The Art of Overwhelmed Heart : Michael Rogatchi and His Zion Waltz series

by Irina Lazarev (C)

 May 2017

Shabbat Shalom newspaper, 5/2017

The new series of the artist is felt as quite close to me because of its spirituality, the mood transcended by the art work, and that peculiar musicality of the Rogatchi’s works. Indeed, every single work in the Zion Waltz series as if filled with sounding music.  These works are as if breathing. They are living their own life. The joy provided by these art works is certainly not just of an aesthetic character. These works are evoking one’s thoughts, they are awakening and igniting one’s imagination. Those works are inviting their viewer for a journey. Where to? What is the destination? I will try to understand it.

Here is the Rogatchi’s Jewish Melody. Huge circle of a moon as if being drunk with the sound of melancholic music; against it there is a moving figure of the violinist who stays firmly on the weightless feature of inspiration. The artist uses just two main colours in this work, blue and yellow, but how many shadows of those colours the artist did manage to get onto his canvas. One gets the impression of not simply hearing music from that canvas, but gets the sensation of the music getting more and more volume, filling all the space of the work – and beyond it.  

The other work, Under the Jerusalem Skies, provides the other kind of melodic sensation. This bright and intense in colour work as if filled by light through and through. It gives to each of us a possibility to see the ancient and eternal Jerusalem through our individual lenses. In front of this work, we have a luxury of imagining our each’ own Jerusalem looking at this superbly intricate art.

Among the other works, Zion Waltz, the title work of the series, is very original and powerful, both in the idea and its realisation. The artist created two doves, with their wings being interplayed into the David Star in a fine harmony; an accordion player is sitting on his shaky stool, and you have sensation of being completely inside that special world of touching and never-ending Chassidic niguns.

Simcha ( Joy) diptych could be seen as the work build on contrast, from the first impression on the composition. While the man’s figure is super-energetic and is striking in its freeze on the peak of the frantic movements of a dance of joy, the woman figure is so incredibly gentle; her weightless being is floating over the entire world. But soon you are getting the harmony of those two figures put by the artist together in his incredibly impressive diptych. You can see this harmony in the meaning which Michael has put behind his characters, in their both’ so palpable intention to get into the light, into the joy, to be happy.

 The work Ljuli-Ljiuli. Lullaby is simply stunning. Its personages are getting to one’s heart directly and in no time. The musician there is hugging his violin and also his most precious treasure in his life, his wife and their baby. The father’s chin does not pressed onto a violin in would be expected motion, but his head and all his attention in this world is turned to his baby who is sleeping peacefully under the sounds of his father’s lullaby. There are some critics’ opinions on this work that we are talking on modern classic here. I cannot agree more on that.

Michael Rogatchi (C). Liuli-Liuli. 2016.

From My Grandmother’s Song canvas, we are as if hearing those dear to so many of us Yiddish songs known by us by heart since our early childhood. Here is white-snowed little goat over a child’s cradle; here is little hen, and there is dreaming cow, all of them are coming from this work of Michael along with familiar, dear scent of our childhood. This scent is spread over one’s family home, and it infuses into itself one’s family, parents, extended family, the entire Jewish people. We all are there, on that canvas.

And the people, all of us, is the theme and heroes of yet another work from the series, The Way of Jewish People.  Millions of stars there are striving towards the Window of Knowledge, towards our Tablets. And you are hearing inside yourself the words of the morning prayer: “ And I will make your successors as many, as stars in the heaven and as sand on the sea shore”.

This is my personal perception of the Michael Rogatchi’s new art series. There is no doubt in my mind that everyone would find something personal among those engaging works, and certainly something purifying and uplifting, as well.

 There are also a couple of Michael’s recent works which are not the part of the series but it is important to reflect upon them, too. These works are Kiddush and No Place for Wagner. Both works belong to the notable art collections in London, both were created by Michael for his friends, well-known people in the world Jewry, the former long-term chairman of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue Mr Stanley Simmonds and famous Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, the senior Rabbi of the same synagogue and internationally renowned cantor, the leader of The Shabbaton Choir.  

Michael’s wife Inna Rogatchi shared with us their recent memories with regard to those two special works: “The Marble Arch Synagogue known also as the World Jewry’s London Address had been over-packed at the moment when Michael entrusted his Kiddush art work to the community long-standing chairman, our good friend Stanley Simmonds. Despite so many people present, at the moment of the work’s handing, there was a complete silence within the Synagogue. And the silence had been very warm one. Everybody has admired the work which has been placed in the big Synagogue Hall for several days, so people could see in it detail and from a close distance.

Another work which has find its new London address recently is No Place for Wagner which Michael has created for our dear friend, Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld known also as a Singing Rabbi and the leader of the famed Shabbaton choir. Rabbi Lionel is the Senior Rabbi of the London Western Marble Arch Synagogue, the one where Lord Rabbi Sacks was working at for many years before coming the chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, and where he still administrates the High Holidays every year. Talented musician, courageous and brilliant man, and fantastic Rabbi, Lionel has mentioned that “this work’s title weights more for me than some ten other paintings”. Both the Rabbi and his family just love this work of Michael’s, and its meaning, too”.

In the Autumn 2017, Michael and Inna Rogatchi are planning their joint exhibition at the premises of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London; the exhibition will be dedicated to the High Holidays.

It is important to note that Michael Rogatchi has created his new Zion Waltz series thinking on two important jubilees in the modern Jewish history, the 50th anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem in 2017, and the 70th anniversary of the Independence of the State of Israel in 2018.

This year, the government of Israel has decided that the honour of the lighting the one of the torches at the ceremony during the Independence Day would be given to the representative of Diaspora, for the first time in the history of Israel.  Dr Hannu Takkula, the leading Finnish Member of the European Parliament, who is well-known for his long-standing support of Israel, did officially nominated Michael Rogatchi as the candidate for lighting the torch.

 In his Nominating Letter to the Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev and the Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols, MEP Dr Takkula wrote the following: “All his life Michael Rogatchi has devoted to glorifying the Jewish people in the global scale; glorifying the Jewish people’s joint past, present and future. Michael’s art works portraying the Jewish world has been shown all over the world. His philanthropy supporting various Jewish causes, as in Israel, as in Diaspora, is continuing for thirty years. In anything he creates and does in his international artistic career and his charitable activities, Michael always is led by the most important for him principle, his unquestionable love for Israel and its people. Quoting the world famous Jewish artist and philanthropist, chairman of The Rogatchi Foundation, Michael Rogatchi, “the main quality of Jewish people is our togetherness”. This is exactly the line which has been chosen by the respected Ministerial Committee as the main criteria for the choosing the candidate from Diaspora to light the torch at the Independence Day ceremony”.  

 What one can add to this description of an artist, a man, a Jew? Maybe, just this: however huge is an artist’s contribution into a cultural heritage of his people, the main value of any kind of art is its impact on a human being. If an artist’s works makes one to think, if it provides nourishment for one’s mind and heart it means that it has been not created for nothing. 

I entitled the story about the Michael Rogatchi’s newest art series thinking about Pushkin and his poem about overwhelmed heart. For great Russian poet, the reason for creating his immortal verses was a different one. As for me, I feel the similar emotions many years and centuries later: the heart beats up, it is overwhelmed with the feelings of uplifted emotions. The feelings which were numbed to some degree by the daily routine are reborn. And this all has been happening due to the new series by Michael Rogatchi and his images, his Zion Waltz. Is such impact not the main value of the new success of this great modern master?.. It surely is.

Irina Lazarev (C)

May 2017