|"Rehov HaNeviim" oil on canvas on board 2011 by Daniel Eichenberger|
Espace Dix Gallery is a welcome newcomer to the Jerusalem art scene. Owners Pasquale Perez and Florence Soulam opened the gallery in 2010 in Soulam's home in diverse Nachlaot with the intention of promoting emerging Israeli artists. It is located a few steps away from the landmark Ades Synagogue, now being restored to preserve the wall paintings of the artisans hired from the close-by Old Bezalel art school. A typical metal door from the early days, replete with a pair of Magen David stars and an oriental hand-shaped door knocker mark the entrance to this renovated home-gallery, where the exhibit winds around an interior courtyard.
Not being a white cube space, the home atmosphere helps to visualize the works in a private setting, but with the disadvantage that some of the works are awkwardly hung to accommodate the idiosyncratic space. Being short, I stretch to see works above my eye level –though this may not be a problem for other visitors who are less height-challenged.
Born and raised in Switzerland, Eichenberger studied at Ecole Supériore des Beaux-Arts Genéve and with sculptor Andre Rives in Jaffa, and has been living in Israel for around twenty years. This exhibit is comprised of 25 landscapes en plein air done primarily in Jerusalem and environs, but with Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Geneva represented as well.
Painting directly from nature on location has a comparatively short tradition in the annals of painting It was only in the 1800’s that it became prevalent for artists to exit their studios in favor of standing in the outdoors, exposed to the elements, and attempting to record nature. This coincided with the extension of rail service to beyond city lines and the invention of the tube for oil paints in 1841 – making them more portable than the previously used pigskins. In France, the Barbizon School drew painters to the Fountainbleau forest; and Corot, a dominant figure of the group, continued to paint in Italy, Switzerland and beyond.
The landscape painter today may have the luxury of a car or bus to get to his destination, but one must still be hardy to carry a compact studio to the site one chooses. Typically, the minimum equipment one needs may include: an easel, paints, several painting surfaces to choose from, a palette, palette knives, brushes, medium, rags, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, water, and a brimmed hat. Some painters augment this short list with a chair, a sun umbrella, and tethers for anchoring their equipment in harsh winds and so forth. The advanced planning and effort are rewarded by engaging in direct connection with nature or city motifs, allowing the painter to add an immediacy as part of his or her response to the onslaught of visual stimuli.
Modest in proportion, Eichenberger’s paintings are on average in the range of 15 x 25 cm, allowing him to work on site and bring the painting to a close during a single session. Limiting oneself to one session minimizes possible changes in lighting conditions – due to different times of day, year or weather conditions. These oil paintings all on canvas and mounted on board, all from the past two years, evidence a classical Western training. They are carefully observed, some displaying a delicate touch. A few show bold compositional choices, others are faithful to the cast of light or the atmosphere. In all, there is a sense of standing in the nature where these vignettes were made.
These pleasant works pack a lot into their small formats. Eichenberger is off to a good start.
Till December 2 (painting photographs courtesy of Espace Dix).