Last year, Yoram Jerzy Gross took from Australia to Poland his five grandchildren in order to show them the country of his childhood. This visit was accompanied by a director with a video camera, who recorded a full-length documentary entitled „Krakowiaczek ci ja” telling a story of life and work of the artist referred to as Australian Disney.
Last October, we had a chance to see this film in the JHI within the scope of a one-day festival of Gross’ films. Jerzy Gross was born in 1926 in Cracow as the youngest of the children of Jakub Gross and Sara, born Szarf. His parents were owners of two exclusive shops with porcelain in the city centre, in the Square. Thirteen-year-old Jurek did not have his bar mitzvah in Poland. When the war broke out, his father with the eldest son fled to Ukraine. Jakub Gross died in pogrom in Sarny. Józef ended up in Anders’ army and served in Royal Air Force. Jurek with his mother, sister Klara and brother Natan survived the war hiding in Cracow and a nearby village, which still did not save them from being put in a ghetto, from where they escaped having bribed a guard. During the occupation they hid in 71 places; the mother survived the camp in Auschwitz.
After the war, due to a search conducted in his flat by SB without a warrant in 1950, Yoram decided to emigrate from Poland. First, he went to Israel where he worked a cinematographer, simultaneously making experimental films. He represented Israel at the film festival in Cannes. In 1968 he left for Australia. He settled down in Sydney and continued working on animations. Some of his most famous films include: „Dot and the Kangaroo”, „Blinky Bill”, „Tabaluga”, „Skippy” and „Flipper and Lopaka”. In 1995, Gross received the Order of Australia for his outstanding contribution to the Australian film industry, and this year he became a Commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
As his son Guy Gross says, " In his movies, my father tries to convey a message which has something in common with his personal philosophy: to be good towards people, to give them joy.” It is hard to believe that this man of peaceful, subtle face and beautiful eyes has gone though so much. According to his 14-year-old granddaughter Sabina he resembles her favourite character from his film, a Koala bear called Bill Blinky. „He is boisterous and often gets into trouble. What is funny about grandpa is that he is already an older person, but still behaves as if he was fourteen... Or even younger.”
Yoram Gross is not only a well-known, eminent maker of animated films in Australia, but also a great photographer, „photographer of everyday life”. By looking at his photographs, we can certainly say that an artist is a real artist indeed if they are particularly sensitive to hidden secrets of ordinary, simple things, which they encounter on a daily basis. We know that artists find inspiration in reality, but not every artist, like Yoram Gross, can with such tenderness extract uniqueness and charm of rust covering metal elements, leather of old, damaged shoes or oil paint coming off an old handrail. The photographs depict magical beauty of simple, unnecessary objects which thanks to a sensitive eye of the artist are brought back to life and become part of the broad imaginarium of art.
Yoram Gross’ photographs can be seen at the exhibition „Look Closer” in the Jewish Historical Institute (room in the Blue Tower). The exhibition is open till April 2014. Join us!