Part I of II with Highlights
Part II of the Introduction to the Bereishit Illustrated project can be read here.
Inna Rogatchi © Light Solo. Watercolor, wax pastel, oil pastel, encre l’alcool, Luminance Caran d’Ache, pigment of bronze, pigment of pale gold on authored original pigment print on cotton paper mounted on board. 60 x 80 cm. 2022.
What to imagine while visualizing the Creation ?
There are endless efforts of artistic imagination of Bereishit, from Renaissance masters (and before), through Chagall’s Bible series, until intent simplicity of Barnett Newman who did address the process of Creation on his abstract canvases , and engaging harmony of Nehemia Azaz in his splendid stained-glass windows at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London.
While working on my BEREISHIT ILLUSTRATED which is a process in making from 2020 onward, I wanted to be as close to the principal source and some important commentaries as possible, and at the same time to bring some new perspectives into visualizing the Bereishit, the process of Creation.
Previously, in my series on Jewish mysticism, I dealt with pre-Creation matters, such as Primordial elements. I understood its scope and magic, thus the prerequisite for me to immerse into the Bereishit as such was fulfilled.
There are two ways to deal with Bereishit for an artist: either to reflect on the text directly, as one feels and imagines things, or to get into the studies of this most commented in history, the first parsha (chapter) of the Torah, before processing it into one’s creations.
The tricky thing with the second option is that there are many extraordinary commentaries of the Torah in general, and of the Bereishit in particular. And it is always a subjective, highly individual choice.
In my case, having Rashi’s commentary as an ever-present basic, I was diligently studying, among the other sources, also Baal Haturim’s classic Torah commentary, Harav Isaac Luriah, Ari’s, theory in the great Chaim Vital narrative, deep thoughts and unique approach of our great contemporary Rav Yitzhak Ginsburgh, and the brilliant teaching of incredible Rabbi Yoseph Soloveitchik.
Interestingly, not much came out in my project visualizing Bereishit during my studies. It is as if a creative faculty was sort of waiting for the intellectual processing to be done.
When it happened – and to the best of my experience, these things are not controllable or to be programmed, they develop according to their own schedule – the images of my BEREISHIT VISUALIZED series started to appear at a rather vivid pace.
Trying to analyze these pictures of the Creation, I came to the conclusion that as an artist, after all my studies of the Bereishit as a discipline, so to say, I was interested to imagine and to reflect artistically on the process of that or another act of the Creation, its inner dynamic. And also, I became very interested in trying to imagine about the substances for the phenomena created before the very act of the Creation was carried on.
My images are thus quite subjective, as is the understanding of everyone of us of what was happening during that Bereishit moment in the history of life on the Earth.
As Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5783, approaches, I thought to share some of the artworks from my BEREISHIT VISUALIZED series.
Inna Rogatchi ©. BEREISHIT VISUALIZED. Selected Works:
In the Bereishit/Creation narrative, the Day Two is marked with the appearance of phenomena of eternal vitality, with water being one of them. We learn that water appeared being created ‘above the firmament’. While working on my version of visualizing that key-phenomenon, I was thinking, trying to imagine: how did it happen? How could this overwhelming process be visualized? My outcome, in the Creation of Water I work, came in a moving wave of a mass of water above the firmament. By this wave, I wanted to show the process in making, the very moment of the creation of such a vital life element. And I tend to think that the surrounding at the moment of creation of water on our planet was serene, gentle, and accommodating.
The Day Two of Creation witnessed the appearance of very conditions of life as we know it. With regard to the Heavens, I was interested to understand, to the degree possible, and to imagine also the pre-condition for formation of such a fundamental part of our existence. My work Creation of Heavens: Pre-Condition portrays my thoughts. The title of this work also contains such line as ‘Substance of Heavens”. I was thinking of presenting the image of pre-heavens, so to say, which would contain many different conditions of the Heavens as we know it, at the moment of its pre-Creation.
While portraying the Heavens created, as it is done in my Creation of Heavens I work, I was referring to the process in making, when the Heavens in all its splendor and assurance, were processed into being by the Highest Power. Here, as it almost every work in that series, I wanted to explore artistically the thesis of inner dynamics of the process of Creation at every stage of it, as was one of my key starting points while working on this series.
According to the Torah, the Day II of the Creation was concluded with a principal outcome, the separation between Firmament and Heavens. This was a pivotal moment of the first appearance of a fundamental principle in the entire Jewish tradition, the separation. The separation between good and evil, between darkness and light, between mundane and festive – as it all is stated so laconically but so encompassing-like in our beautiful Havdalah prayer at the conclusion of Shabbat before entering the new week. It is a pivotal principle because the ability to recognize good and evil, and light from darkness, and to do it consciously, to comprehend it as a principle of life, not at an ad-hoc level, is the basis of morality. And that’s why Judaism is perceived and is known as the belief of consciousness. My Separation Between Firmament and Heavens work, imagining artistically the first realized separation in the history of the Jewish tradition, is resolved in abstract genre which in my view was quite helpful to present this thought on necessity of separation and clear understanding of qualities of phenomena around us, laconically and clearly.
On the Day Three of the Creation, two fundamental elements came to being, dry land which we know as earth, and seas. According to Talmud and some profound commentators of the Torah, both appearance of dry land and seas resulted from the separation between firmament and heavens occurred on the Day Two of the Creation.
In my Creation of Dry Land, I tried to imagine that phenomenal moment of appearance of dry land from a whirl of the creation. That moment, actually, predestined human existence in a certain natural condition, it created the land under human feet for eternity. That’s why I opted to visualize this moment in a dramatic fashion. I tend to think that almost anything promising and re-assuring appears in this way, as an outcome of a drama.
The same Third Day of the Creation brought to existence the dry land antithesis, the seas. Antithesis is the instrument of harmony, and the process of Creation is the best proof of it. The more dynamic in the process of creation I could see and layout in my works, the more it would respond to my limited understanding of that process which we can comprehend only partially. In my work Creation of the Seas, I tried to see the seas and skies about them in a celestial harmony, from various aspects: color-wise, motion-wise, but not substance-wise. The separating line in the work between the seas and skies is here to emphasize that even the harmony of the Highest Order does exist as an achieved balance of antithesis. As it certainly was the case at the time of the Creation.
In an interesting paradox, the more obvious possible image of a given object might be, the more difficult it is for an artist to create something non-trivial portraying the object in question. Such is the case with picturing plants, especially working on the theme of their creation. In my work Creation of Plants I, I opted for two main elements of expression: color and movement. With the creation of plants, green has entered the world, and then our human world as a symbol of growth, and thus, promise. How did the Creation of Plants happen? What was this mysterious process? – I was asking myself. I think it was something like I imagined in my work about it, an intense, promising, deep and highly potent green whirl.
The Torah is listing creation of plants with certain detail, adding to the creation of plants also creation of trees, namely, trees with fruit, and creation of herbage. This is different from the mention of creation of seas. In the case of water resources, the Torah does not specify any other form of it apart from the seas, not ocean, not lake, not river. I still am thinking why – if in the description of the next Day of Creation, it does mention gradation of the created plants. In my work Creation of Trees I, I imagined the moment of this wonderful creation of the living objects which bring so much joy to people and are so vital for life as a biological process as such. My trees in the moment of their creation are appearing in that mighty Whirl of the Creator at the time when seas are already existing, being created on the previous Day of the Creation. And the trees’s lushness is emphasized by the light which is always present, as the light is the precondition of life.
Thinking about the Creation of Herbage, I opted for flowering ones. Because objectively varieties of herbage do consist of many of those plants which flower, and subjectively, because I was willing to reflect on the beauty of flowers in my series on the Creation. In my Creation of Herbage I work, I was thinking of portraying a flower as a concept at the moment of its birth, appearance. The joyful moment of promise and expectation of something beautiful and gladdening. Additionally to many vital components of the complicated, multi-staged, multi-purposeful process of the Creation, we should not underestimate the element of gladness which was certainly present there.
Gladness, promise, beauty, potency, positive energy, hopefulness. These are the elements of the process of the Creation which are the essence of this fundamental beginning of both life on the Earth and also human civilization, to me. And to work on this series, Bereishit/Creation Illustrated, is a very gratifying, exactly for this reason.
Inna Rogatchi ©. 2022 –