At first glance, the work of contemporary Israeli painters Israel Hershberg and Joshua Borkovsky may seem quite different. But actually, the two artists — both of whom are the subjects of exhibitions at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum — complement each other remarkably well, for both exhibits concern the act of painting itself.
“Fields of Vision: Landscapes by Israel Hershberg” presents three large-scale landscapes, two Umbrian and one of Tel Kakun in Israel’s Hefer Valley, and a preparatory study of a landscape in Roman Campagna. In 1998, Hershberg founded the Jerusalem Studio School to return artists to the study of painting from observation, and these works mark Hershberg’s movement from the careful study of still lifes to exterior landscapes.
Hershberg does not attempt to create exact replicas of landscapes; rather, he creates new representations. Regarding his view of the ideal artist, Hershberg told the blog “Painting Perceptions”: “He does not obstruct by imposing his own feelings on the matter, rather, he effaces himself before what is an overwhelmingly emotional event. You know, giving way and yielding to awe. And as he is awed, we are in awe.”
As one stands before Hershberg’s landscapes, the small gallery becomes a meditative space; the viewer is swept up into the light that pours onto the expansive skies. “Aria Umbria II” is the representation of a landscape as seen through an oval window. That we observe the window through which the painter looks suggests that these paintings are about the acts of seeing and beholding.
The Borkovsky exhibition, “Veronese Green,” features 58 works from 10 cycles of his paintings created between 1987 and 2012. Paintings from different cycles appear next to each other so that the images appear to be in dialogue. Borkovsky creates works in open-ended cycles: One painting might differ only slightly from the next, as if we are seeing with each additional painting the painter’s mind at work as he attempts to get closer to his vision of what he is trying to represent. Two cycles of paintings, “Leda and the Swan” and “Echo and Narcissus,” refer to Greek creation myths and serve as metaphors for the creation of the art itself, for how a thing of beauty can be created through pain and labor.