Art in the press

Inner Life of Arab sculpture is reborn by Hala Shaker

"Work, Torment, and hope are what make up the history of the human race on this planet. Cherishing the memory of this history, making it known and providing its cultural content with a worthy framework-this is the duty of each and everyone of us," says Oscar Niemeyer, the famous Brazilian artist.

It has long been an Arab sculptors's dream: to congregate together and bring out the rich diversity and skill of their work. Today, this dream has become a reality.

Forty prominent sculptors from six Arab countries are meeting together for the first time at the Jerash Festival. Their collective exhibition of superbly constructed pieces takes place currently at the Cave of Zeus . This first encounter is a great artistic and cultural event. There is a parallel symposium of sculptors, researchers in esthetics and architecture at the Baladana Art Gallery in Amman . From Jordan , Palestine , Iraq , Syria , Lebanon , and Egypt these people are meeting to interact and discuss contemporary Arab sculptures and espouse it to the general public.

Mrs Suad Hourani, director of the Baladna Art Gallery and the originator of the encounter said that she had been preparing for more than a month.

It is special in the sense that it is the first collective of diverse Arab sculptures.

Mohammad Hajjras a distinguished Egyptian sculptor said the encounter is a very good beginning. "It is a birth of a great idea we have longed for since the 1950s." He added that artists are always in need for such encounters, saying that "their coming together changes the direction of the Arab artist. It also breaks the bars of isolation and solitude which constitute a dilemma for Arab artists in our modern society." After all Arab sculptors have to come together to improve.

Seven Egyptian sculptors from different generation are taking part in the event. Hajjras, a long time sculptor, dealt with the dilemma of the Arab human through his five displayed graven figures like the Martyr's Kiss, the Caravan proceeds, Motherhood, the Enclosure, and La (No). This last
work stands for the man in the Arab world who is in constant revolt against this ugly age, says Hajjras.

The other Egyptian sculptors, Naji Farid, Hazem Mistikawi, Hazem Abdel Khaleq,

Jamal Abdul Nasser, Salah Hammad, and Hamdi Atiyeh, belong to the younger generation. Their works exude creativity and power that are rich in diversity, techniques and subjects shedding light on modern Egyptian sculpture.

Palestinian Zaki Salam said "I wish there were more participants from Palestine ." Sculpture is the art of settlement and stability, Salam points out; but Palestinian sculpture suffers from the lack of stability and live under circumstances of removal. Because of this Palestinian sculptors turned to other forms of art.

Salam's seven bronze works and one wooden figure seem at a first glance realistic. He used a technique which represented a significant means of expression. Salam says that the axes of his approach is the expression.

"I rely on the inner expression of man, joy mingled with inner tension, and other feelings of the people surrounding me. The statue is not merely the state of man it must provide a visual dialogue with the surroundings." Salam said.

Syria was represented by four remarkable artists. Mustafa Ali's seven bronze works are about the contemporary Syrian myth.

Lufti Rahim executed his figures in marble. But together with Aktham Abdel Hamid, both deal with abstract themes. Rabee Al Akhrass' iron works on the other hand tend to be more expressionistic.

Jordan also has a full contingent with 10 sculptors. Their works were individual initiatives according to the mass flood of events and images.

Muna Saudi, Mohammed Issa, Samia Zaru, Larissa Najjar, Abdelhai Musallam, Nazih Oweis, Ahyd Younes, Abdellaziz Abu Ghazaleh, Khaled Hamzeh, and Maha Abu Ayyash have all a range of diverse works in subject and in style.

Muna Saudi the well-known artist employed a powerful technique. Taking a mere glance at her art one perceives the widely mature handling of stone and gets the strong impression that she is a fervent lover of her country, as one critic said. What attracts the attention of the eye and the feeling in Oweis' works is the ability to move the spaces through his strong and close relation with the material he uses. And Abdulhay Musallam's artistic subjects range from folklore to glorious tales.

Inside the Cave of Zeus one also meets shining images that are overshadowed by the Monument of Liberty in Baghdad.

Iraq 's participation is the largest. There are 13 artists of three different generations who have created their sculptures with the help of their inner desire to reveal their spiritual beings. These include Ismael Fatah, Karim Khalil, Ali Rassan, Hadi Abas, Iyad Sadeq, Salman Radi, Laith Fattah, Khaled Izzat, Nateq Al Aloussi, Amer Khalil, Murtada Hadaad and Sabah Fakhreddin.

The inquiring Iraqi images are not after finding the eternal answers. They are listening to the deep Sumerian inscription that carries wisdom and provides the sanctity of life. Iraqi sculptures like prayers, have long hidden treasures that keep them away from any unified social or cultural

The sculptors reveal their inner will to achieve as much as they can of every penetration into the Iraqi identity which is concealed under the dust of wars and immigration.

Lastly is the participation of five prominent lebanese sculptors. Salwa Rawdha Shukayr, Izzat Mezher, Samer Mogharbel, Naim Thobat, Izzat Hamam. All are united by the presage of creativity and the desire to be united with the material of sculpture. Their works are about modernity in form and in subject.

Copyright Hala Shaker, The Star (Jordan , Middle East), 08-07-1997