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About the artist Baseem Rayyes, and (A Painting for Every Martyr)

About the artist Baseem Rayyes, and (A Painting for Every Martyr)

Khawla Hasan al-Hadid, al-Quds al-Arabi - 2011-06-23

Can art be neutral? We mean here the painting in particular. Isn't the artist a human at first? When God gave him an artistic gift, He made him better, more than anybody else, in the ability of expression, which may mean that he is the loudest voice and brightest image to reflect reality in its obvious image or multi-significance symbolism.

In spite of all calls for "Art for Art's sake" and the adaptation of many Arab artists for this saying, contemporary Arab artist have stayed close to the issues of his nation and society; works of many artists have confirmed the amount of artist's adherence with reality, his interaction with what is going on around him, affirming his right to express the different features of people's lives, his right to express himself and his political and social participation his society through his artistic work which is the best way of expression most of the time. In this context, come dozens of artistic works which have interacted with the Palestinian question both from Palestinian and Arab artists, in addition to the appearance of some other works which have expressed the crises and tragedies of Arab societies in wars and disasters. Even Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails have found a breathing space for themselves in the painting and sculpture, and could deliver the image and voice of Palestinians to the whole world through their art.

These ideas must be talked about when we deal with an exceptional experience like Syrian artist Baseem Rayyes's who could continue his technical research and develop his styles in using materials, tools and the visions implied behind them, with keeping human values which clearly appear on his painting's spaces through its touching to people's lives and human issues in general. Since the artistic experience of Baseem Rayyes deserves to be read from various perspectives and needs several stoppings which may not be available for now, it deserves to be pointed at and stopped by especially by two initiatives by the artist which refer to rare humanity and beauty.

The first initiative was called (A Painting on Every Wall), which is an artistic project in which he gives one of his paintings to those who wish for from the friends list in facebook, and others, in order to be hanged on their walls; Baseem drew dozens, and even hundreds, of paintings, and he, most of the cases, paid for delivering the paintings to their owners in an initiative which cost him time, effort and money, yet it is loaded by a human message which cannot but be delivered and no one can stand in its way; a message full of beauty, happiness and color joy which says, "This is my art for you, and I wish for nothing back but to enjoy."

The second initiative, which is not less beautiful than the first, is that which turns death into life; the initiative of (A Painting for Every Martyr) which Baseem started with the fall of the first martyr in the protest movement in Syria. I do not know whether he continued with the same rhythm since martyrs in Syria are in a date on every Friday, like date of leaves in autumn, so he has to double his weeks and months in order to catch up with the train of Syrian martyrs.

Martyrdom is the symbol of heroism which was expressed in an epical scene of our people's struggle in Syria for freedom, and their sacrifices which is baptized with blood; martyrdom was turned, by Baseem, into an honest expressionist painting for a painful memory which will stay immortal in front of our eyes as in our imagination. Martyr's body and his symbolic image in the painting shocks us, goes deep inside our feelings and creates an infinite sadness within us when we first see it; it is not an ordinary or a familiar sadness but it is the sadness mixed with pride to the extent of envy, and your wish to be the painting's subject because you are the creator of this great epic. Baseem wanted to combine between the greatness of sacrifice with its power which is presented by Syrians facing the dictator, and the continuity of this act which seeks to strengthen our people's power and will in struggling all kinds of insult and humiliation; that is why we see the martyrs in Baseem's paintings view with their smiling faces, their beautiful colors full of life and their wide open eyes shining with sadness, blame, pride and hope together, and sometimes shy apology for absence; eyes which the paintings turn into an objective equal to the voice, movement and the living body presence; wide eyes which are still widening to say that they are fighting the awl, or actually had fought it; eyes which could be a metaphor for the assassinated body by treachery bullets, and the lost voice in the echo of Syrian days pregnant with death and surprises.

Martyrs, in all of Baseem's paintings, have eyes which are widening in order to get us before we can see any other thing in the painting. In some paintings, a wound, caused by a treachery bullet in the pure heart, emerges through few drops of blood as a reference to the stop of wasting blood. That is why, also, red color is absent, which is supposed to be greatly present as we would think. In some other paintings, the everlasting love relationship between the mother and her children is also there; the martyr apologizes to his mother for being late and his inability to abide his time of coming back home, having some food with her or obeying her orders, but he comforts her that he is happy now while traveling in a wide horizon of transparency in which nothing often appear but his face which is more focused on while swimming in a world of everlasting immortality after his holy blood spread on the path of freedom _ on the pavements of Syrian cities streets and the land of their fields.

Artistic elements, shapes and colored spaces in martyrs' paintings were combined in order to form swinging creatures full of movement, and to leave, in our imagination and conscience, wide eyes that pursuit us with their questions, hope and immortality in a colorful panorama in which hatred is mixed with love, and cruelty with kindness. When you think deeply and bring your conscience facing these creatures, you will suddenly discover that moral and human values which have grown in our hearts and souls started to fall apart, shatter and stink with a smell of mold and other kinds of human ugliness.

In the same time, we wonder, "Where are the Syrian artists with their brushes and colors? Where are dozens, or even hundreds, of Syrian creative workshops and pens? Where have they disappeared? Why have the Syrian intellectual appear with this scandalous nudity? What are you waiting for? We need you in these hard moments; we do not want you afterward; we do not want you after the end of the Syrian blood festival. We need all of you now; we need your bright colors to decrease the ugliness and horribleness of red which is no longer the color of love which was denied in dear Syria. We will not ask you to oppose the regime or not. We will ask you nothing but to be with us as Baseem did with his art, brush and signature words at the bottom of every painting, behind every martyr in order to be signs and witnesses; signs which from rhetoric semiotics to document the present wonderfully, turn death into life and immortalize the martyr who enlightened future path for us; witnesses who are some of us; some of our bodies and souls which were spread all over the homeland in order to remain immortal, and Syria remains immortal; the most beautiful and the most precious Syria.


Translated by: Yazan el-Haj

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