We’re delighted to announce that the Library has acquired three new art works commissioned for The 50 Jewish Objects Project. It’s always thrilling to get new material into our collections, but especially so when it isn’t our typical formats.
The 50 Jewish Objects Project began on the 1st of October 2018 and will run until the end of August 2022. The project has looked at around 50 objects, such as manuscripts, printed books, letters, photographs and objects all related to Jewish culture, society and life. Most of these artefacts are held here in our collections at the John Rylands Library. Dr Stefania Silvestri, from the Centre for Jewish Studies, is producing descriptions of the objects, while also creating an overarching narrative connecting all or part of the objects in a thematic structure. You can read some of her fascinating accounts on the 50 Jewish Objects blog. As part of the activities of the project, creative pieces were commissioned by contemporary artists in response to selected artefacts from the Library and the research produced by Dr Stefania Silvestri. And this is where our new artworks have come from.
The first piece ‘Deconstruct: Reconstruct’ by Kremena Dimitrova comprises seven vibrant comic panels retelling the story of Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil [inspired by the 13-century Hebrew Ms 31 Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil, The Gates of Exile and Isaac ben Meir of Düren, The Gates of Düren].
Dimitrova has reimagined the manuscript illuminations and illustrations, where they are marginal and not central to its subject, and then put them front and central to her work in a vibrant and accessible way for modern readers/viewers. Each panel can be seen as an individual item but they work together and cross over to create a whole piece. She suggests that there is no right or wrong way of reading the panels, so for her a deliberate echo of the original manuscript, which is written and read from right to left. This is the opposite way of writing and reading for her. These beautiful panels are great fun and I would heartily recommend looking at them closely, especially the mix and match animals, reminiscent of children’s flap books, at the bottom of each panel. Images of the individual panels are now on our digital platform Luna.
The second piece is ‘Arranged in Time and Space’ by Nicola Dale. Dale has given us a black wooden box, with 49 printed cards: some coloured, some monochrome, some with text, some with images of artworks and models. There are three lengths of black coloured wood: one cylindrical and two sizes of rectangular pieces. Also included are a pair of white cotton gloves and a memory stick.
This piece seems to explore the senses and emotions in response to the material she sees. She states that ‘Nothing beats handling an object in real life’; an ethos that Special Collections manifestly supports. The items in our archive offer a direct link to the past. This is such an engaging and intriguing work of art; the artist has left us a pair of white cotton gloves in the box so that we can handle the cards and feel where her hands have been – our finger tips touching through time and space. Do have a look at the artwork on our digital platform Luna.
The final piece, ‘Lodz Banquet’ by Helena Tomlin, is a multi-media installation comprising of three different-sized pieces of embroidery, draped over stands, and three needles cases with poignant individual hand-coloured images of Helena, Tycia and Rusha on them. These three women are all members of the artist’s family: her Great Grandmother, Helena, and her daughters, Tycia and Rusha. All of these women came from Łódź, Poland and probably died at Auschwitz. The work was was inspired by an Indian marriage contract and a lavishly illustrated Italian scroll of Esther, which prompted memories of textiles and wallpapers designed by lost family in Europe before the war. It is a very poignant piece given the present situation in Ukraine. This artwork can also be seen in full on our digital platform Luna.
To find out more about the Visual Collections at the Library https://medium.com/special-collections/what-do-we-mean-by-visual-collections-394d2e30963f
With thanks to the artists Kremina Dimitrova, Nicola Dale, Helena Tomlin and Dr Stefani Silvestri.; digital image courtesy of the University of Manchester.