Adi: Marek, tell me a bit about this painting ‘Breakfast in the Katamonim’. You said you did it after the painting ‘Breakfast in Rehavia’.
Marek: When I painted ‘Breakfast in Rehavia’ (link in the first response), I painted without consciousness. In retrospect, there’s a breakfast and the newspaper “Ha’aretz”, a kitchen cloth that resembles the Israeli flag and the window with a view of the Knesset. Without being aware of it, something happened that made it Israeli on one hand. On the other hand, the table is not Israeli at all. The dishes aren’t Israeli – there’s no plastic, no Formica, the cloth on one hand is (like a flag), but who puts out napkins in Israel? The “Ha’aretz” newspaper, however, is as Israeli as it gets – but it’s in English. Looking back I saw that something happened that I wasn’t aware of, but it does exist there.
I thought I have to, I want to do a breakfast in the Katamonimas well. Not Katamon, Katamonim. It’s a contrary neighborhood, with contrary people. Totally different people, on a different socioeconomic stratum on one hand, but on the other full of students, full of the people I live with, because I live there. And they’re wonderful people in every respect. Of course they won’t have porcelains and French brie, or a view of the Knesset, it’s something totally different. So I began compiling with a bit more awareness than then (in the previous painting). Also from the socioeconomic aspect of the people who live here and their spirit, and I also remembered this story about a farmer, the fable/legend, I don’t quite remember what it was, it’s in many languages and many national contexts. It tells of a farmer or a beggar, someone who is poor, they give him a coin and with it he goes to buy bread and a rose. Okay, we understand why the bread, it’s sustenance, but why a rose? So the bread is to live and the rose is so there’ll be what to live for. And this still life came from the combination of these associations. Which from a certain aspect is a very “sparse” still life. Visually it’s sparse, what it contains is sparse, very understated. Also color wise. On one hand, it has what one eats for breakfast – cereal with milk. But the milk, not in milk cartons; the kind of milk you buy in a bag and put in the plastic holder, and the cereal is the simplest kind of cereal. On the other hand, ‘Torah and work’. So there’s the flower, the almond tree branch that you don’t see in Tel Aviv, only in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, not Haifa, not Beersheva, of all the large cities it only exists in Jerusalem and that’s the “what to live for”. Opposite this, the food and the clock, the clock is work – we have to get up, we have to go, have to….. have to. It’s like, without it there’ll be no coin to buy the bread. So somehow everything was included here together, half in consciousness and half in hovering associations, which today I have a much better reading of than when I did it. Then it wasn’t so clear to me.
Adi: It’s a good painting to start off the year with, isn’t it?
Marek: I don’t know. It’s a good painting to maintain in consciousness. I am very attached to this painting.
Adi: Why are you so attached to it? Do you feel you identify with it more than other paintings?
Marek: Not more, differently. Because the other paintings are almost always a response to “the outside”. A response to reality. And this painting, isn’t external reality, it’s internal reality. Something that emerged from contexts of associations, of the sub-conscious, but let’s say – other paintings, there are other painters who could have painted them, and they did. It’s like, still life, I am indeed influenced by the seventeenth century Dutch still life paintings and the interiors, there are artists who deal with interiors. This painting, I don’t remember seeing anything like it, similar, corresponding. Really I haven’t. That’s why I feel this kind of emotion toward it, familial.
Marek: It doesn’t have to be a “beautiful” painting.
Adi: It’s a “Marek” painting.
Marek: Yes. It’s instead of a family picture.
Adi: To such an extent?
Marek: In a certain sense it is. Like, this is us, this is truly us.
Adi: ‘Us’ the family?
Marek: Us. People I know, people I live with, people who I teach. Family for sure. This something that’s common. Whose meaning is common to my environment, not for the visible side. Yes, I am in Jerusalem, I did see these entrance ways (a series of paintings of entrances from the Talbiya-Rehavia neighborhoods in Jerusalem, to be shown later on), I did react to a particular neighborhood or place in Jerusalem. But this painting is not a reaction to something external I saw, rather it’s my internal view. My internal context.
Adi: Actually I feel the same when I look at this painting. I think about my mother. It’s ours. The almond blossom too, it’s the plant, the flower she loves the most. That’s the milk she buys, it’s us. Including the simplest kind of cornflakes, if we even had, then it was this kind. And, she lives in the Katamonim. If there is a ‘home’, it’s not the house in Kiryat Yovel where I grew up, but the house in the Katamonim, her childhood home. It’s her house.
Marek: Kiryat Yovel is the same thing. Kiryat Yovel and the Katamonim are in the same area, the same kind of people, except in the Katamonim there aren’t new immigrants from Russia like in Kiryat Yovel.
Adi: I also think that out of all the paintings, here there’s a reflection of my family. I don’t know if everyone will feel it, but I personally feel very much like you do.
Marek: I’m sorry I can’t make a series of it.
Adi: Why can’t you?
Marek: Because then this painting won’t be what it is now. It would be part of ‘a work’. It’s not a problem to make associations and arrange them. But it would be a dilution.
Adi: But it can be a conceptual point of origin.
Marek: It would be a dilution. It’s like painting someone very close, and then later when he’s gone, to continue painting him from photographs and such.
Adi: That’s how you feel?
Marek: This painting is the most authentic painting of this feeling. To repeat it would be like those singers who at the age of eighty are still singing the songs that made them famous when they were twenty.
Adi: I don’t think it would necessarily be like that. But I also think the series doesn’t have to look like that. It doesn’t have to look like this painting. It can only stem from the same place.
Marek: Yes, that’s this painting, and the painting of Kiryat Yovel (an open landscape painting of the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, to be shown later on).
Adi: Yes, they kind of speak to each other. People also had very intense reactions to both. It touched them. It’s possible they also feel that they’re reflected in it, in the same way.
Marek: This painting as well, of the wall here (the painting ’Mood Board’, to be shown later)
Adi: Yes, this one as well, very much so. And it really feels like it’s a kind of self portrait, more so than others. I mean, it’s really you. Will it be in the exhibition?
Breakfast in the Katamonim, Marek Yanai, oil on canvas, 65X65 cm