In our recent discussion, Meir Kohan, an Argentinean artist living in Bnei Brak, Israel, described his inspiration to paint as inevitable. “Ever since I can remember I have felt painting to be an inseparable part of my life. Hashem sent me into this world with a wonderful gift to give my vision of life a physical representation. I do not remember any specific moment when I began to paint; in me, it was something as natural as eating or sleeping.”
Although he grew up and was educated in Argentina, Meir decided to move to the Land of Israel because he feels a very strong connection to it. “Even in Israel,” he told me, “I have met people who think that Hutz La’Aretz (outside of Israel) is much better than here in all senses, disparaging the goodness of Eretz HaKodesh. People like me, who understand that every second lived in Eretz HaKodesh is a huge zechut (privilege), have a completely different perspective on Israel. I consider myself very lucky, and am grateful to Hashem that I am able to live in this place. My greatest blessing is that I have the privilege of sending my paintings from here to different countries, from Jerusalem to the world.”
Meir added “As the Swiss painter Paul Klee put it: ‘The artist makes visible the invisible.’ Eretz Ysroel is a wonderful place for an artist to find inspiration; it is a place where history, religion, and solemn atmosphere converge, forming landscapes who communicate a reality that goes beyond the visible world. As an artist, I try to turn those sensations into artistic creations that ‘go beyond what people see.’”
In order to bring that invisible reality into the visible world, Meir employs a Hyperrealist style in his paintings. “Although I am obsessive about details, for me it is very important to use the medium to express an idea, a concept that invites reflection from those who observe the work, rather than to show technical display that lacks soul,” he explained. “I also prefer to emphasize the importance of the learning process rather than focusing on a particular piece of art. The valuable concepts that I learned from my teachers continue to help me grow as an artist. Over time, I am very nonconformist with my painting; I always find defects and many things to correct in my paintings, which inspires me to continue learning and progressing.”
Recently, Meir has begun to paint about the Righteous among the Nations with The Holocaust Art Institute.
He explained “Hashem warns us in His Torah that the Jewish People will not be counted among the Nations, but will be a people isolated from the rest. Unfortunately, throughout our history there has been hostility and antagonism towards the Jews, particularly when Nazi ideology made its appearance. Despite the pressure to remain passive, however, there were people of many backgrounds and faiths who risked their own lives to save others. They went to extraordinary lengths to act righteously, consciously exposing themselves to probable death. They understood that fighting to defend life and its ideals was that important.”
At the moment, Meir is working on a piece in the memory of Dimitar Peshev, who was the Vice-President of the Bulgarian Parliament. “As I mentioned earlier,” he responded to me, “the Righteous among the Nations show us that the value for life goes beyond color, race, or religion. What I find interesting about Dimitar Peshev is that he did not give in to the strong pressures placed on him to desert his cause; instead he dedicated all his strength to saving thousands of Jews from the clutches of death. His incredible drive and courage proclaim him to be a person with the highest sense of humanity. My goal is to represent on canvas the extraordinary value of his achievement.”