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Jonathan Kis-Lev, 2013
|Born||Yehonatan (Yoni) Kislov
(Hebrew: יהונתן כיס-לב)|
12 September 1985
Mishmar Ayalon, Israel
|Residence||Kiryat Tiv'on, Israel; Los Angeles|
|Alma mater||Open University of Israel|
Jonathan Kis-Lev (born 1985) is an Israeli peace activist, author, artist and television personality. He has written a number of books about peace and personal improvement. His paintings, both in the naïve art style as well as street art, have been displayed in galleries in the United States, Canada and Europe. He often uses his television platforms and his art for peace activities involving joint Jewish and Arab causes.
Kis-Lev was born to Zionist parents who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union. According to him, he had grown to fear and hate Arabs. It was only when he attended an art workshop for peace with Arab children at the age of 11, that he had begun to question his upbringing. He then joined the Jewish-Arab youth movement Sadaka Reut, as well as began learning Arabic. At the age of 16 he was selected by the Israeli committee of the United World Colleges as the Israeli Young Ambassador to the Pearson College UWC in Canada, in order to live and study alongside young students from around the world, including Palestinian and Arab students, as part of the movement's mission to serve as a "force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace".
Upon completing his studies in Canada, Kis-Lev returned to Israel to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, and fought to be stationed at a unit that he considered as promoting peace rather than war and occupation. Following his struggle he was then stationed at the headquarters of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, where he was in charge of coordination of medicines into the Gaza strip, enabling Palestinian patients to visit Israeli hospitals, and assisting joint Arab-Israel activities, working alongside organizations such as UNRWA and Doctors Without Borders.
Kis-Lev believes in the power of education and the arts in promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He states that encouraging encounters designed at eliminating mutual fear between the two sides need have no relation to political stances. Kis-Lev thinks of himself as a zionist and sees no contradiction between that and his peace activism. Beginning in 2008 Kis-Lev began writing and lecturing about the possibilities for peace in the Middle East, stressing the importance of education for peace as a solution to the conflict.
In efforts to use the arts as a bridge between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Kis-Lev joined fellow Palestinian and Israeli artists in 2011. Led by the Bereaved Families for Peace. As part of the project the group visited together the Palestinian depopulated village Lifta and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. The initiative won extensive media coverage for being a unique cooperation of artists from both sides of the conflict, meeting for mutual understanding and peace.
In 2014, due to the rising violence in the Silent Intifada, Kis-Lev joined hands with Palestinian activist Riman Barakat, to set up meetings in Jerusalem encouraging dialogue. The project was called the Hallelujah Dialogue Project, and took place even in face of terrorism in Jerusalem, in days when similar activities ceased to operate.
Kis-Lev is the author of the following books:
Kis-Lev showed interest in the visual arts from an early age. He began studying painting with a private teacher at the age of five, He earned the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a major in visual arts.
In 2007 he had his first solo exhibition in Tel Aviv entitled Beginnings: Neve Zedek and Jaffa. Visited by many, including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, the exhibition marked his debut in the Israeli art world. In the years following the artist developed several techniques that were meant to enable him to "forget" all that he was taught about proper painting from an early age, and paint "like a child again". He began drawing some paintings with his weak left hand rather than his strong right, and drew some paintings when the canvas was placed upside down, so that elements such as the sky were placed on the bottom. According to the artist, these techniques helped him gain self-confidence in his intuition and paint more freely. The style Kis-Lev developed was referred to as naïve, even though some art critics have referred to the works as pseudo-naïve due to the self-conscious approach taken by the artist.
Simultaneously, beginning in his early twenties, Kis-Lev began spraying political catchphrases and slogans advocating for peace, bridging the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as granting proper human rights to Israel's foreign workers from Africa. His works developed slowly into ones with more visual nature, such as depicting Israeli Srulik and Palestinian Handala embracing one another, a work which received much criticism. The work was considered "An optimistic piece" according to Forward Magazine.
One of Kis-Lev's most iconic street art works is the "27 Club", known as one of Israel's must-see street artworks. The work depicts, from left to right, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and an unknown figure. Some speculate it is "believed to be the artist, Jonathan Kis-Lev." That part of the painting was covered by pink paint, and "there is some argument as to whether or not the pink paint over Kis-Lev’s face was done by Kis-Lev himself or another artist. One rumor is that Kis-Lev was so disappointed in all that he hadn’t accomplished by the age of 27, that he included paint to cover his face." The painting was reportedly made with the help of a crane and took two days to complete.
The artist frequently donates to and collaborates with non-profit organizations to raise money for social causes, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters Israel, Giborim Ktanim – Small Heroes, Esra – Volunteering Together For the Community, and others. His art has become part of major art collections, including the collection of Bank Leumi, one of Israel's largest banks.
2013 A Place to Dream, curator: Dan Chill (with Aviva Sonsino and Yitzhak Buberman), GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
2012 The Abstract With a Touch of Reality, curator: Judith Beiner, Griffin Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida, USA
2011 Of Gold, curator: Shiran Shafir Buchwald, Art and Soul Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel
2010 Naharia My Love, curator: Lee Rimon, The Edge Gallery, Naharia, Israel
2010 Portraits of an Eternal Land, curator: Judith Beiner, Griffin Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida, USA
2009 Jonathan Kis-Lev, curator: Shiran Shafir Buchwald, Shorashim Art Gallery – International Bank, Tel Aviv, Israel
2007 Beginnings: Neve Zedek and Jaffa, Trade Tower Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel
2015 Greetings! O Lovely Land, curator: Dan Chill, GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
2013 The Equal Exhibition, curator: Lee Rimon, The Edge Gallery, Naharia, Israel
2012 On A Small Scale, curator: Hana Kuman, Zadik Gallery, Jaffa, Israel
2012 Naïve Kunst Aus Israel, curator: Debora Gutman, Gutman-Art Gallery, Berlin, Germany
2012 International Naïve Art, curator: Jacques Dubois, Gallery Szyb Wilson, Katowice, Poland
2012 Israeli Naïve Art, curators: Ifat Reiss and Dan Chill, GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
2012 Secret Exhibition, curators: Esti Drori and Doron Polak, Bank Leumi, Tel Aviv, Israel
2011 Abstract Thoughts, curator: Doron Polak, ZOA Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel
2009 B-Sides, curator: Inbal Drue, Zavta Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel
2009 Home, curator: Rotem Ritov, Apart Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel
2009 Secret Exhibition curators: Esti Drori and Doron Polak, Bank Leumi, Tel Aviv, Israel
Kis-Lev first appeared on TV at the age of nine, in Israel's channel 1 (Israel) in a talent show, and appeared as a child actor in such programs as Michal Yannai's Whipped Cream (1996), Yael Bar Zohar's Tushtush (1997). In 1998 he was chosen to co-host the show Heart-Talk (Balbalev) (1998–2000). He later acted in the soap opera Love is Around the Corner (Ahava Me'ever LaPina) in 2003–2004, as the boyfriend of Agam Rodberg. In later years he contributed his voice for dubbing and narration, mostly for the Israeli Sonicbooks label.
1998–1999 Good Evening with Guy Pines (Erev Tov Im Guy Pines), Hot 3
1998–2000 Heart-Talk (Balbalev) with Efrat Rayten (co-host), Channel 6 (Israel)
2003–2004 Love is Around the Corner (Ahava Me'ever LaPina) (as Erez), Channel 2 (Israel)
2008–2015 Multiple appearances on Galit Giat's Yotsim Shavu'a; educational episodes for Hinukhit Yeladim channel 1.
1998–1999 Good Heart (Lev Tov), by Gilad Evron, Habima National Theater of Israel
1999–2001 A View From the Bridge, by Arthur Miller, Habima National Theater of Israel
1999 The Trojan War Will Not Take Place, by Jean Giraudoux, Library Theatre (HaSifriya), Ramat Gan, Israel
2001 Newscast (Mivzak Hadashot), by Goren Agmon, Beit Lessin Theater, Tel Aviv, Israel
2000–2002 Moomins (HaMoominim) (as Moomintroll), based on the books by Tove Jansson, Azriel Asharov Theater Production Company, Tel Aviv, Israel
2000 E.T. (Hebrew version), dubbing Greg and other characters
2000–2001 Nanuk children television series, dubbing various characters, channel 1 (Israel)
2008–2012 Sonicbooks Hebrew audio books including: World Cup Wishes by Eshkol Nevo, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.
Kis-Lev lives and works in Israel's Galilee. He is a board member of the Israeli League of Esperanto Speakers, and he was the president of the Israeli League of Young Esperanto Speakers. Kis-Lev is an active member in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Israel, as well as in the Israeli Association of Visual Artists. He earned his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from the Open University of Israel focusing on music and art history.
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