Helen Light – HEAVENS Catalogue (2006)


Dr Helen Light AM, Director
Jewish Museum of Australia

In the Torah it is written:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

This was God’s first act of Creation, on the first day of Creation. On the fifth day God created man. God said,
ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו

And this likeness extended to the ability of man and woman to be able to create – to build, to shape our world.

Later in the Bible it is told that, The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: See I have singled out by name Bezalel… I have endowed him with a Divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft… (EX.31:1–10) especially in order to create the Divine sanctuary and the cult objects.

So humankind, in the likeness of the Creator, was gifted with the ability to create objects of art and indeed art itself – not to mimic the natural world but to beautify it.

The artist can create art that challenges our spirits, fills our souls and stretches our minds. Such art can make us look afresh at our world in its wonders and indeed its horrors. Through the creative expression of the artist we are given a glimpse of another person’s imaginative engagement with the world in which we live.

Asher Bilu, in his 70th year, has created his own version of Shamayim, of the Heavens. He is filling our spaces with his vision of the firmaments – lighting the darkness, separating day and night. And like Bezalel the divinely anointed craftsman, Asher has crafted his Heavens with meticulous skill. He has created 42 individually designed and suspended paintings – nets of paint – a medium unique to Asher.

Heavens is such a laden concept. One thinks of the firmament – the greater world of which we are but a speck, or, of the theological after life – the final resting place for the good of this world – ‘heaven’ as opposed to ‘hell’.

Asher Bilu does not engage in this debate. He eschews definitions. He has deliberately left it open to us as visitors. He has created an otherworldly environment that will envelop us physically and spiritually, and that will challenge us to think, to explore and to feel. The experience is designed to take us outside our everyday material world in order to contemplate our own place within the miracle of what is our world. Our reaction is our own.

I am aware that I am placing Asher Bilu’s work within a daunting context, but I do so knowingly. What is remarkable about Asher’s body of work is his dazzling daring. His imagination is boundless. He has never been constrained by physical or material considerations. He has, as now, designed new materials in order to fulfil the demands of his artistic imagination. He constantly creates anew.

The Jewish Museum of Australia is privileged that Asher Bilu has created this new art work specifically in the first instance for installation in our Museum before it begins its journey around Victoria. The Museum is pleased to be able to provide a venue for experiencing such an innovative and challenging work of an artist of such stature.