An article from Marek Yanai’s catalogue, Ma’ayanot Gallery, September 2004, Jerusalem
This catalogue presents works painted by Marek Yanai in the last twenty years. Yanai is a craftsman par excellence of figurative painting and his work reflects meticulous painterly craft that awakens a feeling of truth in the vieweras a result of its clear affinity to reality. The most common themes in his work are landscape, interiors, still life, nude figures and portraiture. The artistis endowed with outstanding technical ability acquired in some of the main institutionsof figurative painting in Europe, Real Academia de BellasArtes de San Fernando in Madrid, The Museum of the History of Art in Vienna, and also from a profound knowledge of the methods of the Old Masters,his paintings aredistinguished by their precision.These paintings, often reminiscent the works of 17th century Dutch painters, are not the result of an idealistic and classical approach to the description of reality but rather the result of detailed observation which produces precise depiction of the objects and their details.
At first glance, Yanai’s paintings seems to have nothing special taking place in them, on the face of it, they present the permanent and the absolute. However, further and more discerning observation reveals their essential character: impressions and qualities of mystery and the cryptic whose subject is beyond the superficiality of reality and its matter. By his detailed observation, the artist achieves comprehension of the transient, the elusive, the transforming of reality, thus the viewer is obliged to a more strict, prolonged period of observation andto ‘surrender himself’ in order to try to decipher their secrets.
Each genre of Yanai’s works has its particular characteristics. In his landscapes, the observing experience and the emotional baggage of the views are revealed. The tempo of shapes in the view determine the structure of the work perpetuated in meticulously and seriously placed lines one next to the other with severity, there are no unnecessary marks in Marek’s work and there are no empty gestures. These lines merge into delicate colors that reflect the experience of looking directly at the landscape. In some of the landscapes, the golden light on the houses bonds with the mountains in the background, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and harmony,and in others long brushstrokes of strong color emphasize the power of the steep slopes, that clashwith white spaces of the paper, giving the painting an expressionist element. The qualities of the landscape are expressed by the power of color and the way it is applied.
The usual subjects of interiors, light and shadow playing on the steps, walls, windows, shelves, books and furniture, become pictures that evoke amazement. As if unique views were revealed through the eyes of the artist, that no-one would see except through him,in reality and in the context of the day to day. In empty rooms that the viewer peers into (he is not part of them), there are hidden things of great significance. There are instances where exterior and interiors merge in the painting: through a window open onto a Mediterranean landscape of bright colors, the sun’s rays penetrate and bathe the interior. The strong midday light strikes the wall and the room is lit with expressive diagonal rays: the struggle between light and shade make each item unique and different fromits usual appearance.The sensitivity of the description and the quality of light remind one of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings: some are instilled withthe appearance of power but at the same time not perceived. In the rooms described, the light exposes the surface of the objects, and the focus on the object and its qualities intensifies it, but at the same time emphasizes a feeling of isolation of the object in the emptiness around it.
This is also the case in the artist nude figure painting.
Marek makes an artist’s empathetic statement on the human condition.
In conclusion, Marek’s portraiture, and in particular the facial contours of his paintingof his friends: in these paintings the finesse of his perception, the sensitivity and faithfulness to the design of the subject, and the sharpness of his understanding of the figures represented, thecomplexity of their personalities, they are more precise than may be captured in photograph. The style of the portraiture changes in accordance with the personality of the subjects. There are those described withrestraint by the use of serious and respectable colors applied with delicate brushstrokes that are hardly perceived, and there is the figure described by quick contours of great power and using expressionist colors. The nature of the figure is perceived through the eye of the artist and through hisbrush, through sharp observation and a rapid understanding, these works are characterized by quick painting. The artist completes the painting in one sitting, which implies advancing the positioning of the lines that most characterize the subject andimbue an expressive power to the figures. Yanai’s portraiture is wonderfully descriptive in spite of the sparsity of lines in comparison with the plethora of precise details that distinguish his painting of nude figures. The strength of the painter’s feelings for the figure sitting before him is clearly represented in the painting and the manner of its creation, as is the artist’s personal style.