Harmony of Expression
Recently magnificent art volume appeared which has all the potencies to become the same classic as the Chagall’s volume of his artistic visualisation of the Torah. The book is Art of Revelation, the rich coffee-table-sized volume of the Yoram Raanan’s more than 120 full-page illustrations to the Torah, and his wife, Meira Raanan’s concise comments to the work of her husband.
The harmonious co-operation between husband and wife of 40 years, American Yoram and Canadian Meira who are living in Israel with their family of four adult children and grandchildren for 40 years, is a part of bigger pattern of harmony in life and work of Raanans, and it is a rare phenomenon of its own.
Harmony seems to be a foundation for the work and vision of this strong and significant Jewish artist who is able to combine the modern way of expression and bold vision with unshaken fundamental values of Jewish heritage. In Raanan’s works, we can enjoy harmony between colour and form; between thought and feeling; between intention and expression. This harmonious attitude has laid a foundation for his success, and appeal of his works for wide audience.
You do not need to be religious to love his artistic journey throughout the Torah because it speaks about the land and people of Israel in a very wide and unifying way . And if you are, you would be rewarded in a full measure.
Drawing a Bible
While there are so many big masters who reflected on the matters religious, there are quite few of them who had the patience and devotion to produce comprehensive artistic study of the Bible, like we have in the cases of the Dore’s graphics and Chagall’s colour-plates. Why it is so? Because it is a huge, massive volume of material which an artist has to digest, to reflect upon, to work it out in his own personal vision, and to execute it.
While Dore was methodical, Chagall did not do every chapter of the Bible, it was not in his character. He pictured what he loved and was particularly interested in.
Yoram Raanan who lives with and inside the Torah, and in whom the Torah lives, was not afraid to embark on such demanding journey and to concentrate on each and every chapter of it, every Parasha. The scale of his work on the Torah is both impressive and admirable. What’s more: he does not fail artistically. Does not matter how many work Yoram produces on the Torah, there are not repetitive, and they are executed on a high professional level. It is a top art work. And you have to have both mental and spiritual a capacity and huge inner reservoir of talent and vision to produce it.
Modernity and Classicism
What is striking and interesting in the Yoram Raanan phenomenon, it is an accord made of quite different characteristics: he is the artist who examines quite traditional areas — such as the Biblical narrative, Biblical landscape, classic Jewish symbolism in full agreement with the canons for these fields — and he does it by listening a lot of very modern music, jazz, classic rock, all kinds of blends of this golden music deposit of his generation.
He is the one who is producing a very bold abstract readings of his themes in his works — and at the same time, he is a very thoughtful and rather introvert person who is deep in his studies of Chumash and Halacha. He is the one who is dreaming of a huge art works situated opposite living quarters — and he is the same person who is deeply dedicated and is very interested in the depths of Jewish Mysticism.
What does it tell us about the artist? That to produce such vivid, living canvases as Yoram Raanan does, one has to be not only an accomplished master, his craft is quite obvious and it is of a master-level; but that one has to be a deep, multi-sided personality, thinking and aspiring one; the person who is not satisfied with ‘a package’ of knowledge acquired, but the one who is striving to do something else, something different, something new. In this case, always in the way harmonious and with the outcome beautiful. This is not an easy task, it does not come from nowhere. In Yoram’s works, combination of his immersion into the essence of the Jewish tradition with visionary courage of the artist’s own reflections on it has born an unique fruit, Raanan’s own original narrative in Jewish art.
It is interesting to see and it is rewarding to know that in his work Yoram Raanan processes the heritage of big masters. The artist shared with me that Rembrandt and Turner — as well, as contemporary art peers Konning and Kiefer — all are very important to him. It was expected to hear regarding Rembrandt. He is a fundamental pillar for every serious artist including such quasi-original ones as Chagall and Giacometti. Turner is interesting choice emphasising the dominant role of light for Yoram’s artistic perception.
Then comes the boldness and smashing freedom of expression of Kooning, and exquisite splashing out emotions in its intelligent dimension of Kiefer’s whom Raanan perceives as the most important living artist ( I would agree on that with my friend Yoram), and it all opens up into more depth of the Yoram Raanan’s own universe.
History of art proves that art gets a new impulse for its further substantial development every time when creative, not copy-cating, influence of big masters translates into the work of talented masters from the next generations. The more unusual and less obvious the inter-connections of such creative influences, the more striking is result — like it is the case of the old Japanese masters’ influence on van Gogh, or Rembrandt on Chagall.
I just hope that Yoram Raanan’s own art, his ability to create original, full of life and emotion, fine and masterly universe would become an influence of its own to young artists, both Israeli and international ones. The merit of his vision is that it is universal and modern. As such, it is a trade-mark of serious upscale art.
Search for Light
Recently published the Art of Revelation book features more than 120 full-page colourful illustrations to every Parasha of the Torah which Yoram had created for the commissioned project that continued three years, 2014-2016. Practically all those works, along with many hundreds of the others, totalling 2000 pieces of top art that the artist had created during his 40 years of life and work in Israel were devoured by the devastating fire that destroyed his studio, library and work records, additionally to the life-work, in November 2016.
For many artists, such tragedy would be the end of their career, and possible sanity, too. Yoram did withstand the devastation. He saw the tragedy as a meaningful act and as the impetus to start to work in a new direction and with a new vision. Such was his reaction to the terrible event.
He started to work soon enough, and has created special and interesting works by now. Interestingly, his colours were as if telling the story of the fatal fire: during the period immediately after the fire, the works were in primarily black-yellow-brown colours, reflecting the artist’s perception of the world around him in the new circumstances. Importantly, that even working in such dramatic, not to say gloomy gamma, Yoram was looking for the light — and he was founding it.
The one of his new inventions, as the artist has told me, is to create such visual effects on his canvases that it would remind of a golden reflection. Is this his imperative to look, search, and find light is the secret of surviving? Possibly.
Another essential characteristic of the artist is his deep attachment to Israel, its land, its Biblical landscape which is essentially important for him. His bond to our Torah, our teaching, tradition and heritage makes him stronger — both as a person and as an artist. The energy of the Jewish heritage and its spiritual core is that vital nucleus that enforces the people who are attained to it.
Art of Revelation, with fine and subtle comments of the Yoram’s wife Meira on her husband’s work for every Parasha, is a Song of Love to Eretz Israel as the pillar of the Jewish spiritual tradition. Importantly, Raanan not only reflects on the beauty of the Land, but he elevates the beauty of our tradition — and this I find especially noble and important in this special book created by two special people.
Turning the pages of the coffee-table rendition of the Torah by Raanans, we are indulged in uplifting and timeless reading of it by our contemporaries who did manage to bring the Yoram’s visual perception of the Torah and the Jewish tradition in a modern and universal way that appeals to a wide audience, both religious and not so.
Tracing light in general is a hard labour. Tracing the Light of Israel is a revelation. And it is an unparalleled reward, both to the artist and to his audience.