It is very difficult,
even naïve, to think that one could sum up the life of a man,
a thinker, a philosopher, a man of letters, or an artist in few
lines or even few book pages. Well, it is known that every second
of any man’s life is an ongoing evolving journey. On this journey,
a man acquires experience that will one day enable him to achieve
an exceptional level of humanity and perfection. Every man has a
unique and independent personality, which prints differ from any
other; although, similarities in human nature may be common.
becomes even more difficult when one tries to write a book about
an artist that still has a lot to offer. What may be true right
now might change tomorrow: men evolve, and change their point of
view. Therefore, what I am trying to do in these pages is to shed
the light on a particular temporal and artistic period of the works
of Jo Koury.
The period that
has captured my attention is defined by the vast expanse of colors
on the canvas. Therefore, I was inclined to name him the ten thousand
color artist. The colors are sculpted onto the painting while covering
it with an almost unique technique.
Most of these
canvases are a fiery and strong cry. I would go further and say
that they were explosive during the nineties, at the dawn of the
ending of the murderous war in Lebanon, knowing how much the artist
endured then. It is as if the mind and body, when attacked, develop
a personal immune system, which disintegrates when the immediate
danger fades away. I think that the disintegration of Jo’s immune
system is expressed in his paintings by this explosion of colors.
The latter took the shapes of abstract art, symbolism or virtual
surrealism. It was all defined by light, dark, hard, cold, and fiery
colors. In addition to that, it was characterized on one hand by
spiraled sharp brushstrokes and on the other by large vigorous ones.
What I want
is to shed the light on few works of Jo Koury. Koury is an artist
who fell in love with colors and with the freedom to cover canvases
with lively colors and brushstrokes with different techniques. These
fiery, lively and garish colors could only be the cry of a lively
soul. The latter has a complex vision of man, woman, life and spirituality.
Unwittingly, Jo is expressing himself through colors and colored
voids. The colored masses shock and intrigue the eye. Questions
on what they represent, what message they convey, what they symbolize,
where they end, or what they aim at, impose themselves. The colored
voids are also the background, which completes the components of
the painting. Jo’s paintings do not have third dimensions.
The color might be his favorite mean of expression. Furthermore,
this color stock might have been piling up in his subconscious since
childhood. It appeared that he was a nature lover since he was a
Joseph Badih Khoury was born in Kfarabida, in northern
Lebanon, in 1952. He went to the Jesuit school in Ghazir and later
to the Capuchin school in Batroun. He graduated in economics from
the Saint-Joseph University in Beirut. After he graduated, he took
many painting and sculpture courses in New York. He started to exhibit
his art in the mid eighties. In the nineties, his exhibitions reached
their peaks. He graduated in 2007 with an executive MBA degree from
the Lebanese-Canadian University, Aintoura and UCAM University-Canada.
His productivity never ceased to grow.
Jo Koury exhibited
his works in private and in group, in Lebanon and abroad, namely
Paris, New York, Chicago, Louisville, Washington, Amman, Dubai,
A Point of View
is a huge world full of ideas, pictures, forms, and colors. Although
people are somehow similar, each individual has a unique personality
and a personalized contribution regardless of how small or how big
it is. Thus, art is also unique and tightly linked to its creator.
It is, therefore,
very difficult to judge a man or an artist based on a particularly
set culture. Knowing that who ever, might like this color or this
form, might not like another one. One critic that overrates a genre
and underrates another might be unjust in his/her criticism. In
fact, he/she simply is not fond of this genre because it does not
match his/her cultural background.
I personally believe that the critic or the viewer should look at
the object of art objectively and regardless of all preconceived
feelings and ideas. They both should let art move them. Furthermore,
the viewer must try to unveil the beauty of the art object. He/she
should appreciate its just value by studying it in its own historical
time and space frame. History carefully sieves out water preventing
gold from leaking out!
Umberto Eco differentiated between the concept of beauty in the
western cultures and elsewhere in the world. “As to other cultures,
rich in poems and philosophy, for example the Indian or the Chinese
culture, it is often difficult to know how much certain concepts
are similar to ours. Although, our traditions have forced us to
translate them in western terms, as “beautiful” or “fair”…. We start
by assuming that beauty was neither absolute nor immutable. In fact,
it took a different look whenever time and place changed”.
By comparing two works of art by the same name of Madonna, the first
was painted by Parmesan in 1532 and named “The Madonna with the
Long Neck”, and the second was painted by Eduard Munch and named
“Madonna”, we clearly see how each painting has its own magnificence.
Their individual beauty shines through the colors, the workmanship
or the artistic components; although, each painting is completely
different from the other. These two paintings belong to different
places and different times. Furthermore, each artist expressed himself
on the subject through his own culture, times and traditions. Therefore,
each painting is characterized by a unique beauty and a unique painter.
Angelo accept the beauty of the “The Screm” painted by Munch in
1893, or of “The Young Ladies of Avignon” painted by Picasso in
1907? What would Parmesan say about “The Talisman” painted by Paul
Serusier in 1888, or about “The Blue Monochrome” painted by Yves
Klein in 1958? Thus, every individual has his/her own mark no matter
how similar in content or in form it may be. Each work must be placed
into its particular context, regardless of how much it may differ
from our acknowledged and accepted traditional norms of beauty.
About God and death
“He is the power and the beauty, the greatest architect creator
of quakes and tranquility”, these were the words he used to describe
God. God is the creator of quakes, would He therefore hurt men?
“He is the creator of nature, which has its own concepts. We owe
Him everything”, was his answer.
I sometimes felt that
he was like a beautiful bird full of life longing to living on branches
and to singing while flying over prairies of a thousand and one
colors. He avoids the grip of reality by flying toward the color,
his haven of peace away from the smell of money; although, he undoubtedly
acknowledges that the latter is the sinews of life. I see him leading
two horses, dream and reality, trying hard to conciliate both; in
order to avoid the rebellion of one over the other.
“I don’t like
death, I fear it. After death, men go to an unknown place”, he answered
me very frankly when I asked him.
I carefully observed
his paintings looking for death amidst these color masses covering
them. He told me that mauve was the color of death; because it is
the combination of the greatest two colors, red and blue. “Every
color is the expression of something. For example, red expresses
strength, rebellion, motivation, and blood; blue is life, water,
and sky”. He carried on: “Death is the end of a vocation on earth.
Every man has a role to play on earth. No matter how weak he is,
he has a role to play, and namely the poorest one. His role is to
teach us modesty and humility. The poor teaches humanity to the
rest of us”.
do you pray?
“When I’m painting, I’m praying and chanting God. I try to find
out where I’m going after death. I look for the answer in my paintings,
but they float in a fog of mystery. They are haunted by colorful
ghosts, and their dark colors disturb the eye. I sometimes look
at my paintings, and I can feel mystery surrounding them. The glimmer
of hope, however, always peeks through their walls.”
“Religion is of no importance to me. Men created religion in order
to establish a certain order”, these were his words, which scared
me. One could accuse him of impiety or atheism. He carried on however:
“Religion is when I sit and have a one on one conversation with
God. I offer Him my prayers. All rites are beautiful, but I feel
as if a play is unfolding in front of me. It however fills me with
complete religious reverence.” At that point he realized what he
just said and added: “I’m a believer, who respects the Church’s
Order. This is not however my deepest beliefs. Men are the greatest
creatures of this world.” I had a feeling that he was struggling
inside him to find out-of-reach answers for vital questions.
One of Khoury's masterpieces (Composition 80 x 60 cm, Oil on canvas)
I paint like I pray... a world of mysticism and pure creation said
A woman is both inspiration and creation! She is beautiful and rough.
She inspires good and evil. I would be lost without her. I long
for her affection. Her affection inspires you, gives you strength
and nurtures your ambition. Her strength could either be the failure
or the success of home and professional life. In my work, her personality
has its full weight. I was unable to define her with one particular
color; therefore, she could be all colors.
Laudy, his wife, is the
engine and the dynamism of all his artistic exhibitions planning.
She makes all the phone calls, set the appointments, travels, does
the necessary research, etc. “She is also the barometer of my paintings!
I evaluate the success of my painting through her look and her criticism.”
In my opinion,
I believe he expressed himself on sex in his paintings with flaming
and explosive colors. It was bluntly and indelicately brought up.
A man is the extension of his childhood. However, personally, I’m
not living another extension of mine.
What is that feeling and to what extent is it totally authentic?
All I know is
that I’m alive now. I love life, going out and all profane pleasures.
I think about God when I’m alone in my workshop. I try to pray through
my colors. Painting is a pleasure not a profession. How I long to
break all constraints and dive into an ocean of art and beauty!
I don’t paint anything that has a beginning and an end. How can
I then seek the deepness of a man’s or woman’s mind? When shapes
disappear, there will be neither beginning nor end. The patch of
color and the technique, which I use to draw it, express my thoughts.
Every painting is the result of a particular thought, experience,
or shock that I was faced with. Thus, the difficulty I’m faced with
is how to transform this idea or this shock into colored spaces,
in order, to pass my message on to the viewer. Certain paintings
take months to be finished. Every time, I think a particular painting
is finished, I discover that the message I wanted to pass on isn’t
there anymore. There is something else, a feeling that was overwhelming
me at that moment. Many paintings just lay there without being finished!
So many sleepless nights worrying about how to finish a painting!
There are feelings that I find hard to express on a canvas.”
I observed him as he was talking, and it occurred to me that men
are a single entity from childhood till maturity. Read
of the artist's artwork
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address : Mezzo Art Lounge
Jounieh - Phone: 961 3