(Or A wavering between Anonimity and non Assimilation) 

(It happened to be an amazingly pretty journal… He had seen it on the windows of an antique shop, and had been overwhelmed by a sudden immense desire to have it in his possession. The members of Party were not supposed to visit ordinary places (“buying in the free market” was labeled as violation)… (He had taken it home with a feeling of guilt)… (These would be the nascense of a journal keeping routine. This was not illegal (there was nothing illegal given that there were no laws); however, if found out he would be sentenced to death, or in a less harsh scenario he would have to be subject of 25 years of forced labor)… (He was not used to writing by hand. With the exception of some small notes, he usually dictated everything to the dictograph, which is an instrument that registers and transcribes everything you say to a microphone, and which given the current circumstances  would be an insanity to use. With the fountain pen in his hand he hesitated for a brief moment. Shivers went through his bones. Marking the paper with ink would be the final act)… (He asked himself the obvious question – for whom was he keeping this journal? For his offspring, for those not yet born?)… (For the first time the importance of what was coming into being arose. How would he communicate with the next generations? With simple logic this was next to impossible. Either the future would be exactly the same as today, and thus nobody would pay attention, or the future would be different, in this case the message would lose its meaning…) Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. He was conscious only of the void of the white sheet of paper lying before him.)[1]

Everything begins with the sketches, despite the fact that at later stage the work may change into a different final medium. It represents the initial creative fervor. So, in substance it preserves great power.

The sketches and water colors you are about to witness are the product of a difficult era.  They convey the internal battles of the artist while he was living and working in the context of a freedom-killing climate of dictatorship. They are keepsake journals and do not represent an accurate reproduction of facts, but rather they are a reflection which seeks to artistically represent the events and the feelings that linger in his memory. His position makes him not only a person who is being monitored, but a monitor himself. These are figurative sketches, but for Hila, the image is extremely rich with multiple suggestive and inspirational meanings.

The day-to-day and intimate details of existence and of human relations, of the vices and virtues, gesticulations and grimaces are detailed in a lyrical way and sometimes even with perverse naivety. All of these are shown in a “suitably convenient” dimension, the small space of a watercolor or a sketch to easily hide something which is forbidden[2]. These works were not meant to be exhibited, but were meant to be an antidote for surviving the poisonous environment while striving to maintain the clarity both in the humane and in the artistic perspectives. During those times the author worked in the shadows and that was the exact starting point of a given position vis-à-vis his artistic creativity, attempting to blend the elements of ethics with those of aesthetics.

As such we may also regard them as an internal polemic in the background of an aesthetic platform similar to that of the socialist regime or to intellectual servility. His drawings and watercolors are either directly or indirectly connected with the problems that have captured his conscience, and which make it boil from the inside. His gift is full of aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations which are expressed in his drawings, emanating poetical sensations.

The author has grouped his work in three folders: those of the workplace, of social aversion and of holidays.

The first cycle which represents his meditation on the work at poultry factories is a free and penetrating monologue filled with lyrical sensations about the daily life of severe punishment that came with the job. The characters, namely the factory workers have been realized with a spirit that has little space for idealization, bur are rather conveyed with empathy, which is not related to the image of the New Man, but with the Daumier or Grosz type of empathy. These workers are portrayed as carrying loads of sacks (which often are spoiled and through which the contents fall). The workers stop to rest, lying down or supported by those sacks. The psychology, gesticulations, and communication of these men and women constitute the Human Comedy, not the one portrayed in the exhibitions of the time, but based on the spurs that the reality offered, and in an endeavor to give them in a style coinciding with the epoch. In a way, we can say that this represents a frank narration. The paradox is that in a socialist country, the workers have not different status form that of the peasants, miners or stone carvers of the capitalist system. They were considered de jure, but not de facto as the mass that did the job, filled the buses, and yet managed to find lyrical motives even in their menial daily routine.

The second cycle is related to the aversion of the artist from the participation in the social and political life of the country, thus creating a tension which runs through the sketches and water colors of that period. This cycle conveys not his personal aversion, but that of this family as well. These drawings represent a framework of the time when the painter was working in the city design unit. Among others they include “Fire drying of slogans”, which were propaganda of the communist power – a drying which was more resistant than the fire drying of “Anghiari Battle” of Leonardo. The feeling of being excluded and not belonging can also be seen in the depiction of a ram, shown in a dramatic atmosphere between red and green colors with innocent and frightened eyes. It is also portrayed in the eyes of officials and leaders in which the spirit of megalomania directs the whole set up. However, in these drawings one can feel the direct clash with the reality which the work manages subtly to conceal.

The third cycle is about vacations, the family as a moment of escape from the above-mentioned problems. There are many sketches with portraits from the artist’s household. Under these circumstances, and due to the origin of his family, the author refuses to accept crudeness and the pathetic nature of the socialist heroes. These sketches are based on memories, dreams and imaginations mingling than together as in “nativity” and “altar”. There is a moment of contact with nature, the countryside, the sea, and the ships, which reveals a sense of freedom. These are all endeavors to express the joie de vivre with a degree of tranquility and voluptuous joy devoid of luxury.[3]

Such an exhibition, at this time, is a fresh and welcome dimension of the spirit, and gives dignity to the developments and struggle for cultural survival which still remains to be defined.

Zef Paci,  Art History Professor


[1] Extracts from George Orwell’s Novel 1984, first part, pg. 10, 11, 12 (the beginning part of Winston’s diary).

[2] Most of the works should have been of larger formats, but this is hard for a criticised artist (from the artist’s notes).

[3] Luxury, silence, voluptuous – Matisse key work title, taken form Baudelaire’s “Fleurs du mal”



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