Exactly 1207 stones and pebbles from the shores of Gibraltar and nearby coasts, beautifully painted in vivid acrylics – and arranged in harmonious circles of unity by topic portrayed – constitute an original installation that understatedly lies at the north-eastern corner of Commonwealth Park, to irradiate its vibe of vibrancy and serenity to passers-by.
The installation is titled ‘Leave No Stone Unturned’, an inspiring idiom whose Hebrew counterpart ךכרדב ןבא לכ ךופה is literally translated ‘turn every stone (to look under it)’, so offering a positive message rather than the forbidding ‘no’ of its English equivalent, according to Israeli artist Hanna Dahan Gamrasni, who donated her artwork to the people of Gibraltar last year, designing, making and laying out the monument, tipped to be officially unveiled soon.
The idea came about after Hanna noticed that her collection of hand-painted stones was growing too large – and larger than life – to be kept concealed in a box at home, and no matter how many of those little masterpieces she gifted to her friends, more were collected and painted with new extravagant patterns. So, she started musing about an innovative way to give it a new lease of life for the general public to enjoy what she’d spent months to create. She contacted the Ministry of Culture and hey presto, paperwork out of the way, she was spending a lengthy afternoon crouched in that corner of the park, laying down pebble by pebble with its painted face up – hence leaving them unturned, to be precise!
This arrangement, a sizeable rectangle encased in the pavement and protected by glass, showcases the full glory of each intricate design, from villages, to night skies, cats, flowers, trees and abstracts conveying Hanna’s dynamic joie de vivre in simple, instantly recognisable patterns that manage, however, to keep fresh and original thanks to her talented outlook on the reality around her, and her untainted sense of colour, juxtaposed in boldly contrasting blocks.
Hanna discovered her artistic call when she moved to Gibraltar with her young family a few years ago, after a busy career as a marketing guru in Tel Aviv: “Suddenly, I found myself with plenty of free time on my hands, as in Gibraltar life is more laid back with no races against the clock…” so she says she had to find a way to constructively occupy it (her time) and them (her hands). She opted for painting, an art she is self-taught about thanks to her lifelong passion for anything and everything bright and beautiful: “Something I’d always wanted to do, but never had enough time to seriously dedicate myself to.” She started collecting pebbles on the beach, fascinated by their textures, sizes and colours, and the way the dollops of paint stood out proud on them while the subject matters effortlessly embraced their shapes. Her imagination did the rest and she admits that it soon became almost an addiction, because “painting is when I feel truly free”.
Having cast her first stone in the art world, Hanna joined the Arts & Crafts Association which she describes as ‘outstandingly helpful’ in giving tailored exposure to her artwork. In fact, she has expanded from modest pebbles to larger sizes, and is now working with furniture, lampshades and the traditional canvas. Her style is characteristic, innovative and unique, featuring black spirograph-like outlines filled with all the colours of the rainbow and more, to create abstract flowers in busy elliptical doodles, geometrically but not robotically constructed, that draw the eye to the star feature. This isn’t necessarily the central piece, but it is brazenly offset to remind us that balance is not just about symmetry but more likely about the alluring lopsided smile life often bestows upon us. Some may come across as too loud for the conservative European eye, but they do stand out indeed as the cheerful reflection of Hanna’s Levantine and multi-cultural upbringing, with a vague reminiscence of flying carpets and Turkish mosaics and arabesques, and perhaps some jazzed-up Amish quilt concocted after the sinuous haunches of a belly dancer.
Of course, she accepts commissions, and no surface is too small or too large – or too rough – to undergo Hanna’s revamping, like her extensive catalogue proves, and she relishes the challenge, should you request a more conservative and figurative subject matter, as long as she is allowed to pepper it with her signature gaudy flights of fancy.
With her stall at the Casemates balcony Arts & Crafts store, Hanna has firmly established herself as a decorator and a restorer if you will, when she magically turns a tired-looking rustic bedside table or dresser into Aladdin’s treasure chest, but she doesn’t disdain her other passion, for her family and friends’ delight: baking. In fact, she firstly made herself popular with sweet-toothed Gibraltarians thanks to the heavenly scent of confectionery that pervaded the heart of town, slinking out from her closet-sized bakery just off Main Street.