"Art is a tango between life and death."
Alex Schnaider is a computer programmer and an artist. Born in 1965 in Vilnius, Lithuania, he immigrated with his parents to Israel at the age of six – a transition from snows to sands.
He had a diverse and rich childhood full of real adventures and imaginary journeys. Both environments were a great source of fun and challenging activities: sledding, trips through forests and lakes, building and sailing rafts on huge puddles, baking potatoes in self-constructed sand ovens, and even launching creative endeavors such as making his own slippers, or building and operating a puppet theater.
He has been painting ever since he can remember.
Alex's solo exhibition, "No Words," was born after the artist was inspired by an exhibition hanging in Mezcal bar in Tel Aviv. The artist showed the owner some of his works, and the exhibition was soon underway. Alex was particularly moved by a special visitor – the esteemed artist, Meir Pichhadze (now deceased).
Alex’s work, "Now,” has been selected to participate in the Triannale "Textile Art of Today." The exhibition travels between museums and galleries in Europe, including the Danubeyana Museum in Slovakia where it was first exhibited.
His works were nominated for the Blooom Award in 2018 and 2019.
Alex Schnaider offers us not your usual type of art. It is out of the ordinary, unique, intricate, different, raw, uncertain. It makes you raise questions. It incites you to want to explore, to look further than what the eyes can see. It is as each piece is holding up a story, a secret, a life within a life. Then it dawns on you, as odd as it may seem, it is a representation of what life is. Each one of us so unique, yet so connected.
Q. What role does the artist have in society?
A. Society needs art, it is a necessity. It is a dream within reality. Just as we need dreams when we sleep, we need dreams when we are awake. The artist is the generator that produces realistic dreams. Society makes sure to always have such generators.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. I have plenty of childhood memories. I loved playing with toy soldiers, different plastic figures. I would build camps and wage battles… my own personal Game of Thrones. I remember once, coming home after several days at the hospital following a minor surgery and seeing tons of new soldiers waiting for me in my room – a surprise from my parents.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I wanted to be a scientist.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I was maybe 6 years old. We had just moved into our first apartment in Israel. I remember drawing in markers an underwater scene, fish, plants, jellyfish, seahorses, all over the glass door separating between the balcony and the living room. I had so much fun doing it. Our neighbor came in, got excited and asked me to come over and do the same at their apartment! And I did.
Another piece of art I remember was from first grade. I drew a ship in oil pastels, in art class. At the end of class, my teacher asked for my drawing and hung it on the wall alongside other works. I was surprised and delighted.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. I was serious about my work from a young age, but the first time I studied art in an academic setting and not just as an afterschool activity was at an arts college in Bat Yam, after graduating from high school. I had to present a portfolio to get in. I brought in different works, one of which was a replica I made of a painting by the Russian artist, Konstantin Korovin. It was more of a freestyle tribute, but tightly bound to the original. I didn’t think anyone would know the painting or the artist. The committee spent a long time looking over the Korovin piece. “Is that Korovin?” they asked. Surprised, I answered hesitantly, “yes.” “You have plenty of work ahead of you. You’re in.” Most of the teachers there were from the former Soviet Union, and I received a taste of Russian painting tradition.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. I wanted to combine poetry and plastic art, examined different platforms and grids on which I could write texts. I loved Gesso-painted fabric. They were raw and poetic. I worked with them and with texts, and started using thread, as well. I have a special affinity to them because my grandmother was a professional seamstress. Gradually, it gained more and more focus and entered center stage. I started using it to sculpt three-dimensional figures that incorporate letters, or stand alone.
About three years ago, following an exhibition by Roni Taharlev, I began painting portraits. The “heads” pieces were born of combining the thread works and the portraits.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. My work is a concise history of the process I went through to realize my ideas, in going from vision to reality. My art expresses that.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. It’s more like semi-conscious choices. I didn’t focus on my career in computers, and for a while I gave up sports, which I truly love.
Q. Who are your biggest influences, are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. The first artist I can clearly remember being impressed with is M.K. Ciurlionis. This interview prompted me to learn more about him; I discovered that he aspired to merge painting with music. This was a surprise, because I aspire to combine between plastic art and poetry.
Art history and culture are a great influence. I love Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin, two hypnotic minimalist artists, Eve Hesse, Rothko, Morandi, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Klee and many others. Through social media, I am exposed to contemporary work by artists and colleagues, who also motivate and inspire me.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Solitude is not necessarily a bad thing. It provides a different perspective. Of course, there is such a thing as too much of it. You need balance – a walk around the park, music, conversation and sports balance out loneliness.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. Play badminton and chess, read, listen to music, take walks, do yoga.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. The more you do, the more you can do.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. My own studio, and the time and energy to research my ideas there. It’s always moving and surprising when people relate to your research.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. To quote Hillel the Elder: If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. When I was in high school, I played a blitz chess game with Benny Trichter, an experienced chess player, who told me: “You don’t believe in your ideas.” This made me change my attitude.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Paint over your excuses and work.
Q. How would you like to be identified and remembered?
A. As someone whose originality matched his passion.