Ami was the first commissioned portrait I made, and I was trembling in anticipation. The challenge was huge: To render the face of my friend's belated father based on an amazing photograph of him. The fear of missing something crucial in her Dad's facial expression weighed on me during the whole process. Before starting the portrait, I realized that my task as an artist was harder because of the family’s expectations and closeness with the subject. The family’s love intimidated me. My work needed to capture the spirit and character of my friend’s Dad. With Ami, I felt the need to render every stroke accurately, to create an echo of how I perceived his family: a friendly, respectful and caring family. Instinctively I felt that I could add some playful touches by putting diamonds and circles in his beard and a geometric pattern around his ear. For Ami's children, what was most important was the need to feel their father in the portrait.
My dearest friend's gift to her mother: Ami
While some portraits involve the challenge of responding to a family’s emotional experience, portraits of famous figures involve a different type of approach.
Last year, I took part in an exhibition called “Portraits – Exposure, hiding and what is between them.” The exhibition’s theme was appealing to me: How do I render a face? What is seen and what is unseen? What is deliberate and what is not? What do I choose to put forward or to hide? I displayed, for this purpose, the portraits of two former Israeli prime ministers: Prime Minister Golda Meir and Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
For Yitzchak Rabin's portrait, I found a photograph online of a torn poster of Rabin, from the weeks prior to his assassination. I deliberately picked up the ripped image of Rabin’s face, an image that I knew no one would recognize. The message here was that there was already a hint of his assassination; the writing was on the wall. The portrait reflects the uncertainty of that time and raises the feeling of an era.
Interpretation of the tearing of a Poster - 1995
In Golda Meir's case, I chose an official picture, one of these portraits where she is at work, smoking a cigarette and wearing one of her typical suits. In my work, Golda was put into a specific context: The year 1974 when she resigned from political life, half a year after the Yom Kippur War. This was, for her, a time of burden, sadness and responsibility for the losses. She felt Jerusalem on her shoulders; she took up heavy smoking. Her face is rendered in melting colors, like the hot weather report, and Turquoise skulls are spread around her face.
My Golda Meir in 1974
By opening myself up, and looking beyond the bright side of these people, I challenged Portraiture. I showed the dark side. This created some interesting feelings of duality, a catharsis filled with emotions. Here, weaknesses and strengths are living side by side. I love to capture both light and shadow. Each visionary has the potential of greatness but may have dreams that come crashing down. Portraits sell because they create a soul connection, they feed our intellect and our emotions. Beyond the physical aspect of the portrait, there is the mind, the soul and the emotions. And the artist can give it a try by sharing the exploration — a conduit to understanding the depicted character.