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About Joseph – Arie Bercowitz

Joseph Gattegno is an exceptional artist in the history of Israeli art – a fierce colorist, whose paintings hold traces of Impressionism mixed with Pop Art and Lyrical Abstraction. To a large extent, what he created on his many canvases was pure visual music.

Gattegno’s artworks are sensitive and sincere. He translated and expressed reality in his own way, combining and fusing various aesthetics that he re-shaped into a personal and distinct language. The paintings’ drawing foundation serves as the basis for a rich colorful tapestry that imbues them with dynamic vibrations, like sounds that add up to form a metaphor for the noise of the street. The numerous street scenes that he painted are characterized by a somewhat French atmosphere – even though Tel Aviv was one of his main sources of inspiration. He often remarked that he sees himself as a local artist, who had abandoned the European dreariness in favor of the strong local light that was reflected in the warm, vibrant colors of his paintings.

Gattegno painted from impressions, from memories he collected while wandering the city streets. At the heart of his work we find the human figure. Nameless everyday figures that reoccur in his paintings time after time, turning into a performance bordering on the abstract, interweaving reality and fiction, body and spirit, presence and absence. The figures that populate the canvases are anonymous, for a moment they seem both familiar and foreign; figures that are a sequence of sounds and colorful shapes, moving through space and creating a rich, delicate and reflective musical composition.

He encapsulated this experience of wandering and transporting it onto the flat canvas in the studio with the words “I Went, Came Back, and What I Did in That Time.” And indeed, he used to start the paintings with a spontaneous impulse, ignited by the experience of walking the streets of the city, by the scents, colors, figures, and sounds. All these were the raw materials for the artwork, which underwent a process of contemplation and planning. Often, new shapes replaced the previous ones, with a painting superimposed on another painting or double-sided paintings.
With the power of his painting, Josepgh Gattegno created a personal, poetic, and dynamic world. A world in which there are no pure shapes; where the brushstrokes and outlines are a metaphor for a tradition and culture in which the aesthetic and the sensual flow side by side, in a process that leads to work that have a unique artistic character.

In 1976, we returned to Israel as a family, which later grew to include a family of five. Yossi worked long hours teaching painting classes for adults. He was a devoted and patient teacher. Some of his students stayed with him for over than 30 years. The municipality of Ramat Gan offered Yossi a spacious shelter to use as his studio. In the many years he worked there, he submerged himself into the world of his art. He was free to paint and paint. At the same time, the connection with the art world was minimal. With the devoutness of a monk who focuses on his art – he painted almost every day. With maximal concentration and without any excuses or allowances. Fame, connections, and exhibitions of his works – did not interest him. As a family, we allowed him the freedom to create. Yossi passed away suddenly, after a short battle with illness.

In his artist shelter we discovered a treasure trove of works, oil and acrylic paintings on canvas, watercolors, prints and engraving, from which the works featured in the book were selected.

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