Israeliness In a Can

Using images of commonplace items, artist Yoel Gilinsky taps into information, emotion and nostalgia about being Israeli.

Plants growing in a used food container. There might be no household item more overlooked yet none more rich in significance. According to the study, An Introduction to the Tin Can, published by the Society of Historical Archaeology, its immediate disposability “makes the food can a valuable dating tool for archaeologists… [and] also provide information on trading patterns, eating habits, and economic circumstances…”

In his latest series of paintings, artist Yoel Gilinsky taps into that wellspring of information along with the emotions and nostalgic sentiment that repurposed containers elicit. The images also provide witty visual commentary about what it means to be Israeli. Olive oil and hummus, anyone?


The sabra cactus has long been used as a metaphor for the native-born Israeli: prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside. In the painting entitled Israeli Trilogy, sabras grow within containers common to almost every Israeli household: cottage cheese, olives and “Nes” powdered coffee.


In 2008, the hoopoe (“duchifat”) in Hebrew was selected by popular vote as Israel’s national bird. Gilinsky uses the hoopoe perched on cacti as a recurring motif. In this image, our feathered friend sits upon a 9% cottage cheese container — the very cheese whose price hike drove protestors out into the streets two years ago. In the next image, he is pictured above a can of hard candies — the kind Grandma used to give out.


Some economies are driven by oil, some by gas. Israel’s Consumer Prices Index is affected by tomatoes, so much so that a short supply can cause the CPI to rise and influence the inflation rate. The smiling moshavnik farmer found on all Tal tomato products has been around since the 60s and is a beloved trademark.  


Winter’s gloom is broken each year with the appearance of the cyclamen that blooms among rocks and in shade or, perhaps, in an old canola oil can…


The Ashkenazi stereotype that North Americans know as “Jewish” is termed “Polish” in Israel. So, for example, the “Jewish mother” of Brooklyn tranposes to the “Polish mother” of Givatayim. The painting entitled Polish Wedding puts the bride and groom squarely where they belong, atop a package of instant chicken soup — which is actually the mainstay of all Israeli cuisine, Polish-Jewish and not.


Polish Wedding was recently exhibited at the Bar David Museum for Jewish Art and Judaica at Kibbutz Baram. It will now be part of the 15th annual IMAGINATION 2014 fundraising event benefiting the Israel AIDS Task Force.

IMAGINATION is considered one of the most prominent and important events on the local art scene due to the quality of the artists donating works to the cause. This year, 600 leading and promising artists contributed some 800 works that will be put up for sale. The event takes place on February 21-22, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at the Bank Hapoalim headquarters, 50 Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv. More details are available on the IMAGINATION 2014 Facebook page.

More works by Yoel Gilinsky can be viewed at his gallery site or on his Facebook page

About Rachel Neiman

A veteran media professional who has lived in Israel since 1984, Rachel has been part of the ISRAEL21c organization since 2008. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Globes Online, the English-language edition of Israel’s leading business daily, and before that, at The Jerusalem Post, as a business reporter, feature writer, and consumer columnist. Rachel began writing about Israeli technology companies at LINK Israel’s Business and Technology Magazine and is a professional Hebrew to English translator. In her spare time, she is an active member of the Havurat Tel Aviv congregation, and the Holyland Hash House Harriers, part of an international running and drinking disorganization.