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Paintings of the Soul

by Albert Suissa, 1998

More and more artists talk about the benefits of moving to the periphery, away from the large art centers. One such artist is Jordan Wolfson, a painter par excellence, who studied at the University of California at Santa Cruz and then at Yale University School of Art, where some of the teachers knew something about painting-making not just art-making. The tradition of painting – of the Renaissance and Classical periods – the emphasis on the complex and dense process of modern painting, the artist’s personal view of what he sees, and more – are inexhaustible issues of the painter’s world addressed from within the work of art itself and not according to theories and conceptualizations surrounding it.

Painting, some say, has been making a comeback. That’s good news. But it is still rare. A long time has passed before Jordan knew what kind of a painter he is. At the age of fifteen he had already begun painting in oil colors without fussing about his identity as an artist. This attitude he retained as well when he was immersed in studying pre-med. Then one day he realized that his heart was not there in medicine, but rather in painting. When you live in America, you have to be a rather unique person to leave medical school and for painting of all things, because going after the call of your heart into the unknown is a kind of heresy against the market values of America. Be the explanation for it what it may, Wolfson’s painting is special, or better yet very special, and the “walking into the unknown guided by the heart” is an integral part of his beautiful and warm work.

In the beginning his painting is very figurative, testing his abilities, developing his discipline and self-control. Then gradually he begins to loosen up, becoming more and more daring as he investigates the fine line between himself and the objects before him. Does this sound familiar? Yes, but nevertheless Wolfson’s painting feels new and vital. The secret here is his patience for the tension created within him. Restraint, some painters might say, is the most important element in painting. Entering inside Wolfson’s painting is accompanied by the same pleasure and excitement which enfolds you when you are engrossed in a remarkable text covering the history of modern art. To look at his painting is to feel the Renaissance floating above in a blanket of honorary clouds, to sense Giacometti in his existential approach to the figure, De Kooning in his expressive dynamic between the figure and the background which envelopes it, Bonnard in his deep emotional involvement with his model, and of course Cézanne in his ever fascinating coping – for each artist has his own special way of coping – with the desperate trial to unite in each and every stroke of the brush – whether tempermental or restrained – between the objective/nature and the subjective/self. This is a disclosing and exciting symposium on painting, from within painting and inside painting.

Kol Ha-Ir, Jerusalem, October 13, 1998
(Translated by Sigal Adler)



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