Ilan Baruch started to paint at the age of fourteen. His father was the one who urged him to look at landscape, to paint, and thus, to recognize his true calling as a painter. For the son of a Jewish religious family of Bukharian origin that settled in Jerusalem in the 1930s, there was no more foreign or strange occupation than painting. Despite the hesitations of his extended family, it was his father who encouraged his son to leave his studies and his friends and devote himself completely and uncompromisingly to the practice of his art. His father even brought him to the doorstep of the art school near their home in the Geula neighborhood of Jerusalem, which had been established by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz to enable members of the religious community to study fine art.
The paintings of Ilan Baruch reflect an ongoing exercise in the language and methods of figurative painting. The actual labor of painting takes place outdoors, without the mediation of a camera. Baruch has devoted dozens of paintings to depictions of the Jerusalem landscape, its sabra plants and cypress trees, and shepherds grazing their flocks in pastures near the villages of Ein Kerem.
His subjects are loaded from the beginning with a familiar mythic charge that derives from the repertoire of images representative of local culture: the cypress tree, the Arab, the sabra, and the shepherd, which were interpreted variously in the local context. For example, over time the sabra changed from being a founding symbol of Zionist nationalism and local culture to a symbol of the shattering of that ethos and a sobering moment of awakening. Baruch’s paintings challenge the validity of the definition of the mythic status of the painted object by portraying it simultaneously from the vantage point of unique and specific investigation and inclusive mythic context.