HEAVENS Press Release (2006)

Heavens (2006) at Jewish Museum of Australia
Heavens (2006) at Jewish Museum of Australia

Asher Bilu: Heavens

12 November 06 – 11 February 07
Jewish Museum of Australia
26 Alma Rd, St Kilda Vic

Call it sculpture, or call it painting, Bilu creates visual ecstasies

It is as close as the average person will ever get to the stars. Physical and experiential, Asher Bilu’s installation Heavens inspires a sense of awe, mystery, and profound contemplation. Rather than looking up at a starry night, you are IN the cosmic environment of the heavens, feeling humbled, small, joyous, filled with energy, marvelling at the explosions of light, communing with the energy that is the cosmos. It’s an immersive journey through the heavens, becoming a particle of matter itself. The all-enveloping ceiling to floor installation transports the visitor through a portal into another, spiritual dimension.

Celebrating his seventieth birthday and fifty years in Australia, renowned Israeli-born Australian artist Asher Bilu will create Heavens, a site-specific installation for five galleries across Victoria, opening at the Jewish Museum of Australia in November 2006 and touring in 2007.

“I don’t know of any other contemporary artist in who uses raw material so passionately and transformatively. Asher Bilu steeps himself in matter. He dreams there. When he discovered by accident that a certain resinous paint could be peeled from a non-porous surface, he invented lucid skins of colour which later became totally self-supporting paintings or “sculptures made of paint”. They are remarkable transparencies in space, alive with gestures of automatic writing and layered implications of light.” says fellow artist Heather Ellyard, describing Asher Bilu’s practice. “He strives to come as near as he humanly can to the vastness of earth and sky, to record a reverent appreciation.”

Bilu chooses to deal with abstraction because it provides the freedom to explore the unknown. To paint figuratively, he believes, is to paint what he already knows. To Bilu the language of abstraction is universal as is the language of music. It was music that brought him to art.

“My father chose the violin for me. At the age of 14 I was sent to live on a kibbutz away from the city; my violin became my guardian. I needed it in order to protect my individuality. The more my commitment to music was questioned, the more dedicated I became, to the point where I was ostracised by most of the other members of the kibbutz. I suffered the pain of an outcast.

During army service, I was forced to abandon my violin, something only the army could have made me do. I turned to drawing, and wherever we were, I pulled out a pad and drew whatever I could see. I experienced a new sense of freedom.

By the time I left the army, I had made an absolute commitment to becoming an artist. I started to paint and soon after moved to Australia. As my involvement with painting grew, so music returned to my life. The violin was replaced by the sarod, and making music became a part of painting. I hear music when I paint, and see paintings when I play music.”

Bilu’s talent has enhanced the art-house movies of Paul Cox for more than two decades – Man of Flowers, Cactus, Vincent and more recently, Human Touch. As Cox’s production designer, he has fashioned those gorgeous interiors and provided startling artwork that has been the hallmark of his films.

Of his astonishingly three dimensional work Bilu says, ‘I want to use this language to express the beauty and the mysteries of our existence in an infinite universe of which we are only a small part. Call it sculpture, or call it painting, my aim is to create visual ecstasies. The possibilities seem endless.”

Heavens will be launched by Dr Robyn Williams, science journalist, author and Radio National broadcaster at the Jewish Museum of Australia
Sunday 12 November 2006 at 6pm

For further information contact Mary-Lou Howie on +61 (0)3 9534 0083 or 0401 811 893