Homsi with his work
Beirut - Arabstoday
Syrian painter Anas Homsi’s colorful solo exhibition, “Childhood Retrospective,” is not about remembering the events of childhood, but about trying to recapture the experience of being a child.
The exhibition, currently on show in Hamra’s Art Circle Gallery, features 15 large mixed media-on-canvas pieces, as well as four acrylic-on-paper paintings and a series of 15 tiny pen-and-ink sketches.
Each work is the result of a kind of mental exercise which sees the 24-year-old Homsi try to set aside his lived experience and ideas about painting, instead approaching the canvas spontaneously, like a young child.
The artist grew up in Damascus, where he still lives today, but his paintings communicate little sense of a specific place or time. “It’s more about trying to capture the atmosphere of a memory, not a particular moment,” he says. “Through the way I paint I try to get back to that state of childhood – a bit spontaneous, without thinking about the result. It’s a sort of relief.”
His paintings are highly textured splashes and daubs of bright, almost luminous, color, topped with roughly sketched figures. These are not quite stick figures, but they have a similar feel, rendered in resolutely two-dimensional black outlines with large heads and lumpy, potato-like bodies.
“They are characters which are in constant evolution,” says Homsi. “There are no specific people which I work on. Each time is different, each painting is from a different daydream.”
The artist doesn’t paint scenes from his own childhood. Rather, he explains, he tries to think as little as possible when painting, and never really knows what the subject of his work is until it’s finished.
Some pieces have clearly been influenced by the violence in Syria over the last year. “Everyone is affected by the events, including me as an artist,” Homsi says. “Nobody can stay insensitive to hate or to scenes of violence, so these situations show in my paintings ... Art is a way to communicate thoughts and memories, so whether ... in a conscious or an unconscious way, it’s going to show ... in your art.”
A case in point is “An Explosion,” which utilizes the same cheerful palette as Homsi’s other works, while depicting a darker scene. Five figures, four human and one animal – a dog or cat perhaps – are depicted in a series of bold black lines, against a softer background of colorful blobs and quick brushstrokes.
Two are upside down, as though thrown through the air by a blast, while a third in the bottom left corner seems to be dragging itself along the ground. The red paint apparently pooling near its head might be blood – or it could be a colorful background wash.
“I live in Syria so I hear the explosions. I watch the news ... I hear all this when I am painting, so it affects me,” he admits. “A lot of Syrian artists are working on the events in Syria in a more direct way. I use dead people in some of my paintings, but it’s not as direct. There are lots of symbols but you have to look for them.”
Homsi’s paintings are more complex, layered versions of his little pen sketches, most of which feature strange figures, some with huge heads and no bodies, others with bodies and arms but no legs.
“I started with the sketches ... I did over 2000,” he says. “I never turn a sketch into a painting, [but] you can see in the sketches that it is something quick, and in the paintings there is the same speed. All of all of them are thrown down with the speed of a sketch, and afterwards the colors are added in the same way.”
Homsi prefers to keep his work simple. “I feel that the more I add layers the more it loses the link to the childhood state,” he says. “There’s more thinking in the large paintings. I like the simpler ones, I’m erasing the thought process.”
Homsi’s works are remarkably similar in some ways – sharing a sketchy, impressionistic style. Those prefering a more subdued, subtle palette might find their bold colors a little jarring. In subject, however, they are quite different, some featuring scenes of violence while others, such as “Hugging,” depict happier scenes from family life.
Whether Homsi’s style appeals or not, “Childhood Retrospective” offers a fascinating glimpse into the link between artistic expression and the subconscious – how powerful memories and emotions find release in art.
Anas Homsi’s “Childhood Retrospective” is up at Hamra’s Art Circle Gallery until June 14. For more information please call 03-027-776 or see www.art-circle.net.
From / Daily Star