Fine Structure Constant
The series ‘Fine Structure Constant’ sheds new light on Jacob’s mysterious wrestling at the Jabbok Pass (Gen. 32: 25-33), from which it is exposed as a mythical moment that had been overlooked in the traditional reading of the stories of the patriarchs. Sarah Nina Meridor’s works redeem the wrestling of Jacob from the typological features attributed to it in later commentaries and liberate it from the disturbing politics about the identity of the ‘chosen son’ that nourishes interfaith polemics from ancient times to the present days.
The paintings depict the act of wrestling as a primordial motion, a kind of embryotic dynamism, that launches the exploration of the human being as ‘homo conflicticus’ and the view of physical struggle as a constitutive and empowering contact.
Meridor captures in vivid colors and precise lines the vital dimensions of the wrestling as an occurrence that destabilizes the commonplace organizing categories – an event that dissolves the boundary between the act of love and rivalry, blurs the gap between ‘God’ and ‘humans’, violates the borderline between phantasm and reality, and above all reveals the
Fine Structure Constant
While Jacob slept on the riverbank, he dreamt that an angel appeared to him in the form of a man and began to fight with him. This biblical story provides the inspiration for Sarah Nina Meridor's depictions of figures wrestling.
Each painting reveals a moment of conflict frozen in time, yet each work contains a complete story.
In some of the paintings, the wrestlers are unified, both dressed in white. In others, they are clothed disparately, one in white, a symbol of purity, the other in red, a sign of life, blood and aggression. Sometimes the wrestlers appear within the context of martial arts, dressed in the uniforms of Judokas and Aikidokas. Sometimes they are naked and joined in battle, the figures merging into one another, as they seem to become a monster with two heads, four arms and four legs.
The games of light and shadow in these paintings represent the struggle between Man's divine and bestial nature. Our attention is drawn towards the fundamental polarities of good and evil and of Yin and Yang. These works become an Axis Mundi, a bridge between Heaven and Earth, between the corporal and the spiritual.
As long as their battle continues, the wrestlers are intimate and interdependent. The fight is absolute and there is nothing else than the fight. In the combat, led in survival mode, the natural intelligence of the body must express itself – leaving little time for calculations. In this vulnerable situation, both adversaries see and know each other intimately.
The appearance of the angel to Jacob was sudden, resonating the way that inspiration overwhelms the artist, coming as an attack, an attempt to penetrate, forcing her to react, to move, to exit her comfort zone, just as Jacob stared into the face of God in his struggle with the angel.
In Jacob’s dream, the turmoil is internal, and he is fighting with himself. Maimonides believed that the incident was "a vision of prophecy". In this sense, the angel might be seen as a mental trigger, which allowed Jacob to foresee what he might not otherwise have seen.
In the Bible, we read that Jacob wrestled with his twin brother Esau in the womb, and until their birth, their mother Rebecca thought she was pregnant with only one child. And so, the angel, like Esau, represents the other side of Jacob.
This is an archetypal, universal and sublime struggle faced by every person and every artist in particular, and it is an initiation for Jacob, as it is also an initiation for both the artist and the viewer.
The triad of artist, painting and viewer, mirrors the trinity of Jacob, the angel, and God. The divine is present in both the creative process and the subsequent viewing of it.
Meridor's realistic style draws us swiftly into the experience and assigns us as witnesses. As Jacob is affected by his struggle with the angel and leaves the experience a different man, we too will leave this exhibition changed. On a deeper level, there is no “Other,” and maybe this is why we long to return to the source, to the womb, to unity.
Perhaps this is the blessing that Jacob sought from the angel. As a result of their meeting, Jacob receives a limp and a new name – Israel – man who struggles with God. What Israel faces is the pain caused by the illusion of our separation from nature.
Many painters have treated the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, including Rembrandt, Delacroix, Bonnat and Moreau, to name just a few. Meridor has chosen to do it in a sensual rendering, visceral and sublime way.
Meridor has chosen to call this exhibition Fine Structure Constant. This term from physics, which denotes a fundamental constant, describes the strength of electromagnetic interaction between elementary charged particles. It is a dimensionless quantity, which expresses the strength of the coupling of particles with the electromagnetic field. “This phenomenon, fundamental to the physical world, is symbolic of our condition and inexorable contract with existence” says Meridor.
The fine structure constant is denoted by alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeral system, alpha represents the number one and symbolizes the beginning and the primal. Etymologically, alpha came from aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Ironically, the word is also used to indicate the dominant male.