Ilan Ashkenazi Biography

I was born and raised in Tel Aviv, and since 1975 created my life and art in Jerusalem. When I decided to settle in the United States last November I was drawn to Santa Fe, N.M., not only for its rich [

I know I am in the right place to pursue my spiritually symbolic art. When I am asked how I arrived at this point of my creative journey, I usually respond with the following:

At the age of five, I was in the lap of my father, a devoted painter who would show me art books. Pointing to an image, he said, “See, this is Brancusi.” I immediately fell in love. When I was ten, my father told me he wanted me to learn art and asked what kind of art I felt like doing. I told him, “I don’t want to do what you do because I hate the smell of oil paint. I want to do sculpture.” So since then, I studied sculpture.

At age 20, after exploring the expanses of LSD and other assorted drugs, I changed my life and turned to religion. For the next 18 years the only work my ten fingers did was turn the pages of religious books.

One day, a friend reminded me of the art I did when I was young. “Don’t you miss it?” he asked me. He invited me to his studio where he had all the materials and facilities. On that day, I returned to sculpting. For me it was like descending from the upper mystical worlds, and I decided to combine the spiritual worlds with the material world. Since then, I’ve been working hard to create sculptures that both please the eye and capture the magnificence of God.

Through all these years of creativity, I explored and tested a lot of styles and mediums in my art, searching for the secret of the Shape. About seven years ago, I was exposed to a wonderful collection of art from the Neolithic Period, the first human art created; I was amazed by the simplicity and energy of these figures. I studied them first as a scholar, eventually unveiling the secrets of their creation and then following this style in the process of seeking the secret of the Shape. This is where I am now, still searching for the secret of the Shape, but I feel more sure of myself because of the inspiration I received from these ancient figures. It is this inspiration that has led me to a simplicity and symbolism in my own work, which I believe is the most effective way to convey the ideas of spirituality through visual art to all humanity.

Artist's Statement

The Search for the Lost Time About seven years ago, I was exposed to a very rare, magnificent private collection of Neolithic art, dating to about 3,500 B.C., which belonged to a collector of my art. It is one of the largest collections in the world containing about 150 figures. The great masters of the beginning of the 20th century, like Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani and Giacometti had been exposed to only a few of these figures, but were highly influenced by them, giving birth to the world of modern art. I was privileged to be able to view the entire collection and was profoundly affected by their amazing energy, their spiritual symbolism, and the serene simplicity of their shapes. I borrowed some of them, studying them for about three years, exploring, researching, and interpreting them to find a whole language within these forms. I discovered that these figures, found in Syria, Mesopotamia and Eastern Turkey, said to be the birthplace of the first human beings, were from the teachings of Adam. Adam then passed the language of this art on to his descendants. My years of spiritual searching helped me to perceive the process of creation in my art. My art is not a burst of powerful emotions, which strives merely to be beautiful; it is a process of evolvement bringing spiritual ideas into the material world. After a long and arduous journey in the world of ideas, I came back to the material and creative world, cleaner and more focused. I did not want to exhibit beautiful objects in residences and museums, because there is no end to that, but to contribute to humanity through the visual experience of sublime ideals that we long for in the deepest place of our hearts. We rarely experience these ideals because of the chains of materiality. My art is a kind of awakening to the sublime. Most of my figures take human form, the crown of creation, because we are made in the shape of God and our form contains secrets that lead us to God. The head represents the vessel for the spirit, always facing upward, expressing yearning for the sublime, much like a heart signifies harmony between heart and mind. The eyes are wide open as a result of the awe of the magnificence of the experience. The large nose in my figures is a sign of connection to the source of the Spirit. It derives from the Creation story, where the point of connection between man and God is when God blew the breath of life into Adam’s nose. The long and narrow neck regulates the abundant light the head is receiving in order to distribute it to the body in a controlled way. The head receives powerful energy from God, and is able to contain it, but the body cannot or it will be burnt by its sheer power. Therefore, the long neck is intentionally narrowed, regulating the flow of the energy into the body. The simple and symbolic body is not more than a hint, because, after all, we live in a world of symbols. Lastly, the legs are bent, enabling connection and fluidity to the material world. I learned all the signs of this language from studying archeology dating to the era of the first man – Adam. In the body of old texts, I found evidence that the master of this ancient language was Adam, the creation of God, and he passed it on to his descendants. The expression of this art is the yearning for the sublime world, from which we came, and to which we long to return. In expressing this ecstatic connection through my art, it has given more significant to my life, and nourished my intimate relationship with God. I pray that my work affects the lives and quality of life for other people as it has affected mine. May all who live in this world be uplifted through divine intention. I sincerely hope I am fulfilling my calling in this holy process. Writing with awe, Ilan Ashkenazi