To Dream of Jerusalem
There was a loud bang. I was standing looking in the window of Steimatzki’s bookshop on Jaffa Road in central West Jerusalem and was about to walk in. Then all I saw was people scattering and pigeons taking flight. With the realisation that it wasn’t a bomb, but only a car back firing, life resumed its usual pace and I walked off. Later, a colleague of mine from the Jerusalem Print Workshop (JPW) would not be so lucky.
In 1996 I was first invited to work at the Jerusalem Print Workshop for a month as part of the Glasgow Print Studio’s international exchange program.
In 1998 I returned for a further period of research and to open my solo exhibition at the JPW gallery, but it was the first visit that had a most profound impact on me. Since then, all of my work has been concerned with the city of Jerusalem and with the burden of historical and contemporary baggage that it bears.
Strangely enough this follows on from previous work I made whilst resident at the Senej Print Workshop near Moscow in 1992, which was prompted by the legacy left behind by the collapse of communism in Russia and the Balkans.
For many, Jerusalem is the closest that one can come to Heaven of one’s own accord. But nowhere more than in the Holy City did I experience our separation from the Divine in the most painfully obvious way. In Jerusalem, my own sense of the loss of Eden, of a loss or a searching that still lies deep within the make up of each one of us, was brought sharply into focus.
Here, I also became intrigued by the principles in ancient map making. The more important a place is, the larger and the closer to the centre of the map it appears. The same approach was adopted by the icon painters in the Byzantine and Renaissance eras. Geographical reality is less of a consideration than spiritual significance.
In this sacred science, Jerusalem has often been portrayed as the centre of the world (a geographical and meteorological reality that may be closer to actual fact than we realise).
In the ancient world, the establishment of a sacred site was initiated by the presence of, or an event associated with the Divine. It was of supreme importance in establishing a contact with Heaven. Jerusalem was established on such a site.
The rock under the golden dome of the Qubbat al Sakhra on what is also known as the Temple Mount is the ancient sacrificial alter of Abraham on Biblical Mount Moriah. It was known as a sacred site at the time of Jerusalem’s first founding, and as the city grew up around it, it became the site of Solomon’s temple. Later, it was the rock from which Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to Heaven to receive further instruction from Allah.
For me, the welfare of Jerusalem, represented by the old wood engravings used in the works, has become an indicator of the welfare of our own humanity, not only as individuals but collectively as a society.
Jerusalem has prospered in the past, at times when religious tolerance and social justice have prevailed. In Jerusalem I saw only too clearly that once again we have lost sight of Eden. But it is not a loss without the hope of returning. So I still dream of Jerusalem.
This essay was published in Printmaking Today, Volume 10 Issue 3,
© Cello Press and is used with kind permission.