W.Meyland. “Michael Yakhilevich”

Article for the catalogue “Writing book”. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 2006

Michael Yakhilevich has the imprudence to create traditional oil painting and not to worry about attracting modern audience in sophisticated way, like his colleagues do, creating various installations, learned conceptions and even aggressive outrageous opuses. He paints desert landscapes, which are not infrequent in Israel, but he doesn’t specify, where exactly did he find one or another landscape. The audience can see some simulated space,  and perfect manner for depicting it – is minimalism. It is almost  grisaille, which is not so much about the color, as it is about light, its graduation, smooth or sharp blending. The word “almost” is necessary in this case, because Yakhilevich is not indifferent to colour, but palette of his paintings is utterly sober.

The most amazing thing is that with all the serenity and minimalism, the general stress and anxiety present in every work without exception, and accordingly this feeling transmits to the audience.  Of course we can assume, that anxiety raises its head because we know where Yakhilevich found his landscapes. Small town Maale Adumim, not far from Jerusalem, is surrounded by desert landscapes and borders with arab territories. But our audience stress doesn’t so much come from our knowledge of any political facts,  as from the artist’s figurative mindset.

The man only emphasises the solitude and breathless silence of Yakhilevich’s landscapes. People, enclosed between infinitely stretching planes of walls and roofs, balcony rails and cubages and details, are supressed by the environment.

Their figures tend to be small…They don’t produce active actions. Only walk along shore, take water, which seems to be dead, or dawdle along the smoothly coloured road against the smoothly coloured walls. However, the coloration of Yakhilevich works can be either cold or warm. That does not alter the case.  Feeling of anxiety and loneliness increases, reaching its limit in a series of paintings titled “Shelter” (2004).

What is man afraid of and what is he hiding from in such a desert? From someone like him? From himself? From the universal melancholy and depression?

Yakhilevich does not give direct decisive answers. Depicting the “House in the desert,” or “Bus Stop”, he remains silent observer and accomplice …

Stage designer by training and years of practice in various russian theaters, after moving to Israel Yakhilevich retained aspiration to build his own  space in his works, but this time his sphere was not the theatrical stage, but a completely new environment of the «Promised Land», accepting or vice versa not accepting those who wanted to assimilate. One must suppose that this conflict is typical for many Russian artists working today in different countries and realizing that the test of freedom, including the freedom of personal choice, it is one of the biggest challenges for the creative person.

Grandfather of Michael Yakhilevich — Meir Akselrod –  being a well-known artist in the early 30’s of the last century also touched the life of immigrants,who established Jewish communes in the Crimea. Akselrod portrayed something life-affirming, including people who are full of enthusiasm and faith in the future. The difference of grandfather’s and grandson’attitude is obvious. Living in another time and in another country, Michael does not represent the enthusiasm of pioneers. But this does not make  his pictural eyewitness testimone less valuable.