An Israeli Artist Crafts Nostalgically Beautiful Oil Colors

Jerusalem artist and documentary filmmaker Nilly Kessler paints evocative oil colors in a style that is equal parts Old Dutch and early French impressionist

A poor man’s still life by Nilly Kessler

People who are good at their craft are always the worst at explaining it. Whenever you watch a documentary presented by some PhD or another, you may be assured that they know not what they are talking about. They simply grimace emphatically while explaining things that are the works of others; reading lines that they did not write.

Artists are no different. Nilly Kessler assures us that to her the color pallete is the master and the form is the servant, but in looking at her drawings I see quite the opposite. Of course I am not accusing Nilly of being disingenuous. She is simply trying to explain the unexplainable, or what to her is unexplainable, because her publicist or the curator of her upcoming solo exhibition asked her to do so.

Nilly is trying to explain how she creates her art, but honestly, who cares? The sausage making of art is boring to those who are not planning to become artists and at least for me it takes away the magic of the initial encounter with the artwork. This is why I never read anything about an artist before I have the chance to view their art; I would rather not be prejudiced or explained to.

There is magic that happens when a stream of photons that bounce off some pigments hit our retinas. Or, in many cases, nothing happens. None of this has anything to do with what the artist intended to do or what he was thinking of while doing it or what in his own mind was of primary or secondary importance. The only thing that matters is how successful the artist was in building a bridge between his soul and our own.

Nilly Kessler was born and raised in Jerusalem where she still lives, but she paints the European diaspora. Her landscapes, portraits, and still lives are a kind of poor Jew’s version of an old European master. The still life has neither fish nor pheasants, neither wine nor flowers and the obligatory grasshopper, the renaissance artist’s piece de resistance, has left the scene. All we have are onions and a tea kettle. But then that’s all my grandparents had in their stetl.

Nilly’s women lack all sex appeal. They do not look at us, knowing that we will not be looking at them. Her rustic buildings have never seen a better day even when they were first built and her walled castle town is but a mirage barely seen across a desolate, grey, frozen landscape.

Nilly Kessler, the artist

Nilly’s style, a kind of cross between old Dutch masters and early French impressionists makes me happy. I wish more painters had adopted it because it can hardly be topped as a representational art form. In a world that is built on fake, her art is real. In a world in which we must never admit to having any doubt, her art is full of it. In a world in which we must always be happy, her art makes me sad.

You can encounter Nilly’s art first hand at her upcoming solo exhibition running from January 2nd through the 14th at ne’eman Towers, 20 Michael Ne’eman Street, Tel-Aviv. Gala opening is at 20:00 on January 2nd, 2020.

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