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Hidden Symbolism #2

Updated: Jan 23

My artwork, “the form of my hands” is rather different in style to my usual work. Visually it’s minimalistic and sparse and its contrasting perspectives are not of this world – in the spirit of my “Jewish Magical Realism”. Here are some of my thoughts to the symbolism and meaning behind it..


The piece is about how I see prayer.


The man in prayer is blurred even though he shouldn’t be because he is still and praying. But the idea is to show the feeling of prayer as a transformation of moving beyond one’s worldly identity. When we pray we often tend to focus on very literal things – like wanting more money, a holiday, a job promotion etc. But the mediation of prayer can peel away these layers and connect more to the state of our soul – which transcends our physical realities. Eventually we can reach a state of stripping away our identity and speak to the part of us that is the bird (the soul) that is what our bodies are simply a temporary vessel for. The bird is a common metaphor for the soul in the Talmud – with the Kabbalistic concept that souls are bird-like, living in the Tree of Life (in the Guf) and transcend to the earth as human souls. I think our purpose in life is to discover what our true soul is.

My favourite hebrew letter is the “vav” (ו). It is used in the beginning of a word and means “and”. I like it because it represents all that comes before and all that comes after. I sometimes design the layout of my pieces to echo letters or symbolic shapes that are important to me. In this case, the white wall is in the shape of a vav letter. It connects the man AND the second scene within the door.


The door opens to the “other” world accessible through prayer. Within the door are three symbols:

Floor – this represents perspective. My scenes are often very flat in perspective and have one element that does show perspective to give this sense of spirituality giving perspective to our two-dimensional worldly reality.

Bird – as mentioned above, the bird is the soul. It would be expected for a flying bird to be blurred, but its stillness shows clarity and contrasts the blurred man (who conversely should not normally be blurred). So connecting with the bird, the soul, brings a feeling of peace and calm.

Rope – I like to use the symbol of a rope in my work. In all my other works it hangs from the heavens and holds an object in place – representing that everything in life is divinely placed just where it should be – Hashem and the angels as the designers of our lives. In this specific case I’ve shown the top of the rope – to represent that through prayer we can access the source of all things; the mystery “behind the curtain”. I liken the rope metaphor to Jacob’s Ladder – a means of both transcending and descending between earth and the heavens. Although visually a ladder, to me, seems too easy and clear to ascend. A rope gives the opportunity but requires effort. The “magical realism” element of the rope in this artwork is that it is taught and not held up by anything on either ends. The “realism” is that this is an element we recognize as being of our world and the “magical” is that in a spiritual sense, things don’t always behave as our worldly logic would expect.


The title “the form of my hands”

Hands a powerful symbol for me – they create, help explain, hold on to, let go of… held open they ask, clenched tight they summon strength, held forward they protect, closed and pointed upwards they pray…so the form that one’s hands are in represent a common ground between what I is being said, what is being done and what is being felt. Using all lower case letters represents humility. Also without a capital T, it is similar to the vav letter in that it isn’t the start of a sentence – it implies words before and after it.


So those are some thoughts behind my design of the piece. I hope interesting to get some insight!


Z.

















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All images © Zvi Suchet 2019