It sometimes requires new eyes to look at familiar territory.
The figurative oil paintings of Lotta Camilla Teale take viewers to the green lawns underneath Jerusalem’s Old City walls, to the old cypress trees standing guard outside the Temple Mount, the date palms of Jericho and the trailing cactus bushes at the abandoned Palestinian village of Lifta.
There are paintings that capture a typical patio table and chairs waiting to be occupied, tall pink hollyhocks that grow wild in local gardens and the flowering walkways of the esteemed American Colony Hotel, just up the street from Teale’s house.
Some of Jerusalem’s flashpoints are also part of Teale’s landscape, and the Dome of the Rock in particular, but not because of the politics.
“Obviously, one is entirely aware of all of the politics,” said Teale. “I think I’m just drawn to the stones and the shadows and the trees and the shine of the dome.”
In particular, it’s the quality of light and how it reflects on the creamy white limestone of Jerusalem’s buildings that has occupied Teale for the year that she and her husband, Skye Christensen, have lived here.
The stones have their own stories, said Teale.
“I’m not religious, but somehow there is this aura here, and I feel that when I’m painting and I see that in the light,” said Teale. “I could paint endlessly here.”
That sensibility is apparent in Teale’s figurative oils that are loosely painted with accuracy of color and drawing, and inspired by early 20th century painters such as the Scottish colorists and William Nicholson.
She writes on her website that her paintings often evoke memories of a calmer time and allow the viewer a moment to breathe and it’s true; stopping to glance at one of Teale’s works is meditative and relaxing.
Teale has lived in many places, from her native England to Pakistan and Sierra Leone, Tuscany and Bangkok too, mostly for her work as a law and development attorney.
It was her husband’s work at the United Nations that brought them to Jerusalem nearly a year ago, where they are renting a friend’s family home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a gracious work of Arab architecture with its own thick stone walls and tiled floors, vaulted ceilings and a wide, open front veranda.
Teale’s paintings from her current collection, “Jerusalem: An Exhibition,” hang throughout the rooms of the house, as she’s selling some of the more recent works to local buyers, and shipping others back to England, where she works with several galleries.
For now, though, she wanted to have them all together in one place, and in a place where people “really know Jerusalem,” said Teale.
She loves nothing more than when someone recognizes a specific flowering path or towering cypress, and can place the very location of one of her paintings.
And yet, a painting will mean different things for different people, said Teale.
Art has been part of Teale’s life since she was small, growing up around her grandfather who started Penguin Books and was an art collector. She always painted but pursued law, seeking more intellectual pursuits that would take her around the world.
An illness at one point pushed Teale to pursue her dream of full-time painting.
The pandemic helped, and included six months at her parents’ home painting still lifes, such as their set of new pots and pans.
And while many of Teale’s Jerusalem paintings involve architecture and gardens, there are still lifes as well, from a handful of cherries or apricots, oranges on the table, a china jug alongside them.
Teale now spends most of her days painting, either at home in her studio or heading out with her easel and paints to the corners and spots that she may have spotted on previous outings, part of her always-growing list of places that have inspired her.
As a long-term visitor to this place, she remarked that painting is a way to get to know the corners and niches and places, to take something from those visits, paint them on her canvases and hold that moment in time.