Colour – the Ecology of the Soul
Graduate of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel
Graduate of Tobias School of Art, Sussex, UK
Artworks in Beit Uri and Rami Nehushtan Museum collection and in private collections worldwide
The artwork of Amos Stempel echoes the memory of art history, embracing consciousness from primitive art through to the 21st century. He is known for his paintings in bold colour that capture archetypical elements of countryside childhood, imbued with the vitality of organic life.
Goethe's theory of colour lies behind his exploration.
The image of the house relates to the house of his grandmother.
The bird, the flower, the butterfly carry symbols of soul and spirit life.
"Birth of the Inner City"
The demarcation of the inner Mandatory city of Jerusalem
An underlying element of Stempel's work is his project, ongoing since his arrival in Jerusalem as an art student in 1978: demarcation of the inner Mandatory city of Jerusalem through sowing seeds of the Hollyhock plant. They grow tall and strong, filling the city with magnificent blooms of white, pink and purple during the dry months of May, June, July.
The Hollyhock was introduced to Palestine from China, transported along commercial routes together with exotic spices and merchandise. Possibly, the Hollyhock was seen in King Solomon's gardens in the Kidron Valley. The Romans took the Hollyhock to Britain, as did the Crusaders. Its hardiness in growth, medicinal attributes and sheer beauty caused it to spread to gardens and waysides around the world. In later years, William Morris, founder of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, one of the earliest eco movements in the world, showed preference for the Hollyhock in the English cottage garden. Stempel's growing interest in the plant is reflected in his artworks and in its increasing presence in the city. Bees and insects are provided with a natural habitat. Against the worldwide catastrophe of the disappearance of bees, sowing hollyhock seeds in Jerusalem is of ecological importance, providing a model for other urban environments. Stempel claims: "Only hollyhocks may rise above the of Mandatory Jerusalem," ruined today by the process of real estate.
Stempel uses the Hollyhock flower with its pentagram form, as a symbol for the seal of the inner Mandatory city of Jerusalem. It is in this realm that Stempel corresponds with earth art, conceptual art and environmental art, with roots in the shamanic arts that uphold the role of the artist as that of a healer.
"Close to Home" exhibition, Beit Uri and Rami Nehushtan Museum, Ashdot Ya'acov 2010
Stempel's child-like drawing, almost like, engages both the immigration experience and the journey of man as a spiritual being, asking the question, "Where is home?" The exhibition offers an interpretation of the concept, "The Journey Home" and ties it to values of sustainability, nature conservation and human connection to the local crafts.
Pattern painting is a theme in Stempel's art that relates back to a long history of decorative art. The two-dimensional aspect, reminiscent of ethnic and primitive art, evolves into a unique new artistic language. Within the painting process, he breaks the complacency of everyday elements, allowing them to emerge in a renewed constitution. The paintings challenge the onlooker with a richness of form, colour and rhythm, while selective images become repeated recognizable icons. The images of the house stream into the picture from above, gradually grounding into reality as they move into the lower part, letting the viewer stand solidly and discover anew, the tapestry of life affecting his soul.
''The Way to Mishmar HaEmek'', in the Close to Home exhibition.
In this series of oils, Stempel investigates the vast atmospheric landscape of the Jezreel Valley, condensed into a small scale. Layers of memories act upon the mind while offering a subject for our senses. They are quite opposite to the compressed nature of the pattern paintings. Here the intangible prevails in a quiet mood of haze.
Ink sketched flora catch details of botanical life, fusing the worlds of culture and place with the heritage of botanical floral painting that accompanied his childhood.
"Sir Ronald Storrs Room", in the Close to Home exhibition, holds the work of "Birth of the Inner City" inspired by the vision of Storrs, the first governor of the British Mandate in Jerusalem, who brought with him principles of city conservation evolved from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Together with the British town planners Patrick Giddes and Charles Ashby, Storrs recognized that the physical heritage of a city holds the identity of its inhabitants. One important aspect was the upkeep of the local crafts and another was the introduction of city gardens, both of which Stempel relates to in his work. We see the mythological narrative in Stempel's video art - a compilation of the poem and hymn, "And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time" by William Blake with music by Hubert Parry, set against blooms of Hollyhocks in the city.
Of landscape and memory, Simon Schama says, "The moment a specific idea of landscape or vision establishes itself in a tangible place, it has a special way to weave categories and transform metaphors to become even more accessible and real than the subject of its attention, itself becoming a part of the landscape."
In Stempel's work, we recognize social relationships held in ideological content. We view the urban and rural landscapes as grids of cultural codes. This vision meets us immediately in childhood and develops throughout our adult eyes, drawing the personal experience into that of the collective.
"The Sleeping Village", in Sir Ronald Storrs Room
Painted ceramic plates, cartographic in nature and partially cracked, map the village and city life of Stempel's biography. They start out as simple lines engraved into the pottery and become increasingly filled with colour.
"Jaffa Road", in Sir Ronald Storrs Room
Installation of old printers' drawers converses with architecture and the vanishing of small businesses from city life.
"The Awakening of the Working Tools", in Sir Ronald Storrs Room
Stempel's father's carpentry tools are captured in bronze with little houses, representing the worker's tools as carriers of communal identity.
"The Awakening of the Working Tools", lecture at the Design Museum, Holon 2012
Stempel talks of the relevance of the crafts for our generation. The visible spirit of our times is industrialisation, digitalisation and neno technology while the invisible spirit is the longing for contact with earthly materials that carry ripples of joy and the sense of identity.
Film and Video Art
Stempel directed the documentary, "Healing Words" 2011, where Jews, Arabs and international participants find the opportunity to listen, as in "1001 Arabian Nights", to each other's conflict stories and build bridges towards their resolution.
Video art, "Also a Bird Finds a Home" 2011, deals with the crisis of inner cities.
Video art, "Aurora Borealis Good Morning" 2012, with music by Nissim Khalifa, is based on Stempel's etching of the same name. (See below)
Stempel's ability to harness detail is particularly evident in his etching works, many of which date back to his student days.
In the etching, "Aurora Borealis Good Morning", we see a man in wonder, gazing up at the sky while other biographical figures pursue their day. The original etching was displayed in a group exhibition, "Creating Life for Ma'or", Artstation Gallery, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, 2012.
Ten new oil paintings on wood evolved from "Aurora Borealis Good Morning", exhibited in "Amos Stempel On the Way to the Metropolitan Museum", Tzavta Theatre, Tel Aviv, 2012
A good morning blessing emerges from the open space of future electrified, emerald green skies. The widespread coloured works investigate the moving south of the northern lights. Planet Earth is undergoing transformation. The sun is cooling down as the Earth heats up.
The collection expanded to twenty paintings, appearing in "Boarding Pass – On the Way to the Metropolitan Museum", Tavi Art Gallery, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, 2012, set against a Geodesic dome, containing hundreds of wooden model houses amongst paths of carob pods. The planet is seeking protection and cure. The geodesic dome, the ultimate structure for needy populations, developed by architect Banks Fuller Münster, is a motif in Stempel's work.
"Birth of the Phoenix"
Stempel's script, "Birth of the Phoenix", performed by Vertigo Dance Company (choreography by Noa Wertheim, music by Ran Bagno), is danced outdoors under a geodesic structure. The show has been running in Israel and abroad since 2004 and in 2012 won the Zionist Prize for choreography.
The geodesic dome also appeared as an installation at the "Close To Home" exhibition, protecting the fragile existence of the working community on the loam soil of his village in the Sharon region.
Stempel extends his environmental art to the realm of sowing carob seeds towards ensuring food security for future generations.
Group exhibition "Plaster" 2013, Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv
Stempel's first novel is awaiting publication in dialogue with a series of photography works.
Stempel's Artist Book, "Birth of the Inner City", prints and poems, is currently in production.
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