O. Pecherskaya. “Walls”

Written for a catalogue of the exhibition at Arad museum, 2000.

In the end of the 1990-s, the mature style of Yahilevich’s painting underwent some deep changes. The first impressions of the new country became concentrated and cleaned from everything that had been hampering the expression of the main plastic idea. Arad, a town in the Negev desert, became the main character to be featured in the “Walls” philosophical series.

The plot of the paintings is not entertaining. The means were chosen strictly: unexpected, but always logically justified foreshortenings; subdued colors; exact lines; the planes are superimposed on one another, get multiplied, thus forming indissoluble structures. Yet the geometricity of these paintings is neither cold, nor speculative – a strong confessionary element is evident in all of them.

A balcony corner reminds of a bow of the ship floating above an abyss. A man is standing on the balcony; his gaze is held back by the wall which screens the horizon. The concrete eyeless box-like houses try to squeeze themselves into a wretched plot of space above the wall. One is not supposed to know what the wall conceals; one cannot foresee his or her future. The wall becomes a sign, a symbol: a barrier between past and future, between life and death, between the known und the inconceivable. The symbolic wall suddenly became a reality: a group of Jerusalem artists, and Mikhail among them, was asked to paint a wall between a city neighborhood and an Arab village nearby. The wall had been built to protect streets and houses from frequent firing from the Arab side. This painting, on which the actual landscape has been reproduced, perfectly fits the paradoxicality of Israeli life. By the same token, it is the paradox on which the artist’s recent works have been based. One of them depicts a wall that forms a lopsided square. The side closest to the spectator represents a view of Jerusalem familiar from the tourist guidebooks; inside that square, a cluster of  people is posing to a photographer – an illusion of prosperous existence in a cage. The image of wall gets modified, undergoes changes: the stones turn into the water mass; the desert becomes a sea. The space of the painting gets overflowed with water; a human figure that enters the sea is a symbol of loneliness; however, the same figure is perceived a bit differently as it gets on the seashore. Perhaps, it symbolizes the existence of a solution.

It is amazing that these deep philosophical works go with Yahilevich’s vivid sociable personality. In his flat situated in a town nearby Jerusalem, the telephone rings constantly. The artist lives an intensive life. He organizes exhibitions, lectures on art.

“The modern people sometimes have to function in a rhythm in which the images on TV and computer screens pulsate. They lose the criteria; they do not understand anymore what it means – to see an exhibition, to read a book. Perhaps, my works are an attempt of protection.”

(From the artist’s interview to a Moscow newspaper)