Next – Project
An artistic response to
CHAGALL: Printmaking, Poetry, Public Art
07 June – 10 December 2023
Jewish Museum of Australia
26 Alma Road, St Kilda 3184
Melbourne, Victoria Australia
The Jewish Museum of Australia commissioned Yvette Coppersmith, the renown Melbourne-based contemporary artist, to realise an artistic response to the CHAGALL exhibition in the Museum’s contemporary gallery space. It was the artist’s first institutional solo show in many years and also launched the Museum’s new Contemporary Australian Art Commission series.
“Carnelian presents various aspects of my practice linked through a thematic use of colour. The walls have been painted with a shade named ‘Carnelian’, like that of the walls of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg in the country of Marc Chagall’s birth, in what was then the Russian Empire. Russia was a home to pre-war Jewish life that was the nucleus for Chagall’s creative spirit.
Many of the works in the exhibition take inspiration from Bella Chagall, a writer, also wife and muse of Chagall, whose life was shaped by the struggle of women in the twentieth century to have an independent creative and professional existence. To Chagall, she was the embodiment of Jewish Russia, and throughout their exile remained a living connection for his creative life. Bella’s memoir ‘Burning Lights’ creates an insight into this lost world.
The resemblance of my self-portraits to Bella Chagall has meant my work speaks to the specific relationship of artist and muse in ways beyond what I planned. The romantic spirit conveyed through costumes and flowers is important in my practice as both artist and muse.
Viewing my practice in the context of the Jewish Museum of Australia, alongside a major twentieth century Jewish artist, is an opportunity to reflect on my own cultural influences. How does my work resonate with the past, while being formed by my own lived experiences as a Melbourne-born artist growing up in a Yiddish speaking pocket of the Jewish community?
Among many things the ancient gemstone Carnelian is known for, it is an artist’s stone; its warmth of colour facilitating creativity, passion and true expression.”
– Yvette Coppersmith, 2023
Yvette Coppersmith’s Carnelian is the Jewish Museum of Australia’s inaugural Contemporary Australian Artist Commission, made possible with the generous support of Daniel Besen.