Artist: Susan Schwalb, USA
In approaching my panel for “Women of the Book” I found myself looking at a series of drawings I made some years ago entitled “Creation”. That series was suggested by illuminations in a 14th century Hebrew manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah.
It was composed in Barcelona and was carried into exile by a Jewish family in 1492, reaching its final home in the Bosnian capital in 155156 through the hospitality of the Ottoman Empire. Now one of the treasures of the Sarajevo National Museum, it is celebrated for its complete set of illuminations for Genesis as well as Exodus.
In some respects my first “Creation” series represented a summation of several aspects of my work up to that date. When I first came across the Sarajevo Haggadah I was powerfully stirred by images of arc and circle which had obsessed me for several years. In general, I stayed close to the symbolic imagery of this manuscript where the sun, moon and earth are clearly rendered by circular forms.
In making Breishit I went back to the circle image to represent the Creation narrative. I first lightly coated the parchment with gesso so that I could draw on it with metalpoint. I drew six small circles to symbolize each of the six days of the creation story and one large circle for the day of rest. I added acrylic paint and gold leaf to evoke the feeling of early manuscripts. The drawing inside each circle is an abstract rendering of the world slowly coming into being.
Susan Schwalb is one of the foremost figures in the revival of the ancient technique of silverpoint drawing in America. Schwalb’s oeuvre ranges from drawings on paper to artist books and paintings on canvas. Her work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery, Wash. D.C., The British Museum, London, The Library of Congress, and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. www.susanschwalb.com
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