Approximately 30 attendees at the launch of Oh Australia, Oh Israel, an exhibition of the work of Israeli painter Yosl Bergner held 8 October, learned a great deal about the artist and his deep connection to Australia. The opening, hosted by Zionism Victoria and IamArt, was held at The Attic Gallery in Elsternwick.
Mr Bergner, who turns 95 this week, spent his formative years in Australia. He was brought by his father, a famous Yiddish writer who was sent to Australia to explore the Kimberleys as a possible refuge for the persecuted Jews of Europe. Sketches of his father’s exploration are featured in the exhibition.
Bergner was greatly affected by the oppression of Australia’s aboriginal people, and some of his most well-known works shine a light on their plight. “Australians did not appreciate being reminded of their faults by an ‘auslander’ (an outsider)”, said Zionist Federation of Australia President Danny Lamm in opening remarks.
Shaike Snir, owner of IamArt, shared stories of Bergner’s interactions with his family and his impact on Snir personally. He also spoke further of Bergner’s influence on Australian art, particularly in the portrayal of aboriginal people. “Yosl was the first white artist to bravely portray the Aborigines as dispossessed people”, he said. “He compared them to the Jews of Europe in the 1930’s and early 1940’s.” Bergner’s 1946 painting, Aborigines Chained to a Tree hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria and, over the years, he has painted a number of interpretations on the theme. A recent work included in the exhibition, a sculpture entitled Unchained, symbolises the progress made in the past 30 years.
Zionism Victoria President Sam Tatarka remarked that the exhibition was noteworthy particular for Bergner’s extensive use of motifs of freedom. “Here is someone who fled persecution in Europe, sought and found refuge in Australia and who finally found his home in Eretz Yisrael”, said Tatarka.
The exhibition will remain open through this Sunday 18 October at The Attic Gallery, 297a Glen Huntly Road, Friday 12 noon – 3:00pm and Sunday 2:00 -5:00pm. Visitors may visit at other times by appointment.
To make an appointment or to learn more about Yosl Bergner and his artwork, contact Shaike Snir at 0417 383 994. For more information regarding the exhibition, please contact the Zionism Victoria, 9272 5544 or firstname.lastname@example.org