Syrian artist Alaa Shasheet translates love for Chinese painting to his own works

Opalyn Mok
Some of Alaa's paintings with their bold abstract black strokes seen at China House in George Town October 23, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 23 — The colour black often has negative connotations and yet, black Is used prominently in Chinese paintings and calligraphy.

Influenced by such Chinese paintings, Syrian artist Alaa Shasheet’s own work features black, brown, grey and splashes of red.

He says his abstract pieces are expressions of pure feelings through bold black strokes that stand out in stark relief.

Each piece expresses a different feeling: loss, happiness, jubilance, ambivalence or even anger.

These feelings are then layered with a mix of mediums from sand to old bus tickets to represent the complexities of every person's feelings and expressions.

“The bold strokes are the first impressions I want my paintings to make, to draw the eye and once they look closely at the work, they will then notice that there is a depth to it, they will notice the little scribbles, the sand and smaller details,” Shasheet explained.

Shasheet's work is influenced by his fascination with Chinese paintings in their use of bold, black strokes. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

He incorporates Chinese ink into his works and some of the bold strokes even resemble abstract Chinese calligraphy set against backgrounds filled with a depth of various textures, colours, lines, shapes and shadows.

In one of the works, Shasheet pasted the bus tickets he had collected over the years on his travels around in Malaysia.

“I used sand in some of the works because I wanted to experiment with ways to push the boundaries of normal paintings,” he said.

Cement slabs were used as a canvas in some of his works as a way of turning something common and considered ugly into a work of art.

“People look at cement as something functional and ugly so I want to make something beautiful with it, turn it into art,” he said.

Syrian artist Alaa Shasheet with the installation piece that depicts his studio. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Shasheet first came to Malaysia to do his Masters in Art back in 2012 and then continued living and working in Kuala Lumpur.

The exhibition named “REbirth” marks a pivotal point for him making a move from Kuala Lumpur to become a Penang-based artist this year.

The exhibition, curated by Ivan Gabriel, is a showcase of 26 pieces of Shasheet's works.

The focal point of the exhibition is an art installation of what Shasheet's art studio would look like with sketches, paint, materials, brushes and even a bucket of sand spread on a long table.

The exhibition is open to the public and admission is free.

'REbirth' by Alaa Shasheet

Art Space, Upstairs ChinaHouse

October 13 to November 3

10am-10pm

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