Painting to the Sound of the Music (VIDEO)
David Asher Brook is a 31 year old artist, living in Sydney Australia with his wife and three children. Growing up, Judaism was a present but peripheral part of David Asher Brook’s life, without any real meaning. Culture played an important role in his youth; together with four close friends he explored Kafka, Be-Bop and Carl Jung, to name a few. Their pursuit for culture and ideas had a role in leading them, strangely, towards Judaism. Today two of those friends are rabbis, two of them are involved in the art world, and David feels stuck in the middle, being loyal both to a Jewish life, and to his own need for self-expression as an artist.
His interest in art started with music, with a guitar. “Music is still a big part of my life, it all seemed to intensify as I got older.” Music brought David to recognize creativity and pursue it in different forms. In high school David requested to enroll in extension art, but he wasn’t the best student and the teachers thought he would muck around. In the end they let him do it and David found himself filling many more canvases than the rest of the class.
David was the only person that he knows of to fail art college, but it was just as well, as he wanted to study in a Yeshivah, and did so for five years, coming out with Rabbinic ordination.
Inspired by Australian artists in his home country as well as Chassidic art greats, David has a wide variety of work, including figurative and abstract depictions of life in progress. David spends time delving into more figurative chassidic/Jewish work before returning to abstract, only to move back to Jewish themes again. Music and movement play a strong role in his work. He is not limited to one medium or process, seeing buildings, walls and even the human body as a ready canvas. David explores the boundaries of styles with stop motion video, combining painting, music and performance art into one.
To David, music is in the realm of emotions, and ideas/stories are in the mind/intellect, but art borrows from both realms, so a painting can appeal both in an aesthetic/intellectual sense and in an emotional sense. “If you achieve that, then you have made a good painting.” And made a good painting he has; David has a long list of solo and group shows that he has displayed in, including my own “Chassidim of Color” show in Brooklyn last year.
One of David’s strongest moments as an artist is when he is live painting, either up on a stage accompanying a band, waving his brushes to the beat of the music, or out on the street capturing the scenes around him, taking in the energy of the moment and being one with the experience. To David this is being alive and the immediacy of the live painting sessions brings out his best work better and quicker than he can do alone in his studio.
David is an inspiration to different elements of the Jewish community in Sydney, the observant can see someone who is committed to his Jewish heritage and a successful artist at the same time. To the wider community it is intriguing to see a Chassidic Jew who breaks the seeming stereotype of religious single-mindedness and paints live on stage with a rock band, tzitzis swinging, paint brush in one hand and beer in the other.
David sees that times are changing in the Jewish community. People need more creativity, that’s what they are looking for, and Jewish institutions, schools and individuals need to harness creativity to share and spread their message. If they can find a bridge between these two realms then they have reached people in a way that otherwise can not be done.
What is Jewish art to David?
“Art is not black and white, and this makes ideas about painting interesting and controversial. Obviously subject matter alone does not make it Jewish art. Chaim Soutine was a Jewish painter, although he did not paint shtetels, however I find that his application of paint, his sensibilities are very Jewish, he could not escape that.”
David has a strong need to paint because he finds meaning in his life through painting; he says that his inner happiness is determined by his creative life. His art has the potential to enhance his religious experience; “I think with any living relationship there has to be emotions. And I find it challenging to have ongoing feelings purely through being religious.” So David paints to stay inspired and make sense of his world; in his own words, “I paint because it keeps me sane.”
To see David in action, click below.
David’s work can be seen on his website here