One-artist Exhibition “The Magic of the Orient”, Okashi Museum, Acre.

“The land of Israel first existed in the imagination-an Edenic, sun-swept landscape in the far reaches of the east. Hebrew farmers plowed their land there, and peaceful villages were scattered on the mountainside. This was a land in which the prophet’s, words were realized: “And they have sat each under his vine, and under his fig-tree, and there is none troubling”. This idyllic image, which formed in the imagination of Shmuel the child, was based on the biblical verses read to him by his grandfather, and on his stories about the beauty of the land. The land of Israel would always be illuminated by the rays of a biblical light, and the land and the Bible would always remain bound together. These imaginary landscapes, which were etched into the child’s mind, were overlaid by the powerful experience of the country’s views’ which struck Shmuel as soon as he first set foot upon the land. He discovered the country in Haifa-a city at once Middle Eastern, European, Mediterranean and international. From his family home in the city’s downtown area, he took in the views of the East, its colors and light, and imbibed the Mediterranean atmosphere. […] He discovered the different landscapes and regions of the country during school and youth movement trips. These trips focused on historical sites, which appeared to have a real and vital connection to the ancient stories. A wonderful Bible teacher deepened Shmuels’ connection to the Book of Books, and its verses conjured up in his mind various, which seeped into his paintings. A map of the country was hung up during Bible classes to indicate the places where the Biblical stories unfolded, and to provide an overview of the land and of the entire biblical word. The cradle of the Jewish people and of other ancient civilizations was spread out before his eyes. […] His numerous, prolonged impressions of the Galilee’s landscapes were formed during the years he spent working there as a lend surveyor for new villages. The primeval landscape invoked images of the ancient landscape, while the new settlers-immigrants from other Middle Eastern countries-appeared to him like the area’s ancient inhabitants. The olive groves and the peaceful villages pointed towards the past’ towards an ancient world of rituals related to the earth, sacrifices and sacred implements that conjured up in his mind the splendid appearance of the ritual objects in the Temple. His numerous archeological finds, which were related to everyday life and sacred rituals, brought on a flood of images related to ancient Jewish and Israeli life in this region. Past and present, imagination and reality were interwoven into a single tapestry. These numerous influences formed the background for the works created during the early 1950s, and for those that were to follow later on. The ancient East of his imagination and the East revealed to him in reality influenced the formation of his artistic “Self”, and indicated to him the path he must follow. He went on to shape a formal vision of a world anchored in the memory of the ancient landscape, and in the visible presence of a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern reality. This tapestry was always interwoven with Jewish motifs, memories of the Jewish world encountered back in his grandfather’s home, and many new impressions.


A collection of Jewish ritual objects from the Middle East released a new flood of images. These impressions appeared in his paintings from that period, and enriched it with numerous painterly motifs. The land of Israel, the Bible and the Jewish world were the three principles upon which his work was based. This is how Bonneh described this things in a dialogue with Ruthie Ofek {catalogue of the exhibition Homeland of the Pomegranat, The Open Museum, Tefen, 1999}: …the local landscape, the bible and Judaism, all of these are interrelated and are integrated in the work into one comprehensive entity, with each element contributing to render it richer and more varied.


Rachel Bonneh, Exhibition Catalogue, 2007






“Bonneh’s paintings resemble an oriental mosaic. … He has succeeded in combining figurative and abstract, meanwhile preserving his personal language and decorative aesthetic effects. … His creativity derives its power from his deep affinity with the cultural legacy of the nation, from his love of the Land of Israel and, above all, from the Book of Books – the Bible. … On this 50th anniversary, the Okashi Museum is proud to present Bonneh’s earlier works, the basis of his personal artistic universe: naïve, graceful paintings filled with imagery and colour. Bonneh brings us his oriental magic in red and purple, gold and yellow, green and turquoise, a feast for the eyes, a joy to the heart.”


Rachel Zemer, Curator, Exhibition Catalogue, 2007


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