We had the good fortune of connecting with Rotem Amizur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rotem, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
As a painter the principle that matters the most to me is that of repetition. I have discovered over the years that the most profound and deep understandings in painting came after pursuing the same subject again and yet again. Through repetition our fear of failure dissolves – we realize that our goal is not one “perfect masterpiece”, but rather an ongoing process of discovery and revelation. Repeating a dance move or a piece of music again and again imprints the essence of it on a subconscious level in our body. We can then find the freedom to play and dance from a very confident place since we know the components well and are intimate with the building blocks of the dance/music/painting.
My starting point is always observing the world around me. I can be in front of a live model, an interior or a landscape and a feeling of deep joy and beauty sweeps over my body and I just want to react to it with paint or collage.
The first painting is a bit like the first date – it’s just the beginning! Knowing there is a mystery that has not yet been seen, I continue to the second, the third and on and on, sometimes tens of variations – a deep knowing in me that it’s just the tip of the iceberg, so many secrets and worlds are waiting to be revealed.
I work alot with the medium of collage, using very simple geometric shapes. Collage gives one an opportunity to move the pieces around freely and easily. I use pins to hold the papers down, sometimes making drastic changes in the composition before gluing everything together in the end. This all connects to repetition – I can stand in front of the same landscape for a month, (like I did in England in the summer of 2019), looking at the same group of shapes day after day and collage them in a different way each time. It’s very much like playing a game with the shapes – each time a different color combination or a different aspect in the composition is exaggerated.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I was born in New York and came to Israel at the age of 12, the age when one’s identity starts to come together. The culture differences were so significant between Israel and the US that the general feeling was of being a stranger in both places. I guess this was a crucial point in my life because from that point on I felt that I am a resident of the world and not of a specific place. I found my roots and a sense of belonging to the family of painting, to the tradition of painting – a family that is beyond time and place. Painters have been living and creating images since the beginning of mankind. When I see an image from 400 BC, or something done in the renaissance, I don’t take too much notice of the date it was made – the question is if it resonates a feeling, if it’s satisfying and pleasurable to look at. If it does so it’s alive in my eyes – right here right now, regardless of when it was made. This aspect of painting – to be in constant connection to images done not only now but before our time – was very much nurtured in the Jerusalem Studio School where I studied painting. The JSS is a 4 year master class program founded by Israel Hershberg in Jerusalem. In the heart of this program were two main ideas: First – we live in a magical world – it was there I understood that each moment in time is unique and will never happen again. When starting a painting, if one comes with an openness and a sense of awe to the painting, then the process becomes the never ending excitement of seeing and composing shapes. “Look at reality like you are a blind man that is seeing for the first time” that was one of Israel’s statements that stayed with me. Over time I understood that not only is reality unique and unrepeatable but so are we. Going back to repetition – even if I am looking at the same thing again and let’s say I ate the same thing for breakfast as I did yesterday – I am still not the same person right now as I was yesterday. So it’s a totally new situation.
The second idea of the school is the connection to the tradition. It can be a painting, a beautiful artifact, architecture, anything that was made with love and gives a sense of serenity when experiencing it. When connected to tradition there is a deep knowing that one is never alone. Every time one has a question there is always a painter or an artist that has dealt with similar questions at some point in time. This might seem very trivial but before I entered the school I didn’t have the habit of looking at my ancestors in that way. I have a strong feeling that they are with me and that I am not in a competition with any of them, I am just part of the family.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Haifa, one of the three big cities in Israel alongside Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Haifa is a northern port city, extending from the Mediterranean up the north slope of Mount Carmel. Since the whole city is on a mountain, one always has a sense of what topographic point one is standing on at every moment. The sea constantly peaks between buildings in the lower and middle part of the mountain and as one goes up, the view becomes open and the sea is seen fully with all its beauty. So if my best friend would come to visit I would start with a walk in the city. In my area there are many old buildings, all coated with limestone and every single one has a different design of windows and balconies. It’s fun to see how the architects played with the facades of the buildings by placing the window shapes differently each time. Around five minutes from my house is the market place. It’s really fun to walk around there with all the colors and people. On the same street there are my two favorite places to eat – “Talpiot” is a fish and seafood restaurant with a menu that changes daily according to the fish supply and the vegetables that are in season. Next to it is “Pizza Talpiot ” – a dear place to me! One comes in and sees pieces of fresh pasta dough hanging on top of the bar. They make their pasta by hand and when the founder and chef of the place is there he says “Do you trust me?” and I say “yes, of course”. He then makes up a dish – usually a combination of pieces of torn pasta, vegetables, butter and wine. Whatever he feels like doing at that moment. So it’s always a surprise and it’s always delicious.
The wide range of people and cultures living in the same radius is such a strong experience and is profoundly felt when walking around in the market area. There is a feeling of a Cosmo-political city, it’s wonderful. Some major cities are central in terms of culture and art but Haifa is a bit of a marginal city, which gives it kind of a quiet feeling in my experience, a bit like the end of the world. I love this feeling.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
To know something is possible, many times one has to experience it through someone else that is already living this truth. The student sees the way of life of the teacher and is inspired to learn how to live like that as well. I would like to dedicate this Shoutout to Ken Kewley, my teacher and friend. Ken is a painter living in Easton, Pennsylvania that works with collage and painting in a wide and exciting color palette and is to me one of the most interesting painters living today. I remember stepping into his studio for the first time in Italy and it felt like a breathing organism. Like a beating heart. At that moment my life changed – I realized that it’s endless, that even a few lifetimes will not be enough for all the work that can be done. The burden of WHAT to paint, what kind of painter am I, all those questions simply vanished because I understood that painting is play and that the outcome of the game is never known. That’s why it’s so fun and that’s why we keep on playing.
Facebook: Rotem Amizur Painting
First photo of me- Credit: Mor Elnekave Last three photos (two landscapes plus collage in process with pins) – Credit : Iddo Markus