Porat’s continuous pursuit is associated with his unsteady, difficult and diverse childhood, his search for Jewish and Israeli identity, his assimilation of past events and family history, as well as of Israeli present and society and his place in them. His standing within several artistic branches – painting, literature, music, and photography – allows him to assemble the special of each, creating a unity of contradictions.
The Kafkaesque figure in Jacob Porat’s series of Kafka paintings stands opposite the closed gate, waiting for it to open. Made of ornate iron or arched stone at the entry to a house or wall, the gate is concrete, realistic, and traceable to specific buildings in Prague. The Kafkaesque figure is part of the gate, swallowed into it, protruding from it or entangled in its twists. However, it is also the metaphorical gate found inside any person as well as in one’s relations with other people and the world. This is a gate, which at the same time blocks the road and a personal gate designated only for the person standing opposite it.
The tall and thin Kafkaesque figure is placed in a huge church space, hovering against colorful vitrage, always conflicting with authority: the Father-God. Yet another extension of the figure is positioned in the space inside a fence-cage, like a culprit in court. This is a conflict between Judaism and Christianity, between man and superior forces that turn a deaf ear, between man and the law enforcing authorities. This conflict is open to additional conflicts and interpretations, which the paintings offer their viewers.
The paintings are a splendid aesthetic expression of a world of nightmares, of frightful dreams becoming concrete, of the encounter between madness and nightmare and the logical, sane, and clear. They manifest art’s exclusive ability to unify conflicts and contradictions, to express lunacy by aesthetic means, and to concurrently depict contradictory situations: terror and beauty, colorful loneliness, styled nightmare, terrestrial hovering, and life growing out of death.
This exhibition is yet another brick in the glorious buildings of paintings inspired by literature and juxtaposing these two realms of art. It is an interpretive, principle confrontation between the worlds of literature and painting, and between the worlds of Kafka and Jacob Porat. However, more than anything else, it is a confrontation with the world of the readers-viewers – their way of deciphering Kafka's works on the background of Prague and their comprehension of Kafka paintings by Jacob Porat.
* From Prof. Nurit Govrin’s address at the opening of “Conversations with Kafka” painting exhibition, Nora Gallery, Jerusalem, 12.5.2001.