Freedom is probably one of the most important things for artist Uzi Benita.
Sitting in his room in South Tel-Aviv, surrounded by his paintings and books, the subject of freedom keeps coming up. He is not so much of a rebel per se, but he lives life in his own rhythm.
He seems completely age-less, with his tan skin after spending most of the days on the beach, his kind smile, and wise, mature blue eyes. There is something child-like about him, a sense of joy that is reserved only for the young, together with the peace of mind of an elder.
Art took a big role throughout his life. He used to curate, sculpture, make jewelry, and write poetry and music, but painting always seemed to him somewhat unreachable. He always admired the complexity of this field, and never practiced it himself.
It was only when a fellow artist renovated his New-York studio and gave him some leftover materials when he first tried. “He gave me some brushes and paints, and said to just run with it”, says Benita. Once he began drawing, it felt like home.
The subjects of his arts always surrounding the ideas he has grown on.
Since a young age, he is in constant search for a certain truth. Having studied Krishna, Osho, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Egypt mythology any many more, he’s probably read almost every book written in the spirituality subject.
After traveling the world to study different methods, he says that in general, many religions and beliefs are not so different. Many of them attend the idea of Mindful Being, and of the cleanliness of the self. For example, according to ancient Egyptian belief, a person need to be so pure that after death, they can balance their heart on one side of a scale and a feather on the other side. Otherwise, they cannot enter the City of Death.
He says some Chinese practices were the most interesting for him.
In the book “In Search of the Miraculous”, Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky describes the methods of his teacher, George Gurdjieff.
According to this method, the average person is in a constant state of sleep. They need to practice awareness in many levels, and in all the senses, to wake themselves. It is basically a continuous state of meditation, where the more you hear, see, feel – your perception is more objective.
First of all, sight is not only about physical seeing, but also about the mind-eye. Not only do we perceive what our eyes see, but also the surrounding room and ourselves in this surrounding.
Second, is the hearing. It’s about getting to know the sound of utter silence, which is always there underlying.
And of course, physical sensation. Not only what the skin feels, but also the inner systems – beatings of the heart, the sounds of it. The instincts, temperature, blood flow.
Passing of time.
The sensation of a timeline is the hardest to exercise, since it’s above the human perception. We should always remember, that time is an illusion.
Back in the room, Uzi gets up and spreads his works.
It’s a humble room, everywhere is loaded with oil paints, brushes, canvases, done or undone works. Above his bed and by the window hangs a small model of a man flying a mechanical hot-air balloon.
The paintings almost always feature a character of an undefined race, usually flying or diving. It is always about freedom, and about spirituality. Benita’s constant searches are visible everywhere, in everything he does. The style is straight forward. The subject is centered, making eye contact with the viewer, painted with strong color-blocks.
Looking at the works in a chronical order, one can actually tell the journey Uzi has been through with them. They look more confident with time, more radical. Some are decorated with ancient symbols, some take place in space, and some are pure surrealism.
Uzi describes to me his dreams, saying he doesn’t always attribute deep meanings to them. He says he has colorful dreams about flying, which sometimes he can achieve control over – as he realizes he’s in a dream he manages to fly flawlessly, like a bird. Sometimes he meets people he hasn’t met in a while and talks to them, and then wakes up feeling as if there was a real conversation and something has been resolved.
Of course, some dreams have a lower energetic level, especially if it’s about physical pain, but he rarely has nightmares.
Though I haven’t met him in years, Uzi is pretty much as I remembered. Living his life with a rare curiosity and openness, driving a small scooter, spending the sunny days at the beach, and always seeking to learn something new.
And I take comfort in that.