artist's notes

1

As a traveller whose ancestors had to migrate from their homelands seeking a refuge in Israel - a place not quite as safe for their children as they'd hoped - I feel like a wanderer in search of a resting place.

The search is a motive constantly expressed in my painting. Not just the process whereby the artist seeks clues that will eventually add up to an image he or she is happy with, but as a subject itself. The characters in my paintings are looking for something,and the people who view the pictures are looking for clues.

My mother was still at school in Germany when she had to join her parents who were concerned by the rise of the Nazis. In 1936 they landed in Israel, where they had to work as labourers in the fields.

In a Ukrainian town near the Polish border, my father's mother was the driving force behind the family's welfare, not only raising six children but also selling leather in the market. My grandfather spent less and less time running the factory and devoted more and more time to religious studies. It was my father's oldest sister, the paediatrician in Israel, who persuaded her parents to leave Ukrania. My father was 18 when he and his parents settled in Israel. They bought a piece of land and my father worked on the land for the rest of his life. It was in the scented grapefruit orchard and amongst the fruitful plum trees that I often found a refuge.

As a growing child I often felt insecure, perhaps this relates to the questions of survival by which the Jewish people have been confronted for centuries. It might also have arisen from my subconscious wanting something I couldn't articulate in words. My frustration caused me to be rebellious and often at odds with my father - stubborn as I was, he couldn't tolerate my disobediance nor my temperamental traits.

In my early 20's, having seen my father experience a crisis that shattered his confidence in himself, I realised how sensitive and gentle he was. When I have been shy and reclusive I can feel how my sadness is linked to his vulnerability. On the other hand, on those happy occasions where I have been dancing or playing the harmonica I sense how I project the Ukranian temperament: spontaneous and quick but with a down to earth natural wisdom.

For my milestone 13th birthday my parents bought me a camera. Looking through the viewfinder gave me a new perspective on the world. I could see my surroundings upside down. I could bring things in and out of focus and I could show people my visions. Thirty five years later I still experiment with my camera, superimposing images to create a fantasy world.

After I finished my two and a half years of army service I enrolled in film school in London. It was my first time outside Israel. Not understanding what people were saying created a sense of mystery; in the beginning everything seemed to be quaint. But as the weather got colder and sleeping in a damp bedsiter became uncomfortable, the illusion evaporated.

2

Learning the art of film making provided me with more opportunities to avoid reality. Over the two years in the London Film School I specialised in camera and lighting.

In 1974 I migrated to Australia, where people in the film industry told me that to succed I must joint the club; have a drink with the boys. But I wasn't quite ready to socialise in a new country - so, while waiting for a job in the film industry, I wrote down ideas that became the basis of 'For What', a documentary that examined people waiting for something to happen.

As a cinematographer and director of conceptual films I have learnt a lot about the art of illusion - how to create the structure and mood of a story and make the audience believe in it.

In the early 80's when money for films was channelled more to commercial projects my frustration with the industry grew until I found a new outelet for my creativity.

Painting has given me much more space to manoeuvre and develop my style or artistic expression. Transforming realities into fantasy worlds with detailed landscapes has led me to many discoveries. Many of my paintings contain worlds within worlds - like a jigsaw puzzle, they are linked by various journeys.

Until a year ago, just before my son's birth, occasional taxi driving met most of my financial needs. It also enriched me with many insights into the multicultural nature of Australians. The intimacy of some of the encounters I had with people who told me of their pressing needs was very revealing.

My impression of of the essence of these dramas is expressed in a series of paintings on taxi driving stories.

Whereas my watercolour paintings are soft and gentle my oil paintings are more intense and provocative. Oil colour and its carious mediums have seduced me into exploring many stylistic strands in painting. Many are structured on sketches - ideas based on reality; others stem from the impulse of a colour and the movement of my hand, a few begin in chaos and are clarified through a process of discovery, others are painted on location and are perhaps more fluid impressions.

At my studio, in Sydney's rag trade area, between layer upon layer of added paints my squinted eyes search for the missing link. Then something comes to life, an imprint of recognised entity, and bit by bit my imagination creates a story around it. When it all adds up to a harmonised creation I feel a sense of relief. A cycle has come to an end; I let the painting rest as I myself reach a resting place.

 

Micha Nussinov 1995