L. Harambourg. A Deconstruction of Reality

Naftali Rakuzin has chosen the book as his recurrent artistic theme. Beyond our initial, captivating, visual surprise, the artist plunges us into the realm of pure paint. On the shelves, books stand shoulder to shoulder in an order to which the different thicknesses of the spines instill a movement compounded by the vertical lettering, whose common denominator is the History of Art. A painter of a quiet life, of immobile reality, of tranquil Still-Leben, Rakuzin builds up book architectures, without depth, all fully frontal, frightening in their methodical accumulation. With the astonishing precision of their rendering, the realism with which the line and the colour mingle to describe what is after all a rather ordinary subject, he introduces a haphazard quality to his composition while building a meticulous construction that leaves nothing to chance. Out of this highly technical exercise, as fascinating as it may be, emanates a highly personal language. It is because each painting is an exploration of pure matter, variations on an infinite theme. The artist is dreaming in a sensual and rich medium, oil paint, in which he manages to express the troubling presence of the book, the tactile quality of paper and their exhilarating presence when bathed in the changing light.

The rigorous work of the paintbrush, which is preceded by a drawing in coloured crayons, is nourished by the books themselves, treated in a manner which deals less in the obsolescence and the wear and tear of time than the soft and equal light that bathe the various spines.

On studying the artists’ names on these books, one sees that he has chosen elements of the History of Art that surrounds Jane Roberts daily, since it is her art library that Rakuzin has chosen to paint here. This library, suddenly displaced and isolated from its context, takes on the appearance of a “Vanitas”, whose remains are reborn to our eyes and minds.

Rakuzin’s bindings take on forms and volumes, a painterly alchemy that expresses both the mat and shiny, where the rhythm of the letters give us a mere suggestion of what might be inside. This vocabulary allows us to concentrate on the paint itself and here, Rakuzin certainly pursues the tradition of the figurative still-life where symbolism plays a major part and where distance is expressed by its very proximity.

*About the author: Lydia Harambourg, Membre correspondant de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts, Critic and Art Historian