Cards with picture and text

«The Essence Of Things», an interactive exhibition

Created and curated by Liza Shtormit


«The Essence Of Things» is an introduction to the material culture of jews through some of its certain attributes. At the exhibition you’ll get to know what is a shophar and a mezuzah, what’s the purpose of a wooden rattle and of a two-handle cup. The exhibition was created as a game. You won’t find annotations beside the paintings. When you see a strange object - think about its possible purpose, if it is still being used or is it an artifact? If you have a guess then you need to check it: play detective, find the card with the object’s picture among the paintings in the room and read about the Jewish reality. That’s the way to know the essence of things!


«The Essence Of Things» consists of 17 1x1 m. pictorial canvases (oil on cardboard). The paintings were created in a realistic manner, although they follow poster rules and contain text. They are materialistically realistic, yet have their style. The great size of the paintings and their objects is no accident. It is the author’s way of bringing the audience’s attention to the object as a part of history. The pictures bare small Hebrew inscriptions specially for those who are learning it or know it already.


The exhibition also shows 4 paintings from the «Black & White» series: pictorial graphics on the theme of objects found in Jewish life that have accurate rhythm and inspire to transcend them to a canvas! The «Black & White» series continue the study of Jewish material life. The paintings have the same fonts, format and materials and in general are a continuation of the «The Essence Of Things» series.


The «Black & White» graphic series are the painter’s first steps in picturing black and white rhythms. Black and white are inseparably bound, as life and death. They are two concepts (two categories) that are tied to a person’s earthly existence no matter what his religion is. «Black & White» is a series about the obsequies that happen when the earthly life ends and a different one starts. The series pictures tallith, matzo, traditional obsequial shroud and black obsequial veil.


Some of the objects shown in the paintings only exist historically and are no longer used in modern life. Also some of the objects only apply to Jews of certainorigins.


In the process of the project’s creation materials from The Museum of Jewish History in Russia (Moscow) and from the Russian Museum of Ethnography (St. Petersburg) were used. The goal was not to create an exact copy of the object, but an attempt to combine personal style with understanding of Jewish visual arts canons.


Liza Shtormit:

«To create these pictures I studied the principles of Jewish visual arts and looked for the most unusual objects that appear ONLY in their culture. It was my personal study an research.


During my preparation for the exhibition I’ve learned a lot of things. There are, for example, absolutely fascinating things that, perhaps, are no longer in use, but remain in the Jewish culture for their historical significance and just their beauty. It turns out that absolutely all objects of Jewish material culture are in one way or another associated with the cult of religion, but for the orthodox jews it is what their everyday life consists of, the fabric of it. There are no unnecessary things, they are all filled with sacral symbols and meanings, they are also free of ornamental richness and embellishments, they have the simplicity that pleases the eye. These things, first of all, have a practical value, the esthetical comes after.


The greatest admiration I have is for the austerity in decoration of even the most festive things. In such manner the Jews preach not the festivity with traceries and vivid paintings, but the one in the soul».


The series has a warm gamut and complex technics with lots of textures. It is based on the principles of Holland’s painters of the 17th century. At first the painting is created in black and white without the use of whitewash. The underpainting then receives textures and color modulation of its forms. To create an accurate texture of a material white paint is applied step-by-step after each of it layers has dried. White oil paint takes more than 8 days to dry. So the series creation was a painstaking and slow process.


«The Essence Of Things» exhibition was carried out with support of «Genesis Philanthropy Group» and CAF Russia charitable foundations. CAF Russia’s «Jewish Societies» grant was provided for creation of a series of paintings picturing «Jewish Culture».


«The Essence Of Things» exhibition was successfully displayed in Moscow from 2nd to 19th of March on the territory of FLACON design factory (two diffrent spaces). As a part of the exhibition a festival of Jewish culture was held. The invited lecturers were Nesia Ferdman, who spoke about creative thinking, and Sarah Vinnits, who unfolded the topic of kosher clothing.