15 Apr 2010

Two Israeli Artists, Two Worlds of Arts (6)

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

This week I interviewed two painters, the other male member of the Israeli Artists Group of Toronto, Meni (Menachem) Conen, and Shoshana Strigberger.  Here is the English version of the article. You can also read the PDF version of the article, as well as download the entire paper from Shalom Toronto’s site (this week the paper published only the English version).

Two Israeli Artists, Two Worlds of Art (Part 6)
By Moshe Mikanovsky
Shalom Toronto, April 15, 2010

The Israeli Artists Group of Greater Toronto brings together Israeli artists in different disciplines of visual arts, to work, socialize and enhance the Israeli and Jewish culture in Toronto. In this series of articles, we will open a window to some of our artists who live and work in our midst.

As we are getting closer to the group’s 2nd annual art show celebrating Jerusalem Day, I first interviewed painter Meni (Menachem) Conen, whose work to these days is entwined with images of the old city. Meni was born in Israel before the state’s independence, and throughout his childhood emerged as the artistic go-to, at school, youth movement and everywhere he went. He started learning painting as grade 8 student, and continued throughout high school and his army service at the Air Force, which gave him opportunities to be exposed to art.

Meni Arches in Jerusalem

Meni Conen, Arches In Jerusalem, Watercolours, 15”x22”

Following his university graduation, Meni worked at an architecture office, where he fell in love with model building, one of the more practical art forms. He then applied and was accepted to a program in Industrial Design and Model Making in Munich, and after completing his studies, he opened a studio in Israel for design and model construction. He loved the work, but the difficult economic situation in Israel forced him to close the shop and work for others as an industrial designer. In 1987 Meni immigrated to Canada, and till today he divides his life between the industrial design work – prototype and model -making, and product design – and the artwork, mainly painting in watercolours and acrylics, but also working with other media such as oils, pastels, woodcarving, aluminum sculpting, photography and digital art.

I asked Meni what inspires his artwork, seeing the varied subject matters, from Old Jerusalem alleys to some typical Canadian lakeshore landscapes. “Most of my life I lived in Israel” Meni told me, “and the old cities views with their special light, is still my most favorite subject. Since I came to Canada, I found that I am also interested in the landscapes, with its strong fall colours, and winter’s filtered and soft light, the snow and breathtaking sunsets. When I create in two dimensional media, such as painting or photography, I am always searching an interesting subject and point of view. As a painter I have the freedom to change – ignore irrelevant things, improve and enhance colours, add or subtract in a way that feels the best. I find that my artistic creation gave me better tools to see and appreciate life and the world around me”.

Meni Safed

Meni Conen with his painting “Safed”

Meni is one of the senior members of the Israeli Artists Group of Toronto, joining shortly after its inception in 1992. Since then he participated in organizing many of its activities, such as art shows, workshops and seminars, and visiting guest artists. Meni was also the group’s president for several years. In addition, he participated in many art shows such as with the Art Academy of Netanya, the Toronto Watercolour Society, and couple of two-artists shows.

Next, I met with painter Shoshana Strigberger. Shoshana was born in Sighet, Romania. At nine years old, her family moved to Israel, where she spent the majority of her adolescent life. Shoshana loved Israel for its array of landscapes which were so much different than the ones in Romania.  From the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the sacred mountains in Jerusalem, Shoshana often found herself sketching the scenery surrounding her.  Becoming an artist was not especially encouraged in her family. Her parents said: “One has to go to school and learn a useful trade.  You cannot make a living being an artist…” And so, eventually, she became a teacher.

In 1970, Shoshana moved to Canada, and when her children were older and in school, she decided to finally explore her talents as an artist. She enrolled at Central Tech School of Art and the Ontario College of Art and Design, and also took many workshops with various teachers. Learning sculpture, ceramics and painting and although enjoying working in all these areas, painting was the one she especially liked and have been doing for more than fifteen years.  Shoshana works mainly in acrylics and oil and mixed media. As she told me, “I like colour and flexibility and my work is a testament to that. As a world traveler, I was influenced by artists, such as Cezanne, Gaugin, DeKooning, and Kandinsky to name a few.  My work is expressive and  free.” I can attest to that, as her paintings, both of landscapes and nudes, are full with expressive colours and sensual shapes, drawing you to them like a magnificent colourful magnet.

Shoshana Strigberger, Figure, Oil on canvas, 33”x43”

Shoshana Strigberger, Figure, Oil on canvas, 33”x43”

“My philosophy is very simple:”, she continues, “I don’t like perfection.  Imperfection is “perfection”. Also, artists should paint what stirs them, and if they want to do what they see without a message, that is okay too.  My main interest is movement of the subject.  Even something static is in motion, and I like to capture that.”

Shoshana Strigberger with her painting “Memory #2”

Shoshana Strigberger with her painting “Memory #2”

Since 1996 Shoshana exhibited at various galleries including The Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery (Unionville) juried exhibitions, The Canadian Sculptor Centre of Toronto, The Mill Pond Gallery (Richmond Hill), The Praxis Gallery (Toronto) and The Market Gallery (Toronto).

Meni’s art can be viewed on the Israeli Artists Group of Toronto http://israeliartistsgroup.com/meni_conen/. To contact Meni please call 416-636 0842 or send an email to menideb@sympatico.ca

Shoshana’s paintings can be viewed at her studio by appointment. To contact Shoshana please call 905-886-6979 or send an email to shoshana@striglaw.com

Both Meni and Shoshana will be participating in the Israeli Artists Group show in May 13-16 at the MacDonald House, 121 Centre Street, Thornhill. Come to meet them and the rest of the group’s artists at the show opening night, Thursday, May 13th, between 6 to 9pm. For more information please visit www.IsraeliArtistsGroup.com

Moshe Mikanovsky is a member of the Israeli Artists Group of Greater Toronto (moshe@mikanovsky.com, www.mikanovsky.com)

artists intervew shalom toronto meni and shoshana

Artists Interview, English

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