Though he has never met him, the painter Shy Abady has been trying for years to understand the image of Vaslav Nijinsky. These days, Abady is presenting an exhibition based on the works of the revolutionary Russian dancer.
Shy Abady has been dancing with Vaslav Nijinsky for years. The painter, 43 years old, is presenting these days in Tel-Aviv's Opera House his third exhibition on this theme, as homage to the legendary dancer, who died 59 years ago at the age of 60. The exhibition, "The Revolution that Danced", appears at an appropriate moment – this coming May the 100 year anniversary of the Ballets Russes's first performance with Nijinsky as its soloist, will be celebrated. The Russian dance company has been considered revolutionary because it was a meeting point for very young talents from different fields of the arts, who performed together on one stage: Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Pablo Picasso, and Coco Chanel are only some of the names, who worked and created with the Company along the years. This was made possible thanks to the originality and the creativity of the director and the impresario of the Company, Sergei Diaghilev.
Abady, who returned to Israel two and a half months ago after a long stay in Germany, has been torn throughout the years between his love for painting and dance. During his military service he danced with Yaron Margolin in Jerusalem, but after the army he preferred to study art in "The Hamidrasha" art school. When he completed his education, he resumed his classic and modern dance studies at "Bikorei Haitim" in Tel Aviv. "But in the end plastic art won," he says. He learned about the achievements of Nijinsky and Diaghilev through close observation during the 90s when he began working at the Israeli Dance Library, which was at the time directed by the late poet and writer Radu Klapper. "What Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes created in Europe is unbelievable; they had a passion that was unfamiliar in those times. The combination and corporation between writers, poets, and visual artists was amazing and indicated a very rich spiritual world. Though these were the early days of the silent movie, Nijinsky and Diaghilev quite wisely refused to document themselves through the new medium and thus preserved the myth".
Disappointment in Paris- Abady started to work on drawings of Nijinsky. "In a period of a year I created 15 works and it wasn't enough for me," he recalls. The first exhibition, "From Reality to Myth – Nijinsky" included figurative paintings of Nijinsky" from different dance scenes " alongside more abstract works that followed his mental deterioration (Nijinsky was hospitalized during most of his adult life). The exhibition was opened in 1995, and the opening evening was accompanied by a dance of Emanuel Gat and Miki Homa. In 1998 he presented a second exhibition, "Anatomy of Myth," in the Jerusalem Theater. That series dealt with the complexity of Nijinsky as a dancer. "He was a virtuoso of classic ballet, who mastered the long and round movement's characteristic of this tradition, but parted ways replacing it by broken and lingering movements. The paintings, consisting of nonconventional materials, represented Nijinsky as a fading image, sometimes appearing faceless, reinforcing his presence as a myth. "The image in the paintings turns to an unidentifiable representation", explains Abady. The work actually tries to capture Nijinsky's spirit and not the specific details of his face.
In 2000, Abady was awarded a scholarship and travelled to Paris. At the time of his arrival, a group exhibition of portraits of Nijinsky was being planned. "I came to the Paris Opera House and showed the curator the two exhibitions. She was highly exited to see them, and I thought that I was about to conquer half of Paris… After some time she informed me that she cannot include my works in the exhibition, because the exhibit was dedicated to artists, who drew Nijinsky in the nineteen twenties".
In recent years, Abady has been spending time in Berlin, and in 2005 he presented in the Jewish museum of Frankfurt his portrait exhibition "Hannah Arendt Project". The exhibition dealt with the image of the philosopher Hannah Arendt, and was later presented in the Jerusalem Artist's House. "The Revolution that Danced", his new exhibition, consists of six works: one from the series "From Reality to Myth- Nijinsky", four from "Anatomy of Myth", and one, a new work, that was created in memory of Radu Klapper (the Director of the Dance Library), who passed away two years ago. The latter series includes ten works on wood created by electric etching and is about to be presented as a separate exhibition in the coming months.
What would he have asked Nijinsky if he had met him? "There are two parts in his life, the realistic part and the mythical part when his image becomes detached from a realistic meaning. I think I would have just liked to meet him or simply to see him dance or jump. Though he died fifteen years before I was born, I know him through his dance, the cerography and diaries".
Connecting Point Can parallels be drawn between plastic art and dance? "There are many moments in the history of art that combine painting and movement, and of course there's the more basic point that elements like movement and space are very important in both fields. There have been painters and artist groups that emphasized this point more than others, like the Futurists at the beginning of the twenty century mostly in Italy. There have been other artists that dealt with movement such as Jackson Pollock with his "action painting", where the body and the way the color is thrown have an essential part in the creation. Or Yves Klein, who during the sixties smeared color on naked models and then had them press their bodies against large sheets of paper to the rhythm of music. With me the story is a bit different; along the years I was dancing and I loved very much to dance while continuing my work in painting. When I encountered the hypnotizing presence of Nijinsky and started to draw him, his image became an intriguing meeting point between my love for painting and dance. "In 'Anatomy of a myth' the emphasis on the movement was already very significant and central, and the interaction among the real-size works created a semi dance dynamic. Dance is ephemeral. It is in the moment and its product exists in the body of the dancer, in apparent opposition to painting, which has a touch of eternity and survives much longer than its creator. As far as I am concerned both actually have a touch of eternity, when they are made with devotion, faith, and talent like every good art, and the example for this is Nijinsky.