Moshe Gershuni | Israel

Kaddish: Series of 8 Pieces, 19/25

Blessed / Praised / Glorified / Exalted Extolled / Honored / Magnified / Lauded, 1984
Aquatint, Soft-Ground, Electric Pencil
77x81 cm

Printed by Jerusalem Print Workshop
Courtesy of Jerusalem Print Workshop

A Conversation between Moshe Gershuni and the Curator Sarah Breitberg-Semel:

Gershuni: We're defective creatures of a defective God who needs us to say halleluyah to his defectiveness.

Breitberg-Semel: This is a beautiful statement, but one could ask you, quite seriously, what God is doing in your paintings. He's a very strong presence: the upwardly aiming arrows, the walking skyward, the praising verses. You brought God back to painting, to his natural place for hundreds of years, after he'd been excluded from it by modernity. You're not religious. One could claim that you chose the easy solution, that you didn't confront the difficulty of secular art, in which there is no transcendence. I know, of course, that you studied in a religious school. This allows a biographical explanation but does not satisfy intellectual responsibility.

Gershuni: Do you know this verse from Psalms, which I didn't write in my paintings because it's too pathetic, "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord"? This verse describes my painting. Not in the sense of "I'm crying for your help from the depths," but of "From the depths we have called you, O Lord, from the abyss we have invented you, in order to give meaning to our lives." This is the starting point: the difficulty of believing in faith – a state of uncleanliness, which in painting must turn into faith. So yes, we became secular, but what I try to devise is a way to comfortably build another metaphysics. To remain secular and be aware of the invention of God, while recognizing that our genes strive for transcendence. To express all the contradictions and paradoxes inherent in this state.


Breitberg-Semel: One of my explanations for God's entrance into your paintings was that this is a way of creating an addressee for your complaint about a defective, immoral world, about the "evil work that is done under the sun." I've said ׳ in the past that you need God in painting, "dead or alive," as an "accountable address."
Divine providence is such an address. In works where the Holocaust is present, you place it in front of God as a question: Righteousness Shall Go before Him? Or: In Wisdom Have You Made Them. In a godless world there is no such address, there are no ten commandments, there is no "Thou shalt not kill" given at Mount Sinai. Everything is subject to human whim.

Gershuni: Today I find it hard to understand where I got the chutzpah to use all these concepts: Holocaust, God. Were there any residues of faith in me at the time? Maybe this was the final clarification. God and the Holocaust mix dirtily in my works from the eighties. Today, do not even mention this word near me. It is so complicated that the word "conflictual" would not even begin to describe it. At least I introduced question marks in these paintings, and in this sense I left them as open concepts. While I was making these works, I was really involved in it, it was a howl from the heart. Today it seems so absurd to me. What is all this babble about? It was all done by people. We're defective, beastly creatures who must struggle to repair the defect. I refuse to hear that God tested us. To speak about God in this sense turns what happens into metaphysics – and this I cannot tolerate today. […]

Sarah Breitberg-Semel, Gershuni (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2010), pp. 27-29.