Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hossam Sakr - A World of Finite Number of Touches and Colours

I met Hossam Sakr for the first time in the autumn of 2003. Our first meeting was very much Cairo-style. One warm busy evening I ended up at a party in his studio in Dokki district not knowing neither the host nor any of the other guests (apart from my boyfriend at the time who had brought me to the party). The studio was packed with people, it had high ceilings, dim lighting, was furnished with antique furniture and had the most peculiar paintings spread all over the place. All this was new to me – I was still discovering the secrets of Cairo and little had I known that such colourful and vibrant space could exist behind the plain, dirty, grey-yellow fa├žade of the run down building where the studio was located.
I got myself a drink, walked a bit around, examined the people all of whom were busy having conversations, saw a little child sleeping on the bed in one of the rooms in complete peace, undisturbed by the noise.

I felt almost immediate attraction to the paintings, especially to those that were painted directly on the walls. The dark colours, the roughness of their rich texture – a combination of paints and sand, the strange faces and symbols, all looked fascinating to me. As I was walking slowly around, I started touching them following an urge to feel them with as many senses as possible. A moment later, someone removed gently my hand away from the painting, and I heard my boyfriend telling me that I was not supposed to be touching pieces of art. As I began disagreeing with him quietly, I heard a warm voice saying from behind our backs: “Of course, she can touch them!”. We turned around and my boyfriend introduced me to a tall man with dark complexions and a charming smile. “Dani, this is the artist Hossam Sakr – our host.”. Hossam looked at me and took my hand away from the hand of my boyfriend and placed it back on the painting: “Dani, please, touch them as much as you wish. I want you to feel them”.

This was the beginning of my friendship with Hossam, which led to many more visits to his studio on different occasions where I had the chance to get to know well both him and his art.
One such occasion was during my mother’s visits to Cairo in the winter of 2005. I wanted to introduce her to Hossam. I had a feeling that they have to meet. And as it always happens, the best things in life come unexpectedly. Out of the 3 weeks that my mum spent with me, the only date on which we all had free time coincided with my mother’s birthday and it turned out to be a very special one. What follows is a beautiful and inspired tale written by my mother on the occasion of her meeting with Hossam and his art. I hope you enjoy it:

The World of Hosam Sakr – a World of Finite Number of Touches and Colours

Mixed media on paper, 2008, Paris

The First Meeting
You enter a snug studio. There are friends on a visit. The host’s little girl is sleeping in the other room. His wife is offering a snack and a glass of beer. Everything seems to be clear, easy and familiar.
What is the thing we often define as magic or originality? Does it exist in the creator’s everyday world or does it stay somewhere in secret?

The Works of Art
They are in the other room. Two of them have been painted directly on the wall. Why so?
An easel and a few piles of pictures on the floor are. There is a dim light in the room but the easel is well lit up. The pictures start “filing” one by one from the piles, reflected by the light at the easel. One after the other, one after the other they take their places on the easel and each of them seems to leave a trace so that it can prepare a room for the next one or complement it, and why not also support it. An hour passes, two, three…
The child is sleeping in the other room. I wonder what she is dreaming.

The Talk
At first, it goes on slowly and seems to be groping for what is happening deep inside everybody’s soul. The pictures dictate the emotions. They gradually entice and allow you into their world and at the same time questions begin to arise. They well up, press each other and overlap, without waiting for one another – religion, science, the yang and yin, the creator’s perception… An interesting thing happens – we seem to have known each other for years. I wonder what might have brought to these mutually shared sensations. Perhaps the trace left by a picture and passing over to another has shifted to the conversation, too. The canvases passing before our eyes unlocked commensurable feelings and perceptions, ages and cultures…

The Sensation
In the time going by we seemed to have seen all the elements building the awesome concept of civilisation pass one after the other. Is this possible? Yes and no. That reminded us of a thought expressed by a Borhes’ character, which says that in his lifetime man strives to discover what has already been discovered. Then, in the trace of ideas left by the pictures, it is possible to rediscover the whole human knowledge. Yet another enigma is still to be solved: how is it possible to achieve this in the form of knowledge that can turn into an idea. It is impossible! It is impossible if you follow the logic of formalised knowledge! But this is absolutely possible if you follow the logic of seeking and trying to know the world surrounding and embracing everyone.
This is where the magic of Hossam's genius lies – in reaching what has been achieved and opening the unexplored space of the civilisation brain. Who is this for? For Hosam himself? No, it is hardly likely. The world he has made for himself has its own endless depths and it would hardly be within its power to look in at what is new and still unperceived. Then wouldn’t that opening of the unexplored space create the feeling of a gap, of an impossibility to reach? Yes, it would, if the little girl weren’t sleeping peacefully in the other room, carrying the perception of future.

The Words
They do not come immediately. The imprint left by the consecutive images is so deep that it is difficult to nominate what has been seen.
Hosam’s world re-created in images is finite. It is a world of faces, bodies and space. There is no outline limiting the pictured world of images. Everything is open. Everything, though long dried up on the canvas, is in motion. Isn’t it possible to repeat the same interpretation of one and the same picture twice? It is hardly probable! The painted images maintain their own peculiar dynamics and every time they look different, as it is in life – everything is irreversible, unique and always developing.
Where is the magic of the image hiding – in the soul, in the thought, in the sensation of tomorrow? No! Where in the sensation of afterwards, of future, of eternity…?
The colours are weird and wonderful, changeable and seemingly blurred. Perhaps these are the colours of creation, containing the essence, the mental attitude to harmony. What will harmony come from – from the theory of the density of matter and the refraction of light, from the technology of making paints, no! There is no other moderator between an idea and the moment of its materialisation but the soul. The soul and the insight into the world are the elements building the harmony in the world, and in particular the colours.
If you have left your soul behind, don’t touch Hosam’s pictures with your gaze. They burn the empty eyes.
The details are clear and distinct. The man and his senses of the world. The details passing quickly from a picture over to another one are the same, yet they look different – strict and soft together, cold and warm, clear and blurred, mundane and philosophical, specific and universal…

The Spaces
Mixed media on paper,2005, Bahrain
There is a sense of reality – the warmth of the earth, the crumbling walls of the home, the warmth of the tree, the last vibration of wrought metal, the strength of the fiery vibration that is burning to ashes and the enveloping force of the mildness of water. The spiral-like vibration of the universe enhances the all-absorbing world of pictures. The world is the creation… called human.
Where is man, then? He is everywhere, but alone!
Steady, confident, evil, loving and thoughtful, he has made an attempt to find his opposite half and reproduce the world through himself. A large part of our perception of the human – the social – is missing in the pictures.
Where is it? As a matter of fact, is it necessary? Where is this power coming from then, this fascinating mutualness, which is conquering the heart of everybody all evening? Where is the magic key to human relationships such as love, hatred and indifference, provided man is alone?
In the boundless expanse of the soul, yes! I asked Hosam’s wife: “Do you find it easy to live with this man?” She lifted her big warm eyes and both the sadness of life and the flame of love could be seen flashing in their corners – eyes that you can’t forget. I wonder what these eyes fill the little sleeping girl’s everyday life with? – With patience, generosity, trivial round…

The world of pictures is silent. Absorbed by the eyes and by all the senses the world seems to be sinking into the man. The man takes it in, together with all its diversity, burden, absurdity and light.
Some of the pictures show clearly this inward movement towards the depths of the soul. It seems as if everything that surrounds us is piling up in layers within and onto the human soul. The eyes sweep with a glance the canvas and feel the roughness resulting from the ups and downs of human existence. The movement gets slower because the glance seems to stumble over the gaps formed by the real and all-absorbing happiness and sadness that is missing from life. Will humanity have enough time to cope with this mental insufficiency?
Still, other pictures are illuminated by the light of everything re-created in life. This light is calm and balanced, yet the feeling remains that creation is the result of the seeking soul’s volcanic eruption. And again has the canvas sunk into the roughness of the overflowing lava of feelings and thoughts of the creating man. What has been achieved is a fact, but it is still to find its place in the order of the world. It is like a newly born baby stunned with horror but determined to be.
I wonder what the sleeping little girl in the other room might be dreaming? Her mother says that the child is afraid of her father’s pictures. Why? I am asking myself what the child’ soul might be grasping when sweeping with a glance the canvases? The tender child’s consciousness must find it difficult to go over the “bumps” called life.

Bounds in the Boundlessness
Sakr’s world is absolutely clear. However, this does not blaze a trail for the idle and lethargic mentality. The world is clear because it belongs to a man whose heart is open, strong, honest and reverberating the desire to live. In his clarity, a word seems to be shouting silently from the canvases – Must!
Must – Clearly, precisely and strictly because the world is for those who live. As for the rest – they are to be found in the missing outlines. If some day they have the will and wish to finish writing their moment and leave their imprint on the canvas of life, let them do it. Otherwise, the world will go on without them, but will feel the disadvantage of the gap ensuing from their human lack of firmness.
Must – clearly, precisely and strictly because the world belongs to those who are able to create. Actually, the moment of creation is the only time in the whole human existence when a man is not alone. Man and human existence are interwoven and re-create the world through them. This is a state of and a zeal for weaving into the spiral of Universe. This is a state of flowing of the one into the other for the re-creation of Eternity. This is a state of balance of opposites – earth and sky, fire and water, light and darkness – which are devoted to one another and reach the unity named Homo sapiens. The rest is just silence along the road called for brevity Life.
Isn’t it that the child is startled by this gushing popularity? I wonder if the child’s fear does not express an essential feature of every one of us – the childishness born by the cognoscibility of life and the responsibility we bear for its existence. Is it not precisely our common fear that the world is knowable, which gives rise to nothing else but the need to create a mystery often called fate, magic, prophecy…

The Unknown in the Known
Mix media on paper, 2005, Germany
The pictures are coming one by one. The traces they leave in our minds are alive. Something makes the thought fly to the landmarks of civilisation and muse on whether the world of man is destructive or whether the world as such is immense, which makes man create and build knowable strongholds. However these strongholds are temporary, so the purpose for their existence is soon served and exhausted. Then the need for destruction comes. On his long, complex and difficult road to cognising the vast life, man tends to destroy only within the confines he has set to himself. Sakr’s pictures are an attempt to begin to understand the unknown.
The pictures follow one after the other and what is happening in our hearts is the appearance of confidence in tomorrow, in my own self, in the meaning of the life of the child sleeping in the other room.
The world has to be seen in its essence, without the self-restricting complacency arising from what the human genius has achieved and created. This is what Hosam Sakr makes us do through his philosophy.

Time Goes by
Day after day passes by. The pragmatism of the day makes you feel engrossed it its eloquence and tries to fully absorb you. Is the brief moment spent in the cosy Sakr’s space enough to awaken and strengthen the soul? One day Hosam’s little girl will go to school and will find out that there are people born with a mission. Will she be brave enough to confess that her father is one of them?

January 10, 2005 

Emilia Evgenieva
Yordanka Evgenieva

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