Jewish Museum in Prague
Pressburger: Beit Levitus
Memories of a Family House
Spanish Synagogue, September 14 to December 31, 2000
The paper works by Chava Pressburger have an extraordinary ability to give expression to hidden feelings, revive forgotten memories, as well as to reveal a particular presence. They take form from various materials, mostly from plants which grow in the parched desert, in the light of the sun and the stars. Her work is like alchemy, a patient search for meanings and special ingredients which she transforms and returns to life in the world of human speech, endowed with feeling and imagination. In her work she transforms above all herself, her soul, which is purified and uplifted to the unity of the world and nature.
In her present exhibition Chava Pressburger returns to her most hidden memories of childhood. Née Eva Ginzová, she was born into a Prague Jewish family originally from East Bohemia. Her grandfather, Josef Ginz, was born in the village of Ždánice (east of Prague) and later opened a shop specializing in antiques and rare books in Kostelec nad Černými Lesy and in Prague. It was from him that the next generation of Ginzes inherited their literary and artistic interests. His grandson Petr was a multi-talented child, loved by his parents and admired by his younger sister Eva. The Ginzes maintained close links with the family of Eva’s aunt Herma and uncle Karel Levitus, who built a family house in midd 1930´s in Podolí, a suburb in South Prague. It was here that both children grew up and spent their happiest childhood moments. There were often family picnics and parties in the garden, which was where the extended family would come together.
All this was suddenly changed after the Nazi occupation, when the childhood world disappeared for ever and plans for the future at once became part of the past. Despite the increasing number of prohibitions and orders, the family gatherings continued for a few more years in the Levitus’ house, which became their last safe refuge. The places where they were able to go became fewer and fewer. Where they used to enjoy going, such as the park, museum and library, there were now signs saying “Jews Forbidden”.
Eva’s grandmother Berta, aunt Herma and uncle Karel Levitus were deported in the summer of 1942, followed by her fourteen-year-old brother Petr in the autumn, and then the other Jewish members of the Ginz family, and finally Eva herself and her father. At Terezin Petr was highly respected by his peers and became editor-in-chief of the well-known magazine “Vedem” (We Lead). The entry of 28 September 1944 in Eva’s diary marked her last farewell to Petr before he was deported to Auschwitz.
Only a few years had passed, but the images of a happy childhood and a loving family were gone for ever, and the future had become meaningless. It seemed impossible to live in an environment that had been afflicted by so many losses. Eva and her parents did survive the Holocaust, but they had lost what was most valuable, what had kept them together. Memories had to be erased and obliterated, although they remained hidden somewhere in the darkest corners of the soul.
Chava Pressburger seeks to uncover her forgotten memories of childhood, which are still hidden under dark clouds and phantoms. Yet the natural materials, fine shades of colour and the rhythm of lines, in which these memories appear as fragments, bring them back to the present, giving them the ability to speak and to bring reconciliation.
Chava Pressburger about her paper art:
“My art is dominated by the fact that I make my material - paper - myself. Shaking off the practical, achievement-oriented concepts of life, I contemplate life itself, in an attempt to create harmony between myself, nature, and the universe. Creating this harmony by transforming plants into paper sometimes enables me to decode and articulate the secret language of nature, and borow it for my artwork. At times, along the way, I may undergo a spiritual experience and feel that I am entering the sphere of the essential. My work aims at expressing this essence, which is hidden in the material.
In my attempt to reach goals through producing my own paper, I must cope with many different processes: collecting the plants or other raw materials, cooking and washing them, pouring the pulp, moulding it, pressing it, drying and sometimes dyeing it, choosing a design and composition for it. I tend to use local plants that grow near my home in the nothern Negev.”
Chava Pressburger was born in the Czech Republic in the city of Prague. She studied paintings in Prague and Paris and print-making and paper-making in Israel, where she emigrated. Her works have been exhibited widely in Israel and in Europe. In 1979, a documentary film of her work was made by the Israeli Archive for Painting and Sculpture. Her more recent works are from paper she produces herself. In 1980-1990, she taught at, and later become director of, the Bob Leslie Paper Mill at the Visual Arts College in Beersheba. She also took part in the first international Biennal of Paper Art in Duren, Germany. Her artworks have been purchased by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, The Museum of Paper Art in Duren, The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, Wellington, and various galleries and collectors in Israel, Europe and the USA. She was awarded the Sussman Art Foundation Prize for the year 1992. Chava Pressburger lives in Omer, near Beersheba, Israel. Following the demise of the totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia, she has now made Prague her second home.
Selected solo exhibitions:
1977 Czemerinsky Gallery - Tel-Aviv,
Selected group exhibitions:
1965 The Israel Painters´ &
Sculptors´ Association - Tel-Aviv, Israel
Exhibition curator: Dr. Arno Parik