Why the artist behind Shtisel’s portraits doesn’t read the show’s scripts

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Why the artist behind Shtisel’s portraits doesn’t read the show’s scripts

There’s no telling when inspiration will strike, but months before Covid-19, artist Alex Tubis began painting empty sports centres

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Alex with Michael Aloni
Alex with Michael Aloni

He is not the first to represent deserted stadiums on canvas, as uninhabited space appeals to artists.

“But the concept of isolated places that should be full of people came to me and now the paintings feel like a prediction.”

Like all creatives who need an audience, the pandemic prevented the Moscow-born artist, who lives in Ness Ziona, a town in central Israel, from exhibiting.

“And socially distancing from art work is a good way to see it; no galleries were open,” he adds. Tubis’ work is normally shown to buyers at the Dan Gallery in Tel Aviv on request and sold on www.artsy.net but his popularity has grown since he was identified as the real creator of Akiva’s work in season two of Shtisel.

Like all film and television productions, the shooting of Shtisel was also delayed, but Tubis, along with season one artist Menahem Halberstadt, had their brushes poised for the call to paint. 

Mini pitch

Although one assumes a script would be essential for creating the show’s required art, Tubis did not want to read it as he didn’t want to know what happens.

“I’m a fan and like to see what happens with everyone else, so I just painted what the writers wanted.”

When Tubis, a graduate of the esteemed Bezalel Academy first saw his Boy with a Goldfish painting in the context of the drama, he was blown away.

“It was the same with the mother in the chair with the baby as I had no idea about its significance and it moved me to tears.”  

Alex Tubis and his portrait of ‘Boy with Goldfish’

Creating a new version of that painting in 24 hours was also required when the mother was too exposed, but with a masked crew and actors working against the threat of another lockdown, there was no room for error in the artwork. 

Shtisel has now wrapped and Halberstadt, the other undercover artist  also collaborated with series writer Ori Elon on A Basket Full of Figs (Green Bean Books), a children’s picture book retelling of a Midrash story about an emperor’s encounter with an old man who plants a fig tree for
future generations.

Tubis is now focused on selling his ‘premonition’ paintings with The Lonely Goal, a lamentable summing up of every sports fan’s feelings. 

Lonely Goal


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