Stone of Flesh & Blood
Sophie Jungreis completed her studies in the Kalisher High Institution of Painting in 1977. After 25 years a as a painter she turned to sculpting as a result of a long spiritual-therapeutic road, an innermost journey that led her into the core of hard stone towards self-fulfilment.
Her stone-made sculptures are distinctly feminine. She managed to dissolve the rigidity of stone, to inundate it with tenderness and bring forth a representing expression of her quest of inner balance between masculinity and femininity, both inherent deep in her soul. The groping intuitive quest came to a harbor in the stone sculptures, in which she masterly carves her personal view and her inner cravings.
Cast in all the sculpted lying women is the image of Jungreis’ mother, a holocaust survivor who was given to depression all her life. Since childhood Sophie remembers her mother as a crouching figure, and a large cluster of sculptures are based on that crouching position. Yet out of that prostration further elements began to come forth, such as awakening animal urges, desiring to be caressed, sexually stirred, inviting, submissive and seductive. Mentally shaking off the realm of shadows that had encompassed her since childhood became the founding stage towards a new self building. Yearning for exalted feelings, formerly restrained and banned, now guided her to redemption, and to explore the suppressed sentiment: “slowly pass long painful days / slowly blind suppressed layers are brought to light / I cling to the hard stone / looking for love” (Jungreis). Just simply now she removes the death cloak that has overclouded her entire being and votes for life: “the stone is mother, petrified and cold / it is also those petrified layers within me / I am outside the circle, wanting in / wanting life, not death" (Jungreis).
Each and every layer shed by the observer’s eye strikes rich the latent content in Sophie Jungreis’ stone sculptures. We witness an inexhaustible content of drive, emotion and erotic urge that had been hidden within her so many years and all at once erupted and broke through every fortified wall, every dam, every inhibition and blockade, just as pronounced in the poem “Corona” by Paul Celan, which ends with an appeal:
“Time has arrived to realize!
Time has arrived for the stone to bloom
For unrest to thrill
Time has arrived for time to arrive
Time has arrived”.
Celan’s lover, the poetess Ingburg Bachman, reacted in 1949 to his poem: “Again and again I say to myself that ‘Corona’ is the most beautiful among your poems. A perfect anticipatory statement introducing a moment in which everything turns to marble and becomes everlasting”. This exactly is the sensation we get straight from the innards of the solid stone sculptures, be it dark Arad, pink Mitzpa, grey basalt or white Jerusalem stone. A whole wide world is embodied in these stone-made animal females: provocation and submission, seduction and rejection, wooing and willingness, hardness and tenderness, laying bare and laying veiled, and then femininity and masculinity entwined.
Awareness to “the feminine presence” or to “feminine art” arose in Israel in the 1970’ and marked the beginning of the feminist era in Israeli art. Most eminent artists of the trend then were women who “came back to painting”, still some clung to other media as their artistic language. However, Sophie Jungreis’ feminist presentation is totally different from the conceptual one prevailing then. Hers is earthly, erotic, primordial, and doesn’t apologize for using primary organic formations and primeval matter, as bodily art, so to speak, is naturally and directly copied and shifted in a lump of stone. The stone plays for her a role of a voodoo puppet, projecting with each touch of the chisel everything that takes place inside her. Under her skilled hands the sensual stone-made works turn into quivering and throbbing flesh, and reverberate primeval and unalloyed female essence. With her the stone also blooms, and the blooming marble will last.
Article written by: Chana Koffler
Translated from Hebrew to English by Eyal Levin