Paul Kaniel

The special relationship between the "book" and the inner world of Naflali Rakuzin is best told by the artist elsewhere in this catalogue. The word "book" should be understood both in its spiritual context—the contents, and the material one—the volume. Rakuzin's works exhibited here tend to express this duality.

The techniques he has chosen—large drawings and engravings—bear witness to his unusual skill. However, Rakuzin makes no attempt to reproduce reality, as would a superrealist artist. Whereas the latter does not relate to his subject, Rakuzin's involvement with books is both objective and subjective, formal and psychological. Thus, his works express a permanent movement between the inner and outer world. Since all his works on exhibit deal with books, i.e. objects, one is tempted to draw some parallel with the most known genre of object-paintings, the still life. Whereas in any given painting the object is secondary, for it either completes or enhances the general composition or has a particular symbolic, ideological, or documentary meaning, in the still life it becomes the main and sometimes the only element. Although gradually the emphasis is shifted from its function to its form, in its "golden age" the still life kept a balance between the two, as does Rakuzin. The XVlI-th and XVIII-th century artists dealt as much with the formal beauty of the object as with its function, which in the painting had to express the pleasure of all the senses and the refinements of life and civilization (food, game, etc.) It is interesting to notice that while, for instance, bread appealed to touch, wine to taste, musical instruments to hearing, flowers and pipes to smell, the books were meant for the pleasure of sight. The reason is probably not only that reading is a visual before being an intellectual activity, but also the fact that the form of the volume, its texture, and the decoration of the binding are extremely rich in the field of pictorial arrangement. I strongly suspect that Rakuzin's involvement with books derives partly from the same sources.

Rakuzin sometimes draws books opened at a page showing a reproduction of a known masterpiece. I think this serves at least two objectives. The first is intellectual, a kind of homage to an artist he admires. The other is a formal one, to create, for instance, a horizontal and round counterbalance to a vertical and sharp-angled composition of the volume. In some other drawings we find half-opened books which enable us to "peep" into several art reproductions; this can be taken as a hint at the I intellectual value and potential richness of the book.

A problem which the still life has always raised is that of uniformity: How can a limited number of objects be of interest if repeated "ad infinitum"? This is also relevant to Rakuzin's works. The point is that the magic charm of the genre lies precisely in the multiple and subtle variations of the objects’ arrangement, their colour and texture, the light and shade they generate. Chardin's still lifes dealing with the same objects are very different from each other. Would anyone question the chess game's rich virtualities because the number of pieces is limited and always the same?

Since the still life is meant to give at the same time a sensual, esthetic, decorative and intellectual pleasure, the mutual interplay of these elements is unlimited. Rakuzin exploits all these possibilities very successfully. By choosing to limit (?) himself to the subject of books, Rakuzin opens to us vistas of a world with multiple facets-formal, intellectual, symbolic and sensual, just as Fernand Leger did in the twenties when the machine provided him with the solution to his esthetic and ideological motivations. Unlike Juan Gris, the best cubist painter of the still life, who said, "I start from an abstraction and end with a real fact," Rakuzin starts with his everyday life and gives it a striking pure and plastic expression.


Paul Kaniel