Shafir Abrahamov creates in marble and stone mostly biblical stories and motives of Jewish tradition, in monumental sculptures and tri-dimensional sculpted reliefs. Shafir works several months on each of his works, meticulously perfecting every small detail. His works are monoliths, chiseled out of heavy slabs of marble and stone, which weigh hundreds of kilograms each.
Shafir was born in Iran to a Russian father and a Persian mother. He came to Israel at age 16. Sculpting came as a natural extension of his work as a builder, creating artistic marble decorations for buildings. He has always loved the Bible stories and dreamt of recreating them in marble.
For the past 20 years Shafir has been sculpting these stories in marble and stone, going as far as consulting with Jewish Rabbis in order to make sure his works conform to Jewish law. The marble slabs, weighing up to 500 kg, come from all over the world to his home in Givat Shmuel, which resembles an ancient art gallery where his many works of art are displayed everywhere in the house and yard.
Shafir’s style combines the naïve and the primitive, yet classical. His work in marble is influenced by both Michelangelo and Gustav Dore. He works meticulously on the smallest details of his figures: anatomy, clothing and accessories, precise lines without any break or gluing. Despite the hard work of chiseling, he succeeds in creating refined facial expressions and body postures.
Shafir has developed his own style in sculpting through his impressions of biblical events and motives of Jewish tradition under which he was raised. He has developed his own tools for stone carving with which he creates his figures, chisels light and shadow and depth, in order to catch the figures’ movements, freeze it in the sculpture which memorialize the moment in the story.
Shafir is going to exhibit 23 of his sculptures and sculpted tri-dimensional reliefs. In addition to works depicting biblical scenes, he will exhibit works depicting motives taken out of Jewish tradition, such as the Wailing Wall, a rabbi, fiddler on the roof, the Menorah, ewers, flower pots and a recent sculpture he has done of Shimon Peres in honor of the Israeli President.
Most of the works are made of various types of marble, some of which are local, like Hebron granite, but mostly marble imported from all over the world.
Shafir researches thoroughly every subject he works on. For example, before sculpting the Wailing Wall, he had verified the location of every stone, positioning them in the sculpture exactly the same as in reality.
Behind the art
The work “The sacrifice of Isaac” is a stone relief, the dimensions of which are 100×80 cm, made of Thasos granite imported from Greece, weighing 40 kg. It is designed in naïve style, depicting Isaac lying with his hands bound on the altar, his legs folded and his head to the side of the altar, Abraham is standing over him, with an expression of shock on his face, the angel holds Abraham’s hand, the knife is thrown from his hand, and the deer, his horns entangled in the bushes, is engraved to the side of the scene. The angel is tall, his wings are sculpted in modern style. All the figures in the scene look directly at Abraham and the relief is made of one piece of stone. The sacrifice of Isaac
The sculptured relief “David and Goliath“, 140×75 cm weighing 165 kg, took 18 months to complete. The relief, made of Italian Carrara marble, freezes the dramatic moment when David’s stone missile hits Goliath’s forehead and bounces to the ground, where the giant is collapsing eventually. The contrast of David’s simple wear, his sandals, his pouch and his impressive body motion, is well emphasized against his rival, a mythological giant, heavily covered with iron shields, holding a long spear but already wearing a defeated and lifeless expression on his face.
The lethal stone that killed Goliath can be viewed in the center, while the two armies are in the background, observing the scene.
Another article, sculptured from a green Guatemalan marble, is about the Philistines in the biblical times is a three dimensional sculpture describing “Samson” collapsing their temple on his celebrating enemies and on himself (55×35 cm, 40 kg). The temple poles and ceiling, despite being in the moment of collapse and breaking, as the rest of the piece, is one marble unit with no gluing or cutting. Exceptional is the precise chiseling of Samson’s body details at his peak effort and the rings holding the chains into the wall. Each ring is a perfect geometric torus a few millimeters thick with the ability of free turning!
“Adam and Eve” (150×60, 160 kg) is a three dimensional monumental sculpture, made of Turkish Carrara marble taking 18 month to complete. The article freezes the point right after biting the apple already wearing fig leaves. The two characters (body and facial expressions) are presented in the naïve style, on the background of the tree and the monstrous snake between its leaves. Emphasis is on the anatomic details of the figures and in spite of it being a sculptured relief, the article is closed from the back, making the chiseling exceptionally difficult.
“The Rabbi” (35×50, 50 kg) is a three dimensional black granite piece, second to diamond in its hardness, very impressive and accurate face and hands expression, showing fear and uncertainty. Differences in the finesse of polish help to make delicate details like his beard or the inscriptions on his Talith and Tefillin. The observer sees an unsophisticated deep soul gaze.