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New Exhibition: EPICENTRE

Ein Sof Gallery unveils a new exhibition featuring paintings by artist Philip Firsov. EPICENTRE is about the search for Jerusalem and the consequences of preserving Jewish identity.

Curator: Aurelie Freoua

Exhibition: 16th June 2024 – 31st August 2024

Chabad Islington Jewish Community Centre & Ein Sof Gallery

1-3 Elliott’s Place

London, N1 8HX​

Philip Firsov is a British painter and sculptor of Russian origin. Born in Moscow, into a family of two Russian composers, Elena Firsova and Dmitri Smirnov, he left Russia at the age of 6 and settled in England. From the age of 15, he studied art privately with Russian artist and restorer Alexander Kolesnik, then continued his education at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, Slade School of Fine Art and on The Drawing Year at The Prince's Drawing School. He studied Art History, Film History, Sculpture, Painting (Italian), and marble carving in Italy. His parents were dissident composers who fled the Soviet Union. Their compositions are played in concerts all over the world, and this is how he started going to museums, from childhood onwards, while attending these music festivals.

This exhibition is about the search for Jerusalem in a spiritual sense and about his wish to reconnect with his Jewish roots. In Philip’s ancestry, many Jewish names were hidden due to Soviet antireligious oppression. Ethnicity and religious tradition were white washed. Names like Ratner (probably German or Polish) and Rappaport (which suggests a Rabbi of Porto migrating from Portugal into Russia) were changed through marriage. His Jewish grandmothers had to change their identity in their documents out of fear of Stalin's purges and were forced to unlearn Jewish traditions. The consequences of preserving Jewish identities were too risky.

For his 30th birthday, Philip spent 2 weeks visiting historic sites and sketching in Israel. He was in search of how the city, which is the epicentre of world religions, appears now and in its past layers. Also, he explored the difference between what we see today, the appearance of the Holy Land and the imagined city in paintings from art... ideal cities of Raphael and people who had never been to the real place. This experience led on to making murals and paintings about Jerusalem back in London.

Philip worked with Jewish artists too on an installation by Willow Winston of blackened pages of antisemitic books collected by her father in Poland that were mounted on a column spreading endless pages that we erased. He also worked with Aurelie Freoua on a theatre backdrop about Aeschylus' play the Persians and more recently on this painted hanging about the Menorah and the city of Jerusalem called ‘Lights of Jerusalem’. Other paintings feature his visit to Venice and Rome where he painted in the ruins and visited the Ghetto.

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