Lena Zaidel. “An Air Raid Siren”


Clear skies, pastoral scenery, pastel colorfulness, tranquility, softness and calm.
This is the initial impression that might be formed from a quick glance at the
works of Michael Yakhilevich in the series, An Air Raid Siren. But upon second
look it becomes clear that the tranquility is not tranquility at all, the calm is not
calm, and the same is true of the quiet and pastoral atmosphere. And though all
of these “calming” elements do in fact appear on the painting surface, it quickly
becomes clear that these exist there only apparently, as a deception, a mirage.
The soft, pastel colorfulness is revealed as a hazy cover for the quiet nightmare
that is hiding beneath the surface. The tension existing in the works is not
screaming, but reveals itself by way of minor details: the half-open shelter door,
small figures of people sprawled out on the ground, the intersections and streets
that are empty of people and cars. Even if sometimes we see some vehicles,
they appear stuck in traffic jams: imprisoned as if between endless cement walls.
The effect of time that has stopped is revealed both in the absence of
active human beings in this silent drama, and in their presence. The reality
stricken by the nightmare reveals itself through the movements of the
figures who cover their heads with their hands, through the shadows of
people running toward the shelter, and through the small figures who
seem to have forgotten themselves at bus stations in God-forgotten cities.
So what is this place? It seems that these are the faces of terror created with
colorful pastels. These are the faces of the nightmare, and it seems, our faces
as well, during an air raid siren.
But despite all the drama, Yakhilevich’s picture will never become a na?ve
illustration. Yakhilevich’s works will always maintain their painting quality.
Behind these works lie compositions that were meticulously constructed, and
the precision of shape and colorfulness attest to the persistent inner search in
the infinite depths of the dimensions of painting.
In fact, in the context of this series, it seems that one could surely compare Michael
Yakhilevich to a diver who descends to the depths of his paintings, and from
there, from the place of hypnotic movement of color and shape, there is no doubt:
He really does hear the wail of The Air Raid Siren!