Amihai Sharpstein – He created the animal in the image of man/ Dr. Nurit Cederboum
A question is used to make an old joke: “what is the difference between a piano and an elephant?” – it seems that Amihai Sharpstein knows the joke well and even tries to illustrate it in his own way in one of his sculptures. The difference is so clear that no one knows how to answer this question. And then the answer is heard: “The piano can be knocked over [Lehapil in Hebrew] but the elephant [Hapil in Hebrew] cannot be played”. Amihai Sharpstein creates a new reality in each of his works; in one work, where he presents an elephant as one solid mass with the piano linked up to musical notes – he proves that it is possible “to play an elephant” – this is Amihai.
Amihai Sharpstein observes reality, choosing the materials offered by this reality to create a new reality. The materials that reality offers, known as ‘potential materials’ are drawn from three sources: creative materials, the contents that occupy the artist and the materials that arise from the artist’s inner world.
He gathers these materials from his external reality, familiar both to him and to us, and from his own internal reality. He invents and creates a new reality. He believes that these corrected and ordered worldly materials can be deconstructed and reconstructed anew. Perhaps he wants to tell us that the existing order is in fact a sort of chaos into which he would like to introduce a new order. From his viewpoint the world is a reservoir of materials and situations that can be transformed over and over again.
Sharpstein’s work method that embraces traditional ceramics, stonework and free sculpture employs raw materials from the environment, but also includes the integration of traditional techniques in his own special fashion, developing a work style that forms a novel reality in order to make a personal statement. He blends method and languages, creating his own unique language.
Amihai Sharpstein is an autodidact, who has accumulated information and knowledge and experience in order to create his wonderful reality. He creates a new and fantastic reality with echoes of his predecessors’ work, from tribal arts, through decorative arts, to eminent Israeli masters such as Moshe Shek and Rudi Lehman. But these are just echoes and memories, implied citations through which and from which he evolves into his own unique path and language, into his own particular form and narrative.
This is a reality in which accurate and carefully drawn geometric forms encounter organic forms, animal bodies that seem familiar take on human visages, different body parts familiar as belonging to a particular species become fused and transformed into an ‘other animal’.
Unlike the familiar biblical creation on the sixth day: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear”… “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:24-26), Sharpstein allows himself the freedom and the liberty to mix. whereas God divided and separated mammal, reptiles and other earthly animals and finally chose to form “man in our image”. And here (in Sharpstein’s work) man, created in God’s image, assumes the right to lengthen the body of one creature and to extend the neck of another, to shorten the body of yet another and to delete its hump, to cancel the tail of one and to add an additional head and neck. In this manner he creates a personal mythology with his own brand of humor, humanistic warmth and aesthetic form in which structured geometrical sharpness blends with flowing curved organic forms.
Amihai demonstrates intricate and precise work, and although he does not take care to replicate reality, he is exacting and thorough in any reality that he creates. He creates new creatures in such an exact manner, that although you may not know whether man can be created from the animal, yet you do know that man can observe reality and draw physical materials and ideas from it to create something new and other and thus enlarge existing reality.
In the post-modernist reality in which lateral thinking predominates, it is possible to see how Amihai takes something from here and something from there and combines them in his own special way, while he continues to smile and leaves the traces of his smile at the corners of the eyes and lips of his animals – whom he tries to make slightly and to some extent “in our image, after our likeness”, for after all man (who is preferred among the creatures) has this privilege.