Jacob Rosenberg’s heirs: a family of storytellers

Artist SHOSHI JACOBS explains how her grandfather, the writer Jacob G. Rosenberg, has inspired her work and the storytelling passions of her family.

I come from a lineage of storytellers. My grandfather, Zaidie to me, was Jacob G. Rosenberg, the celebrated memoirist and poet, winner of many Australian literary awards.

My mother, Marcia Jacobs, is an essayist who, through her work, gives shape to her experiences and passes them on to her three daughters. My oldest sister Adena is a theatre maker and opera director, my younger sister Ariela is a singer-songwriter. I am an artist and art therapist. For all of us the drive to understand through story is deep in our work.

I’ve always wanted to understand what gives us meaning. For me, it’s about our life experiences and how within our own circumstances there is always room for awareness and healing.

Creating and painting have always been integral to my life, driven not by technical skill but through intuition. This process brings solace and a safe haven – a place where I can find my voice and make sense of my world.

Shoshi Jacobs’ painting ‘The Gift’ (Photo: Courtesy)

My works are the place where memories and dreams meet.

Every piece I create holds a particular energy and tells a story. The echoes of my grandfather resonate within as I paint. His tales from my childhood were filled with magic: golden apples, princesses and enchanted symbols ran through his fables. As a child I would ask him to repeat these stories over and over. He had a way of telling them that made me feel they were real.

I’ve always been a believer and a dreamer and Zaidie knew this well about me. The symbolism that he wove through his stories, memoirs and poems now emerges in my art, weaving threads of connection to the stories that have shaped me.

Birds are an important motif for me and some of the birds that appear in my artwork I perceive as his energy. I think of this as my grandfather giving me comfort and passing on wisdom. Esther, my Bubbie, from time to time joins him on the canvas.

I started working on my collections The Book of Birds and The Winged Ones about five years ago. They began as a therapeutic outlet but since then, with no preconceived intentions, my canvas became a kind of vessel for curiosity to unfold. New discoveries are found with each layer and brushstroke.

Through my art, I navigate my feelings, but I always make sure that my paintbrush lands in a space of hope, anticipation and trust. My Zaidie used to say that “a story without a shadow is a sad one.”

Illumination and insight don’t always feel comfortable but it’s during those moments that we can gain clarity. My work embodies these contrasts – deep grief, expansive love, fear, hope, presence, absence. In times when I’ve been stuck creatively, I call on my Zaidie in a spiritual sense to help me enter a new story.

Shoshi Jacobs’ painting ‘New Light’ (Photo: Courtesy)

Multiple stories accompany every piece of art. The story usually comes to me through each layer of paint and as the layers change, the stories have room to move. My works are the place where memories and dreams meet. Bird-like creatures and other whimsical images emerge onto my canvas. They remind me of magical places and renewed possibilities.

My Zaidie survived the Holocaust, but despite the darkness, he always carried an element of light in his work and in his way of living.

Writing perhaps helped him live in the way that he did. He understood that crafting words was an expression of faith in humanity – a belief that stories woven with purpose can touch hearts and ignite change.

Through his teachings, I learned to embrace the art of seeing through darkness to find the flickering ember of light. His essence became and continues to be my compass, steering me on my creative path.

My hope is that visitors to my show feel the depth and enchantment encapsulated within each painting. These artworks are fragments of my soul, laid bare for all to see. I am moved at the prospect of others connecting with my work, forging their own profound experiences through the power of art. I hope they will bring their own narratives to my images.

Shoshi Jacobs’ show The Winged Ones will be held at Compendium Gallery, 909a High Street, Armadale, from June 16 to July 1.

Photo: Artist Shoshi Jacobs with her works. (Photo: Courtesy)