jess writings on painting

writings on painting and religion


MIDRASH - Jewish ways of looking at paintings?

Midrash is the Jewish process of textual commentary.

It is taken for granted that a text like the Bible has layers of meaning and that these layers must be unravelled. The text indeed does not speak for itself but rather invites us into dialogue with it.

This encourages us to play a role, not as passive recipients of an already closed tradition, but as active participants in the creative work of making meaning of what we have received.

We thereby forever find new ways of making sense of ancient texts and new understandings that are picked out from the old using as our tool the spirit of our own age and the uniqueness of our own individuality.

There are traditionally, four treasures of interpretation known by the acronym Pardes (meaning enclosed garden or paradise):

P’SHAT – plain and apparent meaning
REMEZ – hints
D’RASH – interpretation
SOD – deep and mystical elements

It is up to us to explore each of these levels of meaning in a single line of text, how much more so then in a whole painting?

I invite you to look at these paintings with these four treasures in mind.


Art asks you

You ask art

Art? You ask

You? Art asks


Who is painting?

I am looking at sea-gulls.
From what I see,
I make pictures.
For example, of sea-gulls.
My sea-gulls.

I am transforming
An object in Nature,
Into a subject in a painting,
My subject,
My painting.

I invent a bird, a bird with a beak
And wings,
In a picture.

The bird is like a bird
In Nature
My imagination is littered
With images
Taken from Nature,
Transformed in my mind
By my Nature.

An artistic invention.
Seeking – the universal
The Personal
With you


Echad (oneness)

These pictures take months to evolve in space.

They sit in my studio, each time I look at them, they move on, even without changing, until I can make my move.

By looking at them, I am painting with my eyes.

We are standing on air, fish swim in our breathing.

Yet I look at the charred corpse of a fish under the grill and I eat it.

We die in each others dwelling places.

Yet the sky is my imagination, and in it people fly.


In art,
you can see yourself
in the mirror of another person’s


Whose Lamentations?

Jerusalem remembers
In the days of her affliction
and her miseries
All her pleasant things that she had
in the days of old



The birds migrate
From west to east,
From north to south
From heart to mouth.

The words we read
From right to left,
From depth to depth,
From inside out.

And then we walk
From sea to shore,
From shore to shore
And find, at last,
We walk no more.