Interview with Elias Rubenstein
Your artwork addresses the symbols of Kabbala and Hermeticism. What do you mean by Kabbala and Hermeticism?
Since time immemorial, man has striven to comprehend the essence of God and creation. Kabbala is an ancient tradition handed down from generation to generation from “mouth to ear.” It considers fundamental questions such as the origin of man and the meaning of life as well as the relationship of man to creation and the Creator. The term „Hermetic“ has its roots in Greek mythology and refers to “Hermes,” the messenger of the gods. Hermes is a mediator between mind and matter. The artwork, which references the symbols of Kabbala and Hermeticism, is intended to open an unknown and higher perspective of reality and life to the viewer.
Your artwork also illustrates biblical motifs such as the story of creation. What role does the Bible play for you?
The Bible is a guidepost that, as long as its content is correctly interpreted, can reveal deep wisdom. A few years ago, I initiated projects whose purpose it has been to make historical and mystical writings – such as the entire Zohar – available in German. While doing so, it turned out that the currently available German versions of the Bible are unfortunately extremely flawed translations. The original content of the Bible is comparable to a spiritual seed which, when sown in a fertile field, produces fruits that can satisfy the spiritual hunger of man. Stories and allegories take shape as images in our consciousness. It is exactly this upon which the power of the Bible is based.
Black, white and shades of gray are dominant in your work. Why do you focus on achromatic hues?
This subtle interplay of opposites and their gradations are akin to an unsolvable riddle that challenges the viewer to “cut the Gordian knot.” The greatest challenge in conceptual illustration is the deliberate reduction to the essential or absolute. Black portrays the absence of visible light, while white depicts the reflection of light. Their gradations or nuances are portrayed as gray. Black and white indicate the original polarity. Gray can be interpreted as a mediating element between these two unfettered opposites. Gray also arises from combining two complementary colors. Gray epitomizes the union of duality and therefore relative harmony. As a contrast, white is a metaphor for the highest immaterial matter and black for the deepest material matter.
For his outstanding performances and superb achievements, he has been awarded the university title of an honorary Doctorate and the academic accolade of the honorary senate.
What do you intend to achieve through your work?
Archetypes and symbols constitute the backbone of Kabbala and Hermetic art. They can reveal a yet unknown view of reality through traditional concepts by using language, writing or symbols. An work of art is not essential to human survival; however, it distinguishes man from the animal kingdom. Man has the ability to ponder on and contemplate art, open himself to it and exchange ideas with other people about his impressions.
You are entrepreneur, author and lecturer. How does this relate to your work as a visual artist?
In the same breath, titles are mentioned such as mentor, coach, blogger, enlightener, social critic, teacher or mystic, etc. Amazingly enough, it is common in our society to identify a person with a predefined uniform occupational profile. In my opinion, these classifications are superficial, because each person is unique and fulfills a unique mission. It is of secondary significance what kind of occupation the person may pursue in order to answer his inner call. Provided that the occupation is not pursued only for selfish reasons, but with the intention to contribute something constructive to his fellow human beings, a long-term benefit for society can result.
How do your works of art come into being?
First, the work matures over weeks and occasionally months through meditation and contemplation. Then, it is digitally implemented and printed in limited quantities. Thus, each illustration portrays an aspect of individual self-knowledge.
Where do you see the future of art?
In order to understand the future, it is occasionally useful to consider the past. The beginnings of art originate in spirituality, religiosity and cult. The paintings found in Stone Age caves, in Egyptian pyramids or in sacred places of worship address a kind of spirituality. Numerous historical rulers, who considered themselves leaders of a cult, saw artistic creation as a welcome tool to erect memorials in honor of them and of their respective cults. Only in recent history has an apparent secularization of art taken place. Although this disconnection opened up a new perspective for the arts industry, it often lacks orientation or meaningfulness. Many modern artists pride themselves upon destructive, taboo-breaking or repulsive works of art. The current trend encourages art movements that use art as an instrument to make statements of social criticism or to come to terms with the past or present, as a therapy, for example. It is up to the artist’s comprehension to consider reality either problematic or solution-oriented. Nevertheless, art is capable of conveying a dimension that would otherwise be difficult for humans to experience. Therein, in my opinion, lies the great potential of art.