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  • Talma Gotteiner

The Romanian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv: “Romanian Heritage - Journey in Time”-A Solo Exhibition

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Hi there,

I'd like to share with you a beautiful exhibition presenting Jewish culture in Romania. The exhibition will take place till January 17, 2022, and is open to the public.

Foreign landscapes, ancient structures near modern high-rise towers, synagogue interiors, mountain villages on slopes leading down to a blue lagoon with big sailboats and scenes that seem to be from illuminated manuscripts – the Romanian landscape is spread out before us, with the cities and towns that Beverley-Jane Stewart visited and documented for three years. In Stewart’s draftsman-like paintings, Time seems to have stopped, and yet she succeeds in connecting past events from Romania’s local secular and Jewish religious history, family history, and Yiddish cultural history, with the present. Evident in her works is an original interpretation of her ties with her Eastern European roots and the constant dialogue she maintains with them. Active and abandoned synagogues populate quite a few of her works, marking the artist’s cultural, communal, and religious affiliation: they are located at the center of the urban environment depicted in the paintings. Stewart’s major mediums used in her research-based works are painting, drawing, engraving in wood and Perspex, and reliefs.

Credit: Bucharest 2020, Beverley-Jane Stewart. Photo by Duncan Philips.

Curators: Vera Pilpoul and Arie Berkowitz

WHEN: December 6, 2021 - January 17, 2022.

WHERE: The Roman Cultural Institute, 8 Shaul Hamelech Blvd., 6th Floor, Tel-Aviv

Stewart, a London-based artist, defines herself as a practicing Jew. Her attendance at her local synagogue where she prays on a regular basis, and her impressions of synagogue architecture and interiors of prayer halls, has led her over past decades to paint numerous synagogues in London, throughout England, and in other locations in Europe. Along with her pictorial documentation of synagogues from the high viewpoint of the women’s section, Stewart researches the Jewish community environment in its sociohistorical context as well as processes of Jewish communities’ integration into the European public space over the centuries preceding World War II and the years following it.

Through the artist’s eyes, past and present merge in the works exhibited in the Tel Aviv Artists’ House, representing Jewish community life and contributions to Romania’s culture and local economy from the 18th century to the present. “I am attempting to compose a painterly tapestry of Jewish life emitting sounds of life from the past, in a modern context,” in Stewart’s words.Working on the surfaces she selected creates an atemporal collage-like narrative intertwined within her non-linear painterly world. She connects family photographs, such as the 1880 photograph of her great-grandparents in Romania, with the history of Romanian Jews who helped the country’s economy flourish over previous centuries. The wedding photograph is integrated into her painterly collage in the most personal piece in the exhibition. Past and present dwell together in many of her works.

Stewart journeyed to the town at the center of Botoșani County where her great-grandfather lived with his family, a city surrounded by low, forested hills with excellent transportation connections to surrounding countries. This was an ideal place for business conducted by the large Jewish community. The artist’s great-grandfather was a master carpenter, a skill that was passed down for generations, apparently associated with the woodcarvings he made with images similar to the representations of flora and fauna carved on Jewish gravestones in Romania in cemeteries that Stewart visited. Woodcarving is a traditional art that impacted Stewart, as well, and in some of the works on view Stewart engraved on wooden boards with an electric wood burning pen (pyrography).Beverley-Jane Stewart’s paintings may see similar to naïve paintings which attach no importance to perspective, presenting environmental space vertically and not in deep space, as well as a philosophical style that originally was used to convey theological messages through the depiction of biblical scenes from both the Old and New Testaments, later developing to portray secular scenes, as well. Stewart represents even the tiniest details, with special emphasis on architecture, forms, and ornamentation, on the façades as well as in the interiors she frequently portrays. A look at Stewart’s oeuvre shows that she seems to hover timelessly over the locations she paints, creating a kind of atemporal collage connecting inside and outside, human figures and landscapes taken from her family’s narrative and historical research materials. Stewart flies over her townlet, depicting its residents, customs, and landscapes without adhering to the rules of perspective. She provides viewers with a broad, personal, subjective view through a timeless prism, presenting a Jewish sound and nostalgic samplings with a contemporary spirit comprising a cultural mosaic evoking deep longing.



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