My Voice Is Low, But Inside Me, There Is a Loud Voice above the Clouds
Darin Al Saleh – Alwatan - 07/03/2011
"Love is a language of act, not just words. So, I will not talk too much, and I'll express my love for you by an act of beauty. For all my art lover friends, for you, wherever you are, whatever language or nationality you are, my gift in 2011 is a painting for each one of you; may the painting combine us." With these words, Syrian artist Baseem Rayyes launched his, first all over the world, initiative. With the beginning of 2011, the artist Rayyes announced an unprecedented initiative, which does not lack being both strange and funny, under the title (A Painting On Every Wall), which is based on giving a painting to those who wish for by communicating via email or Rayyes's facebook profile page between 1st till the 31st of January.
Tell us about the initiative which you launched recently, A Painting on Every Wall, and how did the idea cross your mind?
On new year's eve, while I was alone in Dubai, I suddenly felt great love for everyone, so it crossed my mind. I decided to work on it in January to declare it as a month of love to the whole world. I launched this initiative under the title (A Painting on Every Wall) and said, "Love is a language of act, not just words. So, I will not talk too much, and I'll express my love for you by an act of beauty. Anyone who wishes to get a painting should send me an email and he will get his painting."
How many emails have you received since the beginning of the initiative till its end?
I received hundreds of emails from many Arab and foreign countries such as USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Jordan, Palestine and all over Syria from north to south, in addition to the Gulf countries (KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and UAE).
How did you announce the initiative?
Via facebook, then I started receiving requests and drawing. I decided to reply all emails each 15 minutes for credibility, because some thought it was just a joke.
Too many people have not heard about the initiative; don't you think that you have not done your best effort in advertising for your announcement?
No, I have not. Press played a main role in this; there are some newspapers which wrote about the initiative since its first day, while others have not said a word about it. I was in my workshop in UAE, receiving an replying emails and have not have the time to communicate with press.
How many paintings have you drawn till now?
I have finished almost 60% of the job.
How do you communicate with people to give them their paintings?
For UAE and Syria, I personally deliver the paintings since I move between the two countries. While for other countries, I send the painting and its owner will be responsible for the fees. Also, I may send some painting with friends or acquaintances who travel to those countries so the paintings will be delivered to their owners.
You have entitled each painting by its owner's name; what will happen with these paintings?
After the idea was first launched, it began to develop and admired by all whom have overheard about, especially my friends who have encouraged me so much.
Then I gave the painting its owner's name in order to stay reserved with his name, whether it would be shown online, in a catalogue or a book. I usually keep the paintings archived by numbers, but in this project I keep them with their owners' names; the thing which decreases the gap between the painting and the audience _ he feels that it is his, so he keeps it and does not waste it.
We have heard about some human cases in the initiative.
There was a young man who lost the contact with his lover after a complicated relationship; they know nothing about each other except for emails. One of them asked me to draw a painting and send it to the other. I felt something human about this, so I did draw and send it and eventually everything returned normal again between them. There are also two or three similar cases.
I wrote at the end of the initiative, "may the painting combine us;" which means that this painting will combine people regardless of their race, nationality or language. Painting will combine and unite everyone.
Have you received any strange requests?
Of course. A man sent me an email in which he wants me to draw to him, his wife and his children; while the initiative says that each one must send hisher request personally in order to keep hisher name in the archives.
Another one sent me his personal photograph, and asked me to draw him and send it back to him, but I told him that I do not draw portraits. Apparently, some people have not understood the idea of the initiative.
Some have criticized this initiative by claiming that you have cheapened your works by giving painting for free.
I have not heard anything about that. Anyway, it is an opinion. Eventually, all sayings will be forgotten, and only paintings will stay on walls. Soon, I am going to establish an exhibition in Syria; its profits will go to the children of AAMAAL Society; so then, every criticizer of this initiative and everyone who has received a painting will realize that this painting has an expensive material value in addition to its human one.
You are from Syrian origins, and lives in United Arab Emirates; can we consider this initiative as a step for homecoming?
Five years ago, I wrote, "Put on your coats; my rain is falling soon." I decided to go back soon.
In 2006, you established an exhibition under the title (Memory of Time on Wall). What can you tell us about it?
I considered the wall as a pattern because I was raised in an old quarter in an ancient Arabic house. The wall was about 120 cm deep. I started to imagine that many people passed through this wall and left their memories which constructed layers above layers. I took the wall and peeled its memories, so it was the memory of time on the space; which is the wall.
You also established an exhibition, in 2009, in Emirates Mall in Dubai.
In this exhibition, I expressed the concept of the wall in a different way; the idea is that the characters are creatures which extend in the time of technology. I said that the walls have fallen down, and geography is destroyed and has become meaningless. Technology enables us to communicate with the whole globe; there are no boundaries. Geographical wall is fallen down, and a time wall appears without our notice. I mean that data is available everywhere, and we will gain as soon as possible no matter what.
You have a writing experience, and have won many prizes in short story.
I write a long time ago, but I did not publish broadly. Then I got some attention and positive responses, so I started to publish publically.
I have had both new and old stories when I participated in Al-Sharja Arab Creativity Prize for short stories and won the third prize. I also won Ghanem Ghabbash Prize for my story "A Man with a Wheelchair" which I am planning to rewrite it as a novel.
You also have an experience in cinema in which you wrote and directed a short film (Boundaries of the Grey). What can you tell us about this film, and your whole cinema experience?
I love cinema, and I have always felt that I can be a director although I did not study cinema academically. I have several small cinema projects where I produced the first one with the assistance of others. The idea of the film is simple; the work is based on a small idea which I called (Boundaries of the Grey). I mean the separating element between things which looks like all of us; it is neither white nor black; it is the separating elements between life and death, ugliness and beauty. An experience with a cinematic language visually and based on two contradictory events. This film is important; it was released in Dubai Film Festival, and we will present it in Tanja Festival soon.
What are your future projects?
I have an experience which is not declared yet. I work on artistic projects, and not just the painting. My voice is low, but inside me, there is a loud voice which flies over the clouds. I intend to change but does not know the result. There is a drawing initiative, a collection of texts will be published soon and a film too.
There is a so close exhibition in Damascus where its profits will go to the children of AAMAAL Society, an exhibition in Dubai in March, another one in October and another in Lattakia (the date is not assigned yet) and I am preparing for an exhibition in Canada.
Translated by: Yazan el-Haj