment of the appearance of a structure, the moment of seeking the origin of this structure, is the moment of experience, of tiding through.
Three-dimensional reality appears in my works as a wrapped space, (T-Composition, Gates …) that can contain only broad and important texts-information or opened and closed books (catalogue State Gallery Villa Zanders), where there is a hint at the semiotics of the right and the left and a harmonising middle.
In the system of Seferot the right Sefers are associated with output, distribution, the left ones with holding back, splitting, limiting, those in the middle with the harmonisation of both sides on the pertinent levels. Three-dimensional painting also allows one to feel the state of being opened or closed (yet being expressed in different “words” and colours). That which is fixed on different surfaces can be seen as projections of the spiritual on the material, for only materialising does it become visible. In the lower worlds, for instance in our “world of action” (Malchut) the feeling of God weakens to such an extent, that it can hardly be felt and becomes a condition, describable as “Zimzum” (Godly compression or the self-limitation of God). Thereby man gets a freedom of choice, and he, moving along his vector, not avoiding zeniths and troughs, fulfils his work, cleansing his soul, and filling it with Godly light.
God, showing himself differently in the world, has many names. In a certain sense these names are the very surfaces on which the “Creation of the world” is differently projected. When looking straight at the works from the series “The Names”( catalogue State Gallery Villa Zanders), we won’t see anything at first, for the side of the signs has the same colour as the background. However, as we move ourselves, the signs suddenly become visible – the miracle of the revelation of the invisible.
For my work, zooming is also very important, that is a permanent turning towards both the large and the small, to the macro- and microcosm. Thus, in the works “Large composition” (catalogue State Gallery Villa Zanders), I took an attempt to observe the Large World at once. In these works, the world is represented being separated into White worlds – lights – and Black worlds. Marked red is our world, which is clasped by these worlds and simultaneously both connects and separates them, and feeds on them. The entire tragedy of our world consists of the battle between white and black within it.
In my works (e.g. Filters, Traps, Massada, Jericho), on the contrary, I strive to focus on separate elements and situations. These resemble knots of a crystalline rack or cobweb. Usually this is emphasised by their spatiality: they grow like wells in a desert on the soundless background of my works.
Basically, we see what we’ve been taught to see. However, I strive to discuss the visible shape of ideas, models and to shift the area of the “blind spot” in the field where one can only think of them or feel them.
My work can be compared to that of an archaeologist, using fragments to recover the entirety. Therefore, I would call my occupation reconstuctivism, in contrast with the classic Russian avant-garde, which wanted to completely destroy the old world first, and then build a new, better, one.
(Translated from Russian by Anton Shaevitch.)