Gina Rotem – Jerusalem, Israel

2003 1 (640x615) - Copy

Oil on Canvas 2003

Briefly describe the work you do

I started my artistic carrier as a ceramist, experimenting with clays and glazes in my Abu Tur studio in Jerusalem. The useful dimension of art in life attracted me, but I was also inspired by the clay as a medium for abstract expression.

I discovered drawing in the early 80’s; brushes and paints followed. Soon, painting became my tool par excellence. Not without inner struggles, though. Preparing a new canvas is an anxious anticipation of what will appear on it, but many of my canvas are layers of deletions, quietly waiting for their “day”. Some see such a “day,” when instinct confirms that a given painting is complete.

I don’t think of meaning when I am at work, though it seems to filter through my paintings in some independent ways. An added value, perhaps. For the most, I only want to access composition which I bring to a point of balance: tones, colours and intended or random shapes.

Oil paint is my preferred material: its slow, rich, thick texture is a treasure of untold aspects of darkness, clarity and of light… and it naturally switches on my state of mind to creation mode. This said, I also work with water colours, often challenging white and black to take the responsibility of the painting. Ecoline inspires my hand to create shapes beyond will. Acrylics, collage, or gluing bits and pieces of waste objects on paintings in order to give them a new task, every medium is an occasion for reflection and exploration. Sometimes I feel the need to quote a writer or a poet on my paintings, or to interpret a photo that stroke me in a daily newspaper.

2006, Water paint on paper

2006, Water paint on paper

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist. 

I went through WWII as a little girl, therefore my painting bears visible Shoah scars, even though I am mostly unaware of these influences.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

I’m lucky to own a spacious studio where I can isolate myself at wish in order to paint. The studio protects my inner world, there I can be fully myself and process my thoughts, feelings, memories to let them serve art. Far from toiling, even the most challenging work is an easing, progressive realization of my creative urge.

Going to my studio becomes quite an expedition at my age, but I do try to stick to a working schedule and carry on achieving what still calls for expression…

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisaged yourself in when you first started making art?

You know, at this time in my life, all becomes more questionable and relative, but I do hope my paintings activate something valuable in the viewer, whether she/he be an art amateur or an artist.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?

I usually arrive in the studio late in the morning and work during three to four hours. Depending on my condition, I go there at least twice a week.

1999, Oil on canvas

1999, Oil on canvas

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

Well, the pace slows down, brushes become heavier… and my eyes see differently. I try to take advantage of it and apply colours with new intensities, with combinations and superpositions I have not yet used. These days I’m mostly observing what fruits can still yield the art I was entrusted with… Whether or not it is going to be a next breakthrough, time will tell.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

The beautiful studio in the industrial area of Jerusalem (Talpiot) I’ve been enjoying in the past ten years or so, is my sons’ gift. My painting took a new turn since I moved into these propitious surroundings.

Israeli painters, my friends, Hedi Trajan and Anatol Basin, had a profound impact on my later expression, they encouraged and confirmed my further endeavours.

The unique abstract style of Moshe Kupferman’s painting was a revelation that fostered my knowledge and skills in a similar direction; my early paintings reflect my admiration of his talent.

My literary studies and love for literature made me integrate quotes of some of my preferred authors into my paintings (Italo Calvino, Amos Oz, Yoel Hoffman, Stephan Zweig…).

The demands I have from myself in painting are perhaps best illustrated by what I read in The Way of Zen: “One of the most striking features of the Sung Landscapes (959-1279) is the relative emptiness of the picture, an emptiness which appears however to be part of the painting and not just unpainted background. By filling in just one corner, the artist makes the whole area of the painting alive, what Zen sometimes calls playing the stringless lute. The secret lies in knowing how to balance form with emptiness and above all in knowing when one has said enough.” (Alan W. Watts)

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

I wanted to be a model when I was very young, but I mainly loved to learn – have studied compared literature, philosophy and even medicine at some point.


image2 8a (640x430)Gina was born in Poland, works and lives in Jerusalem. She began to paint relatively late in life. First involved in ceramics, she soon gained recognition in the field.

When she turned to abstract painting, it was first to deal with her Shoah memories. From the beginning (early 80’s) her paintings clearly reflect her intensity and the amazing ability to convey her emotional world, challenging the viewer. Gina’s style changed in the course of time, from abstract to more figurative and the importance of the subject became secondary. However, constant throughout her work is the inspired certainty of her steps as she reaches straight for the essence, without hesitation.

Her colours are often dark, warm and intimate. When light emerges, it arrests and awes.

Gina presented several solo exhibitions in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv (Israel) and in Krakow (Poland). She also participated in many group exhibitions, among others in Virginia (US), in Jerusalem at the National Biennial for Sketching (2007). She benefited from the fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 1992 and in 1997 (Mt. St Angelo, Virginia).

The renown Polish Jewish documentary film maker Agnieszka Arnold made a film about Gina’s remarkable art (2015, soon to be screened).



2003, oil on canvas



All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 


About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
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1 Response to Gina Rotem – Jerusalem, Israel

  1. Your work is beautiful. One can definitely feel intense emotion and feelings in your work.

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