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Landscapes, townscapes by Dr. E. Meyer - Maril

Landscapes, townscapes, a vista of roofs, buildings, streets leading towards the sea all unfold before the observer, enticing him, as it were, into the canvas, urging him to contemplate and discover the underlying artistic qualities, hidden behind the plain topography and the distinct details depicted. At first sight, the paintings inspire a feeling of photographic precision. However, what is really interesting about them is the combination of colors, the balance of composition, the harmonious simplicity of shades, the two-dimensional organization of space, the sense of perspective and the height of the skyline.

Shalom Flash seeks in his paintings to let the viewer share with him his artistic values the way he himself experiences them, rather than to reproduce nature on canvas or to document it. The single paintings blend into a comprehensive panorama or vedute, a sequence of landscapes or townscapes, where the buildings in the foreground, the modern skyscrapers, the old storehouses and the urban scene all stand out. There is no attempt on the part of the painter to judge nor to criticize what he sees. He emphasizes what he considers to be of significance and keeps out what is irrelevant to him. At the same time, there is to him no view that is unworthy of painting.

Shalom Flash's paintings radiate tranquility, harmony, spaciousness, brightness and humaneness. There are no human beings in these paintings, perhaps only a few scattered cars may be seen here and there. Yet, the viewer gets the impression that people are virtually walking the streets, inhabiting the houses.

The paintings make us observe the landscapes and townscapes, and to perceive them as an aesthetic experience. We are invited to share in the pictorial and artistic happening both in the "premiers coups" and in the vast panoramas. The theme is selected intuitively. The painter is endlessly searching. Looking around for a suitable setting, he picks out a particular scene, in just the right light, and sticks to it all along the process of painting. No photographic representation can replace this direct eye contact, established only under specific conditions of light and setting. Any change of light causes the artist to stop painting for the day, and to resume only when the light is right again. Shalom Flash goes outdoors, hunting for a noteworthy scene, having with him a limited range of colors. The first touches of paint he applies to the canvas determine the array of colors in the painting. Quite often, the painter is out in the open country, painting the landscape with a certain tube of color, the green, for instance, missing. The green shades that ultimately appear on both the palette and canvas are the result of endless mixing of paints, of ceaseless experimentation with the amber and sienna, the ivory black and the white lead, the crimson, the cadmium yellow and the cobalt. These are all rendered into nearly natural hues, which best capture the uniqueness of the landscape painted. Restrained as the palette may be, the painting abounds in a variety of harmonious tones and is full of light, which is all the more accentuated by the dark shadows.

As for the artistic context, Flash's paintings - although depicting the urban scenes of Boston, Tel-Aviv or Rehovot - seem to be at first sight rather European, judging by composition and style. His art draws on the late-eighteenth-century early-nineteenth-century tradition of landscape painting typical of artists like Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, Corot and Thomas Jones all of them "plein air" painters who used to work in the open, portraying the pastoral sights of the countryside with its rustic charm and modest farmhouses, unlike their contemporaries, who aspired after the heroic and the mythologic.

At the same time, Shalom Flash's townscapes have an unmistakably American quality about them. They call to mind works by Edward Hopper, though they lack the detached air that is so characteristic of his painting. They evoke Charles Sheeler's objectivism, as well as the close contact to nature the art of George Nick, Flash's teacher, manifests. Yet, evocative as Flash's paintings may be, we never find them imitative of other artists. The resemblance, if any, lies in the process of work in the open, which is devoid of literary or symbolic allusions, and which maintains constant eye contact with the artistic theme.

Flash is distinguished by his personal composition and organization of shapes and colors. The simplicity and sincerity of his paintings talk to us in the familiar conventional language we all know, appealing directly to our eyes and hearts.

Dr. Edina Meyer-Maril
The Faculty of Fine Arts
Tel-Aviv University