Speaking in stone

Speaking in Stone

Moshe Saidi, Curator of the Shfela Museum


Whispering and speaking through stone, sculpting the warm, forgiving exterior – like clay in a potter’s hand, a stony whisper, and yet the thought is far from being fossilized…

The sculptor Gadi Fraiman has an intimate relationship with this rigid material, kneading and molding rhythms and melodies. This “flirtation” has been ongoing since his youth, when he collected and classified stones of various colors and textures in his own private archive. Looking at many of his stone sculptures, it is no wonder he remains faithful to the touch of his sculptures and their beauty.

I have learned that he is true to himself and to the material which serves the basis of his ideas. Time, environment and art history have no effect but still serve to broaden his mind; genres come and go at mind-boggling speed before having made a mark; various materials and means of expression have become popular in the field of three dimensional art, the field of life; whereas he, Gadi, holds on to his hammer, chisel and saws – keeping it simple and basic, so as not to allow, God forbid, these tools to leave their mark on the finished product; and so as not to allow himself, like numerous others, to follow the design and textual standard. Thus, the stone’s virginity, the initial intensity of the artist work and his “sick” mind – this entire pyramid would disappear, and in its absence a sterile –“cold and inhuman” product would emerge. Gadi’s work can only be described as music in stone, every resounding ricochet and shattering blow of the hammer, orchestrated by him alone according to his pre-written score.

Is there time and place for new thought patterns within the artistic process? Far from it, the artist’s “tailor-made” and developing maqama is realized in every statue, in every product. Before Michelangelo strikes the first blow in the huge block of stone delivered to its scene in the movie about his life, he speaks to the stone and speaks to himself. This is, in fact, the starting point of the artistic process, the chiseling done by the mind: “You’ll be David”, “You’ll be Moses”… and the realization of these intentions is carried out by “means of persuasion” – by the production tools.
By the end of the process, Moses is here as is David.
And we are too, with Gadi and with his pre-work thought process.

He is like the rest of the stone artists, with one significant difference: he does not bear the role of public emissary, is accountable to no one, he “does his own thing.” He is on a personal, private, egocentric mission, if you will, and as we have already mentioned – he is true to himself. Gadi’s love of stone is so intimate, it does not need to withstand the critique of the day, the year or the generation – rather only that of his own senses and his loyalty to every detail in his statues.

The stone, with nothing but its external aspect visible, appears to the artist as a transparent, three-dimensional, block to chisel, form and create from. The other dimension expressed and present in the block itself is the veins and tones inherent to the stone used to adorn the length and breadth of the sculpture all around.

In searching of this uniqueness, Gadi has covered great distances in Israel and in quarry centers around the world, where he found the double bulk of the ridged mass, the block and the veins. A “Fatal Attraction” sparks between him and the stone and at that very moment, a new sculpture is born, coming to life in his very being and in his veins. Then the merger leading up to the chisel, hammer and saw commences. The obsession and storm of emotions raging inside make way for a new flirtation – a new birth, albeit more cruel and aggressive.

Despite everything said about Gadi’s egocentricity and the private intimacy of his work, the numerous audiences visiting his studio at Mishmar David feel a connection to his work, and indeed, Gadi’s “Billy Rose Art Garden” is currently being established on a hill next to his kibbutz, not far from the Jerusalem Mountains. Perhaps this is akin to repentance in that his meetings with the visitors will serve as a channel for conveying his so very simple messages – the exposure of the artist’s halls of thought and deeds.

Why would a normal person rupture a hole in a block of stone, drill and saw wood, cut and weld iron and conduct rays of light into space? By utilizing all the materials and in all the various stage in his life, the artist is preoccupied with repeatedly recurring difficulties and questions. Throughout life, a person will take action and cope, fall and try, and will never know if he has achieved his objective, unless the personal challenge was a truly mental challenge. Namely, no external criteria will be able to limit, bind and divert him from his path, since the artist’s creation is an effective school for himself and for us. Can works of art teach us about the artists who created them? Because every work of art has a genuine and true autobiographical element.

It is difficult to break away from the mainstream, from the genre and period and be yourself – a person with individual qualities and insights. It is also difficult not to include the present, the difficulties of day to day life and politics in your beliefs, and to create a diverse inner world that is all good!

In a world in which the powerful build and expand our rate of life and death, it is good to meet artists who hold a different opinion and are not affected by anything but themselves. Their art serves us as a refuge for a short while, a getaway from the bustle of life. And those whose work is the antithesis of the goings-on and the deciding factors – are the ones providing us with reason to live.

Lines, strips, stone sketches, pleated folds – a block becomes fabric, becomes prayer shawl and roots and three dimension; becomes stripes, becomes a striped shirt – a coat of many colors – stripes and a flag, rhythm and melody.

I’ve followed Gadi’s work for a long time. I was overjoyed when I was given the honor of writing the preface of his first book, perhaps in order to present, to my understanding, the distant and three-dimensional aspect in the stone artist’s stormy mind. My intention was to establish an understanding of his art – not as a hermetically sealed framework, rather as food for thought for the many who shall undoubtedly frequent the sculptures of my friend, the sculptor Gadi Fraiman.

Speaking in stone