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Artist Baseem Rayyes: The Grey is a mental idiom more than being a realistic one

Six shape is a combination of the circle which belongs to the absolute

Anas al-Amwi, al-Kifah al-Arabi Newspaper

"Baseem's roots came from the black rocks of volcanoes, and their Syrian man who lives his history in every hour of the day.
He opened his eyes on this ancient history which moves around him on an unbelievable amazing theatre.
He ignored everything he has seen or heard of the past's temptations or the present's groans, so his inner world turns to become alike with the paintings he draws.
All of this, is with the genius's innocence and joy, and in the absurdity of a man who, with a great wit, deals with primitive graphic shapes.
He is a painter whose flesh, bones and blood are from the living Syrian history.
He is silent as the charm of sadness."

With these words the late Syrian artist Fateh al-Mudarres introduced the experience of the young artist Baseem Rayyes with all of what it implies of promising hopes and a real gift which should take its real space in life under the sun light.

We have known that you live in several struggles and outer and inner thoughts, why do you have such a feeling?

Because in every moment the person lives in a struggle which could be with his society, himself or with the things around him, not to mention the struggle resulting due to feeling time when moving so fast and we want to be one step forward compared with it.

Do not you see that your ambition, as a young artist, is bigger than what you seek to achieve in a limited period of time?

On the contrary. I believe that what I cannot achieve today cannot be presented tomorrow, and I always have this feeling which drives me achieve what I feel inside me today because I do not feel the need to postpone.

What about your own views of the ancient Syrian art. What can you tell us about your interest in it?

In my first exhibition, three years ago, and was like a reading of the ancient Syrian art, I felt that belong to this art which is so close to me, especially that many civilizations passed on the ancient Syrian art. When you only think of studying this civilization, you certainly need many years of research.
The artist usually feels that he should be familiar with the previous artistic experiences, so what about a complete history full of civilizations?!
He certainly then has to choose and select in addition to the feeling of the amount of mixture of these civilizations.

Is not it possible that the artist usually falls in the trap of cloning the ancient artistic views through new elements?

I do not think so because man's resources and information come from three directions: read, heard and seen. The knowledge of any person in the world comes from these resources. Eventually, he will have artistic and cultural reservoir and background which parallel with what he have seen. Ultimately, there is no creativity which comes out of the blue; there is always a specific base on which any new art stands; you take from this base and reshape it in a contemporary view.

That is why you point out that ancient civilization are similar artistically.

I think that the similarities are so clear and can be expressed through the drawings of the body, and also through the artist's view and his shaping of the reality especially that the ancient civilizations were interested in agriculture and the visual state. Ancient Syrian civilization, for instance, was a mixture of more than one civilization which cannot be artistically separated. We cannot talk about the Assyrian civilization, for example, in isolation from any other civilization from the same region because there is a mixture which makes you feel the spirituality of things. Many times I feel that many current Syrian faces have ancient yet contemporary features.

On this basis, can we say that the grey is a color idiom that unites ancient civilizations?

This is a mental idiom more than being a realistic one. Since very long time ago, there were colors, life, sun and light, but the technique of black and white forced us to see the grey. If we talked by the image language, we find that before the seventies there was the black and white camera which forced us to see our parents and grandparents with only these two colors. Thus, we tend to see every ancient thing in grey, that is why I consider the grey as a good metal idiom and analysis and there are people who work with the grey as an assimilation of the realism with power.

Why don't we consider it as a kind of nostalgia?

We may so.

What about your second exhibition in which you chose to present artistic shapes which have the feature of the six shape?

I can say that this idea was just a note inside me and I felt the need to present it publically. There is a birth of this idea which started with a specific definition of the circle and its turning into a six shape with a base on which it stands because I think, mentally, that the circle is an absolute shape, and if we had several similar circles, they would turn into six shapes.

How does this happen artistically?

Their existence in the space turns them into these shapes; the six shape is a collective state of the circle, and the circle is an absolute state. From this point, my ideas started to increase especially that I consider that the organizing state is one of the most important examples; creatures organizing (the appearance of organs) has a connection with the six shape, as any mass with head, tail, arms and legs contains a six shape within it. This is a system in which the whole universe follows; atoms connection with each other is a six connection.
There are many examples of how nature follow this system, and of course the natural circumstances deform this six shape so that it becomes invisible, so I have tried to see things and return them into their original womb and beginning in order to be reshaped according to an artistic formula.

What is the secret of the obvious dialogue between male and female in your paintings?

This relationship has its historical and mythological references. I am still working on this direction and I do not know what to get yet. This huge number of males and females formed non-deliberately shapes which look like beehives, but the beehive is a group of circles which formed six shapes with each other because the six shape is not an expression of the beehive only but of the whole nature.

What is your comment to the people who say that beehives in your paintings resulted from your studying of agricultural engineering and its effect on you?

This thing came by chance. Even when I was studying, I did not care for these things because it was a theoretical subject which had nothing in common with agriculture, but with accounting (agricultural economy), but there may be an inner reservoir. Anyway, I do not see any connection between agriculture or beehives with this artistic shaping because I tried to present an abstractive case in which I differentiate between the scientific symbols of male and female and their mythological references. Male is given the shape of an arrow with a circle which is a scientific symbol, and the female a circle with a plus sign. This symbol has a historical justification which I tried to find then I applied it on faces so it become an abbreviation of connecting things with each other; male and his relationship with the sun, and female with the moon.

With Fateh al-Mudarres and Anwar al-Rahabi

It is noticed that you are an artist who was not effected by western schools of art, why not?

Because this thing does not appear with a decision or a thinking, so I say "I will go and be effected by this school or that." This cannot be applied in deed, and I think that there are no schools left in these days, but there are artistic views of artists toward life.

On this basis, are not you considered from the artists of artistic views of ancient art?

I do not think so. simply, I live in 2001 while they lived hundreds of years ago. It is a mistake that we commit with ourselves when we say that we belong to this school, so we have to be more developed than it since we live in information age where we receive, in every moment, new data which generates dozens of new opinions, thoughts, ideas and inventions.
But I can use things which they did not. Currently, I am using a new technique with new materials of which I gave an impression of a specific time. I cannot work in 2030, for instance, as in 1990 because things are changing and we have to keep on with this change.

Since we are talking about effect and change, what is your relationship with the artist Fateh al-Mudarres who was interested in ancient Syrian art?

Simply, every artist has a desire to meet the great artist Fateh al-Mudarres in order to be familiar with the experiences of these great artists personally. I met him several times and he introduced my first exhibition because he liked my style, and he kept giving me advices continuously.

What were his remarks on your paintings?

Most of his remarks were in four of five phrases; "your work is so nice", "keep on", "don't listen to others talks", "work", "continue", in addition to other remarks which are related with some specific details in every work. he did not see all my paintings of course, because I did not meet him daily, but when he tells me to.

In your opinion, what have the introduction of a great artist to your exhibition benefited you, other than artistically?

In fact, I really wish that all artists be like the late Fateh al-Mudarres, in his loving heart I mean, which contains everybody; before being a great artist, the person should measure things and people with a human scale and not just with an artistic one.

Also, you had another experience with Anwar al-Rahabi who introduced your second exhibition. How do you describe your experience with him?

Anwar is a great artist whom I love and respect very much. He liked my works and wanted to introduce my exhibition. I believe that every great artist should be humble and tries to help others as much as possible.

Globalization of art

If we moved to talk about the colors you use. Have your look and dealing with colors changed between your first and second exhibitions?

Of course I have not stayed on one path. Colors are like the sea and swimming; sometimes you may drown, but there is always a continuous search of the color.

Do you consider that you have experienced a specific color stage _ grey, blue then red?

Never. I am against these descriptions because the stage is connected with time, and I am a man with very short time and cannot talk about it. So I deal with inks and construct some colors manually, and the more I work the more results of my work appear. This is my experience, and any material in the world can be an artistic material which can be applied somewhere in the painting or may be the painting itself.

But it is noticed that you prefer dark colors.

Generally, when I work on a painting the result appear with light colors which I am not comforted with so the colors turn to be darker and darker, but what stays is your feeling of what you seek as an artist. Sometimes you may get to a result other than the one you seek, and sometimes you get closer in a specific degree but the artist rarely comes close to what he really seeks, and here I must emphasize that the painting must contain all values.

Color values you mean?

Absolutely not. Color is one of the values, and the painting is not just a mixture of colors hanged on a wall for decoration. The painting must be deeper than that, and must contain aesthetic, artistic, intellectual and philosophical elements.

And where lies the artist's spirit and his artistic view?

This comes from the combination of these values and from finding the relationship between these values and their references on the painting which come spontaneously and naturally. It may not be beautiful but it contains an important idea.

In your opinion, to what extent have globalization and modernism affected in painting? Do the audience have enough time left to see artistic works in the time of materialism and consumerism?

This is a very important question because the artist is always able to exploit future horizons to a specific distance. I always connect time with the clock because globalization makes us with no species uniqueness, and voids us so that a PEPSI can would unite all ideas like a group of colors on a white paper; each color expresses itself and its specificity so if you pour black, for instance, on all these colors, you will find that it becomes like a filter; each color would take from the black and loses its specificity. This is the most dangerous thing which humanity would face because of globalization.
Even though the subject of globalization is old, even in artistic issues, the most dangerous kind of globalization today is the American one because it has no logic or conscience. The task of the very clever, and the genius artist is to say "no" to this globalization.

How would you have the opportunity for that?

When I express this place, ultimately I express myself and declare that I exist with the specificity of the environment in which I was raised. Here, I am against the west effect artistically because the west knows its civilization well and it will not await for an artist who comes from a different environment in order to present works which do not assimilate his environment and history.
So, the artist has to express his environment with its culture, history and the extent of others interest in it. If we could not stop this wild horse coming toward us, we possibly can calm it for a while, decrease the distance and preserve our identity. I cannot imagine that after ten years I would attend an exhibition of an Arab artist, and another of an Indonesian one, and other Brazilian for example, and the three of them work in one artistic view. The question is much deeper and more important.

Translated by: Yazan el-Haj

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