Israeli artist Rami Meir: Azerkhalcha's projects depict not only art but also Azerbaijan's historical tolerance - INTERVIEW [PHOTO]
Prominent Israeli artist Rami Meir came back to his homeland, Baku, with whom we met at the Azerkhalcha exhibition centre and talked about his work and the purpose of the visit.
We present an interview with the master, who celebrates his 60th birthday this year, to Trend Life readers.
Rami Meir was born in Baku, but his ancestors were from Krasnaya Sloboda of Guba District, the place of compact residence of Mountain Jews. In the 1990s, he and his family emigrated to Israel; however, the love for his native Baku, the culture and history of multinational Azerbaijan is always preserved in his soul.
He is the chairman of Russia's Union of Artists of Mountain Jews, a true bearer of the spiritual values of his people, which he promotes all over the world. In particular, the artist created the series "Mountain Jews" over several years, back when Rami Meir restored the history of the Mountain Jewsbit by bit, acting as a documentary historian. He conveyed as authentically as possible not only the external side of life but also the aesthetics of the life of an entire nation, embedded in the texture and ornaments of fabrics, the architecture of synagogues, the decorations of dwellings and craft stores, in the images of people. Many of the master's works are in private collections and museums in Russia, the USA, Israel, Azerbaijan and other countries. Rami Meir is also a poet, author of aphorisms and parables, and several books. Moreover, a lyricist and a performer, he released two music albums with composer Igor Timakov, in which, in 16 out of 32 songs, he was accompanied by the State Orchestra of France. His business card reads: "The meaning of human life is to help millions find that meaning."
"I always come to my homeland with great pleasure. I am happy to visit my native Azerbaijan again, which has a unique history, culture, nature, and national cuisine, and is historically distinguished by multiculturalism and tolerance. I am the author of many aphorisms, one of which goes like this: "People of Baku are the multinational aristocracy of the Caucasus", which also reflects the subcultural diversity of the country's peoples. There are few places in the world where you will find a place where people speak several languages since childhood, as it has always been in Baku. Today, I have four native languages - Juuri, Hebrew, Azerbaijani, and Russian. My mother prays in four languages. My fate is connected with three states: my homeland - Azerbaijan, the homeland of my ancestors - Israel, and also with Russia. And I am happy that I was born in Baku! Azerbaijan has always given the opportunity to embody the culture of many nations in a person while maintaining their own identity."
"It is gratifying to note that the culture of the Mountain Jews has contributed to the development of arts and crafts. There have always been master chasers and jewelers who made famous daggers and belts, jewelry and adornments for women, etc. among our people. In the works of our masters, there is always an Azerbaijani theme, and this is natural since Azerbaijan is our homeland, the land of eminent creators, warriors, cultural and scientific figures, and creative intelligentsia, whom we admire and are proud of. It is a great honor to represent Azerbaijan in the world with my works! A special place in world history belongs to the Azerbaijani carpet art, which is known worldwide and is included in the UNESCO List of Masterpieces of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, in the collection of museums and private individuals, the royal families of Europe. It is gratifying that many ancient unique Azerbaijani carpets, a national treasure, are returning to their homeland and decorating museums in Baku," Rami Meir said at the start of the conversation.
The artist's next visit to the homeland is connected with the presentation of a new, fourth joint project with Azerkhalcha OJSC, which took place yesterday in Guba. Together with Azerkhalcha chairman of the board Emin Mammadov and craftswomen, Rami participated in cutting the hand-woven pile carpet "Ascension of the Soul", created on the artist's eponymous painting.
"Our first work with Azerkhalcha was presented in March this year at the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum as part of the "The History of One People – For the Whole World" exhibition. The exhibition includes more than thirty paintings from my series "Mountain Jews", as well as works, made in the technique of embossing on metal, wooden sculptures, and decorative coins made of precious metals. These works were united by the theme of history, culture, traditions, and customs of the Mountain Jews - people with a distinctive culture and their own Juuri language. A special place in the exposition was given to the "Guba carpet weavers from Krasnaya Sloboda" carpet, specifically made by Azerkhalcha's craftswomen for the exhibition and based on the plot of my painting of the same name. Working on paintings, I always try to create reliable, documentary images of my people. Behind each work, there are specific personalities, which I displayed in this work."
"Today, carpet weaving is a transformation of carpet fabric into a work of art. And here, I would like to talk about the carpets created by "Azerkhalcha" based on my works - "Pomegranate Orchard" and "God Almighty". The combination of modern technologies, design, centuries-old craft traditions, and the use of natural materials, appreciated at all times, gives exclusivity to the carpets. The image of a pomegranate is one of the most beloved in creativity, a universal symbol of joy and abundance, fertility, and majestic wisdom, found both in sacred writings and medieval poetry of the East. In my work, the pomegranate, a holy fruit for my two native countries - Azerbaijan and Israel, becomes a symbol of the unity of the two peoples. I created "God Almighty" in 1999, and it has a magical meaning. In it, I collected the symbols of Judaism, which were used five or six centuries ago and were forgotten. The content of this work fully explains its name - the Creator is one, and He is everywhere and always at the same time. And the task of a person is to strive to be similar to the Creator with his life, thoughts, and deeds and to approach him every day. In the center of the composition, there are 10 worlds, symbolizing the 10 commandments, which show the supreme power of the Almighty. Now, this carpet is in the exhibition center Azerkhalcha in Icheri Sheher.
The second big project from Azerkhalcha was presented in Israel in July this year. An exhibition in Tel Aviv entitled "Carpets as Art. Beyond Borders, Beyond Time" was dedicated to Azerbaijan's unique culture, traditions, and crafts, the embodiment of which can be seen in world art, as well as Israeli heritage. The exposition will feature a painting from a series of works dedicated to Judaism, carpet panels created according to the plots of my paintings. The central place was occupied by a collection of carpets belonging to the traditional Guba school of carpet weaving, woven in Azerkhalcha," the artist noted.
In early August, the exhibition "Rami Meir. A Return 40 Years Later" opened in the Azerbaijan Pavilion of VDNH in Moscow.
The exposition presents chased panels, paintings, and carpets created according to the plots of paintings by Rami Meir in the collaboration of Rami Meir Art and Azerkhalcha, as well as sculpture and objects made in the technique of woodcarving, light installations, ancient jewelry and weapons from personal collections of items of mountain Jewish arts and crafts by Rami Meir. The project, implemented in partnership with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Azerbaijan pavilion at VDNH, has gained international fame and is on display until October 30. Particular attention is drawn to the carpets woven by the craftswomen of Azerkhalcha according to the picturesque scenes of Rami Meir.
"In August 2020, the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow presented an exhibition of my paintings "The History of One People - For the Whole World", dedicated to the history of the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan. The exhibition aroused great interest, and representatives of embassies visited it. This topic touched people. I heard many excellent reviews, and gratitude for reminding people of their heritage. And from people of other nations - interest and gratitude that I told them about the Mountain Jews and such a unique history of peaceful and kind existence in Azerbaijan of peoples with different religions.
Now it is a great honor and pride for me to present the exposition on such a significant prestigious project in the Azerbaijan pavilion at VDNH in Moscow. The uniqueness of this exhibition is connected with the history of my life. It happened 40 years ago, in 1982, when my exhibition was supposed to open in the Azerbaijan pavilion at VDNH. I was 20 years old back then. All the works - about 20 exclusive panels in jewelry embossing on copper, on which I painstakingly worked for years, were stolen during transportation. Unfortunately, the crime was never solved. Only two works have survived by chance, which I then presented to my bride. But sketches have been preserved, and my team is still searching for them. It is gratifying that by the will of fate, 40 years later, my exposition is presented in the pavilion "Azerbaijan" with a new exhibition. Therefore, the present exhibition is called "Return 40 years later". It aroused great interest among Muscovites and guests of the capital.
The current work presented in Guba, the carpet "Ascension of the Soul", is a complex project in terms of design and technicality. Together with Azerkhalcha, we set the task of transferring the "oil chasing" from the canvas into relief, three-dimensional patterns. So the viewer in a non-standard form gets acquainted with the symbols and the idea of the picturesque "prototype". The difficulty of making the carpet lies in the unusual technique of using piles of different heights, which change diagonally from earthly to heavenly spheres. The work reflects my desire in painting to go beyond two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, and it has found a new embodiment in carpet products. Moreover, over 30 shades were used to convey subtle colour combinations of abstract painting. "Ascension of the soul" - a return to the beginning and truth, the restoration of the harmony of the two "I" in a person. This is a unique exclusive work, a new understanding of carpet weaving, and it will go down in the history of carpet weaving. Thus, my projects with "Azerkhalcha" show not only art but also the historical tolerance and multiculturalism of Azerbaijan, love for the native land," the master said.
Rami Meir shared his plans for the future.
"I want to create a piece related to the Kharibulbul flower, which is inextricably linked with Shusha and Karabakh and is a symbol of love and peace in Azerbaijan. Since childhood, I have often visited Shusha and remember this amazing land very well. And now, I have started one project under the working title "Ballad about the seven beauties" - these are seven sculptural works of women-mothers in a new technology, which I do not want to talk about in detail yet. This will be a very original project - according to my plan, these statues, one meter high, will be located around a round pool, and children who are drawn to them are opposite them. All sculptures will be in certain forms and with appropriate gestures. I believe that works should please not only the eye but also the soul - bring positive emotions and good energy," he said.
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