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You can also contact us by clicking here.He lamed vavniks (or lamed vodniks) are 36 individuals who, unknown to one another, are saving the entire world.
The legend about the lamed-vavniks comes from Talmudic roots. Lamedvavnik is a Yiddish expression that comes from the Hebrew words ‘lamed,’ which means thirty, and ‘vav,’ which means six. The number of righteous persons without whom this world would not exist is thirty-six.
In this time of terrible atrocities I decided that we needed to be reminded of the possibility of ordinary people doing good. I’ve created 36 portraits of everyday people. Ordinary because they don’t have an honorific title like aristocrats, media stars, or sports celebrities, but also special in that every one of them has the power to save the entire world. I was initially surprised to learn that some of these portraits were taken of the same individual at different times. However, I realized that every time I look at them, they are different. They also have the potential to change our world.
They are all gathered together simply because they have been in contact with me. I am the connection. And as a self-imposed condition, I made a picture based on my feelings at the moment, an image that also reflected the issues I raised with them during our conversation. It is ordinary people who keep the world sane. They also help it to sometimes achieve peace. Without them our world would have a darker atmosphere. The Lamed Vavniks are always ‘ordinary’.
The original story is Jewish and all 36 Lamed Vavniks were men. In these days of equality, I have decided to not discriminate and am suggesting that these righteous people are just as likely to be women as men.
In portraits there can be a conflict between the language used to express the individual features and the painterly or drawn expression. These images are a combination of a playful play with pigmented material and responses to those flickering moments we call perception. This is a positive thing. It shows that we are all composites, hybrids, and mixes of all of the influences we’ve received over the years. We also carry the genes of thousands who came before us. It is instinctive to stop moving the paint around and fix the facial features when they appear from the muck of ink, paint and other substances. It is not important to achieve a likeness in terms of verisimilitude, but it is important to get the right feeling tone.
As these faces emerge out of the possibilities that their materials of making them engender, the merge into and out a dance with pigment, water and paper, moving brushes, and pens. Their story is just as much a granular tale about ink and watercolour as it is about sadness, joy, youth, sex, or attitude.
Some people see these images through the lenses and filters they use, while others see criminals.
Their actions could save the world. One small gesture made by one of these people – like a butterfly causing the air to move in its flight – may be the thing that prevents disaster.
We must never know who these people are, they must remain anonymous. This is their power. By being anybody, they are everyone. And everyone must pull their own weight if we want to save our world from the ravages and selfishness of consumerism.
So these people are the possible Lamed Vavniks. Is this one you? Is it the woman you saw waiting for a bus yesterday? Is it your uncle? Is that the person being interviewed by a news reporter? Is that the anonymous soldier in an old photo? We are guilty, we are all in conflict and we are responsible for the destruction our species causes to the Earth. It doesn’t matter if it’s 36, 36,000, or 36,000,000. One act could be enough. It only takes one thing to trigger another act. It starts another process.
I’m in a house near Glasgow, surrounded my the work of an artist I used to know very well. Her portraits are all around me, and I wonder whether I knew any of the people that she drew. I am sure that I did because we both worked in a small city with a small art community. Her drawings are very private and, like many other artists, are more influenced by the mannerisms in her hand than individuality of the sitter. No matter how hard i try, it happens every time i make drawings in response the presence of another human. I try to channel a unique aspect of the person that I meet but, when I look back at the drawings, all I see is me. Perhaps that is the real secret of the Lamed Vavniks. They are all possible versions. We may appear to be good, bad, or bold. We may also appear to be shy. We may look like any version of ourselves that we see in others’ eyes. Sometimes I feel like my voice is a copy of others and my body language is changing as I mimic their movements. Sometimes I’m unconsciously mirroring the shape of a friend and at others I’m consciously blocking the movements of a person I distrust. My boundaries keep shifting, I am a permeable membrane, a hybrid form, parts of myself carried by others, just as I carry others within myself.
Who are We? If we are Lamed Vavniks we would never know, unknownness is a condition of their existence. It is the actions taken by people who do those actions not for profit or individual gain but for the fact that they are simply ‘right’ actions; that lead to these people becoming Lamed Vavniks. They don’t know that they are taking ‘right’ action; their lives unfold in a way that is grace-infused, as if their agency in shaping their lives is infused with grace.The habitual nature of the lives created by grace from God and there but for the grace of God, go I. I’m now confusing a Christian term with a Jewish myth, perhaps a natural consequence of my upbringing. We are all capable Lamed Vavniks. This is why we shouldn’t judge others too harshly as we could find that we are also condemning ourselves.
As I do with every portrait I create, I contradict myself when I paint these portraits. On one hand, I am trying to say that humans are not special and that they are a part the endless complexity that we know is nature or the world. No matter how much I try to see everything else as equally important, I still end up making images of what I am trying to suggest shouldn’t need any more images.
Name them ink, brush, or pigment. Name them sticks, stones, bones, and paper. But never John or Mary or Kevin or Jean or Sally or Michael, or Jim. Avoid Ahmad, Fatima, and Amir. Never use Ezra or Leah. Stay away from Imani or Kwame. Fang, Jing, Yan, and Mehmet are to be avoided. The unknown soldier does not have a name or number. These are Lamed Vavniks and in their anonymous actions they save us all.