Shades of different worlds

There was a time when I wanted to approach the paintings of an oriental artist in an unbiased way, and I found myself bouncing against a Western facade. I remember that the tangible subjects of the paintings kept me on the dazzling surface, so I applied Pythagorean orientation markers to orientate myself and to get an access to the East and instead, he places skilfully painted fugues in subdued colours before me. It could well be that these strictly composed sets served as his own orientation markers, when he left Tel Aviv at the end of the sixties to settle in England. But it is also possible that David Kandalkar – from England – wished to detach himself from his Dadaistic mentor Marcel Janco by using rational counterpoints. Later on I limited my perspective to only discern the constructionalist painter in the oriental and I followed his strict pictorial syntax; whenever I stopped watching I suddenly heard the warm sounds of the Tablas in front of the Gateway to India. In the grey and rainy winter colours I snatched a glimpse of shining saffron yellow. The scent of Curry and Patchouli – the sensual memories of David Kandalkar’s childhood in Bombay – blended with the smell of his Players No. 6.

As I discovered India, I thought that I could also decipher Mosaic messages in the works of David Kandalkar, the Jew. I searched for images of his imageless, orthodox education. As much as his works evoked the sound of a soft Tablas, I tried to listen for Hebrew temple songs in them. Yet, David Kandalkar, over and above of every denomination, has silenced them all and overpainted the Haggadah with many layers of colour. Hence, what keeps breaking through is the sun of Israel, the drunken sky-blue colour of Galilee, the scorched earth of the children’s village of Meir Shefeya, the self-confident chants of the Hadassah, the gleaming, golden dunes of the sparsely – it is also the colour with which David Kandalkar struggles emotionally and to express powerful gestures.

After David Kandalkar, the artist, traced back the way from Switzerland over England and Israel to India together with me I was convinced to be able to interpret his yearnings. Still, he concealed the key to the interpretation from me, creating a series of paintings with organic amorphous subjects. His drawback into a wondrous microcosm had slightly psychedelic features – he shot dancing slipper and sun animalcules under my cerebral cortex and let subtle giant amoeba explode. David Kandalkar, the artist of the theatres of Haifa and Tel Aviv, set up his microscopic stage with affection and meticulosity – he painted, scrawled and dotted his cellular creations in his unique manner of using oil and ink and implemented tools and techniques that he had tried out in the studios of Moshe Mokadi and Johanan Simon.

I am not at all surprised that David Kandalkar, the cosmopolite, today uses various gateways to arrive at his destination where the shades of his differing worlds form a network. The street musicians’ play of the Tabla harmonizes with the fugue. The oriental sensuality is hold in check by rational subjects – sometimes there are grids, sometimes diagonal or horizontal bars. The vegetative forms of his creations become part of a landscape designed to perfection. Within this field of tension between emotion and reason, the artist steps across the dimension of time. Again and again, a free, broad stroke of the brush crosses his gardens of images. This gesture of a metronome offsets the timelessness. Or is it rather his inner oscillation between emotion and reason?

A triptych opens up in front of me – it is the key painting to understand David Kandalkar’s pictorial synthesis. Out of the deep black background heavy colours fall towards me. Due to the subtle brush-work and the sophisticated spraying technique, the acrylic application loses its usual touch of plastic and seems to breathe through pores. A peculiar colour atmosphere dominates the inscrutable altar. The right wing takes up the composition of the left wing, but the reflection is more atmospheric than geometric. The individual layers develop into a graduated depth effect, as if imaginary filters would delimit all the shades of differing worlds lying on top of each other. And time ticks over the whole thing in a spiral dynamic force. Sometimes David Kandalkar, the sceptic, makes it easy for us to see some of the shades of his differing worlds he has already left behind. He lets the viewer’s look through a small lens floating over the surface of the painting and focusses obsolete forms of words. Next to the lens often stands a square window; yet, the view is cloudy, what is left behind fades into vague memories.

David Kandalkar, the seeker of truth, is certainly going to leave this world as well to explore new shades of worlds. «Abstract art comes out of the virtual disappearance of the recognizable» he explained to me – probably well knowing, that there is never only one truth behind what is recognizable.

Yves Schumacher