Jerusalem: A dialogue of contrasts

Alicia Arbel

Dr. Zvika Israel

This collection of works in various art fields by the artist Alicia Arbel were mostly created in recent years under the influence of the unique landscapes of Jerusalem. This constitutes the main theme of her work. Panoramas and perspectives of the ever-changing city become the subject of a dialogue between the artist and the location, a very personal impression.

Alicia has a special angle from which to observe this unique city, that not long ago celebrated 3000 years of existence; a city cradled in the recesses of hills, with the temple mount, crested by its golden dome at its focal point, looking out in four directions.

Alicia does not simply observe things from the picturesque rooftops or elegant windows that adorn Jerusalem’s handsome buildings, but instead promotes a philosophical poetic discourse between Jerusalem of the material world below and of the spiritual world above; meta-Jerusalem. Alicia’s paintings include abstract concepts in their realistic-worldly views, relating to Jerusalem, a city of majesty and glory, heaven and earth, uniting the contrasts of Jerusalem.

So much has already been written or painted about Jerusalem, to the extent that every sort of visual or other text that purports to provide an innovative view appears to be no more than a cliché. Yet this has not deterred Alicia’s poetic spirit. To continue in a poetic vein: this is a city in which legends are embraced within the stones, the gates are adorned with praise, this is the melody of Jerusalem, whose paths and passages are exposed to another journey and they are explored through the thorough and discerning observation of the unique artist Alicia Arbel.

Alicia spent many years in Jerusalem in the late 1940s including during the War of Independence, when she studied art in the Betzalel academy of Arts. Those were days of training, and deep observation of details when her artistic talents were consolidated in a curriculum that included drawing, painting, graphic technique and printing. The artist was trained during these and later years in multilayered painting, providing her work with a special depth. Her abstract, spiritual and symbolic viewpoint is a constant element in her work, applying areas of color and texture, in a manner characteristic of modern artists. Alice uses a unique variety of techniques, imbibing them with creative sensitivity and thought. With obvious maturity she forms a spiritual statement, a joy for the observer and an artistic experience for her art-loving public.

In Betsalel, Alicia had the privilege of studying with Mordechai Ardon, artist and pupil of the Bauhaus and with Rudi Lehman, the renowned animal sculptor. After Israel’s War of Independence she continued her art studies in Paris, London and Saltzburg.

Today Alicia works in rock crystal, oil colors, stained glass and wood. She has been awarded the Struck art prize and the title of Distinguished Artist of Haifa.

Her works in rock crystal displayed here are:

‘The flower of the rock’ – a synthesis of glass and rock crystal, eight pieces of crystal are reflected in the mirror and lit up from below, the rock crystals all originated from Madagascar.

Also reproduced here is Alicia’s ‘Drop of water’ falling at this very moment from a branch. The drop is positioned on a revolving base and illuminated. This work was exhibited in the Jewish museum in Paris and was also ‘exhibit of the month’ in the Haifa Museum.

Her sculpture, ‘The soul bird (an ancient traditional motif) resting on the tree of life’ is a synthesis of glass and semi-precious stones; the tree was imported from Brazil.

The oil paintings reproduced here represent:

‘The French monastery in Ein Kerem surrounded by almond trees’ (oil on canvas). Alice has always been enchanted by the spring in Ein Kerem, when the entire scene is fully white due to the mass of flowering almond trees on almost every path and surrounding every building. Visible in the picture is the French monastery almost entirely covered by blossom.

The second picture is ‘Night falling on Jerusalem’. Dusk turns to night very quickly in Jerusalem and sometimes almost instantly and then the entire city is shrouded in mystery.

All of Alicia’s works are infused with light, the light that radiates from crystal, creating a focus and reflected in mirrors and that same light can be seen in the landscapes of Jerusalem, reflected from the roofs and spires and emanating mysteriously from the surrounding hills

Alicia arrived in Jerusalem to study for four years at Betsalel but during the War of Independence she fell in love with the city and its inhabitants, To this day, she has never wearied of painting all the various aspects of Jerusalem and its special magical light. It was only in Jerusalem that she understood the meaning of the verse: ‘The eternity of Israel does not lie’ (Samuel, 15:29).

Alice’s works can be found on her Internet site:


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