Figuratively Speaking: Bringing it back to the Ara-Basics

الأحد 08 تموز 2007

Written by Pheras Hilal

Taken by the region’s chronic identity crisis, Omar Bilbeisi tries to bring Arabic Calligraphy back home by capturing the source of Arab World’s pride in his paintings: the Arabic Letters. sat down with the prolific artist for some insight on his work.

Omar Bilbeisi, is not the average artist you may have in mind. In fact, Bilbeisi passes a bearing resemblance to what could be best described as an old-school rock star. With his torn t-shirt splattered with words in French all over, the classic stone-washed and rugged blue jeans, and the token David Bowie track clamoring in the background. But what was mistaken for insanity was interpreted by Bilbeisi, as a sense of appreciation for aesthetics and a love for youth.

7IBER: The most typical question for an artist, but let’s start here. What’s your source of inspiration?

Omar Bilbeisi: [laughs] Not at all, it’s rather the most intriguing aspect of an artist. My inspiration comes from everything around me. It stems from what I see in our everyday life. I have painted pop icons, antiquity and now I am concentrating on calligraphy. The Arabic letter for example is everywhere: We see it in the papers, street signs, walls and of course the Holy Quraan.

7IBER: Your letters could be regarded as sacrilegious, but you take them out of context and present them in an artistic way. Why?

OB: The Arabic letter can be manipulated but yet can still hold the same meaning. What I say in my paintings is nothing literal but figurative, even those that are not Arabic literate, can enjoy the shapes and colors.

7IBER: As a concept, what makes the Arabic letter so special?

OB: I am mostly inspired by the classic writings seen in the Holy Scriptures, because they are fluid, curvaceous and geometrical among other things. So as an artist, and as a person, I have grown attached to the Arabic letter.

7IBER: What are your personal standards upon choosing one of your paintings for public viewing?

OB: Ultimately, I have to imagine that the painting is good enough to hang on my very own wall. Prior to developing a crisp imagination of what I want to portray, I give myself time to constantly think of my painting. Once I start sketching, I try different colors and shapes until I find a sketch that shouts at me.

7IBER: What do you want to communicate through your art? Who are your main influences?

OB: I want to draw the viewer’s attention with the shapes and colors in my paintings, and I discovered that black and white give the best impact by the way. I want the viewer to see how the curves, shapes and colors come together and interact in my paintings. My main influences are Andy Warhol who incorporated colors and objects in a very unorthodox fashion. Piet Mondrian has a great influence on me. I loved the way he painted in the most simple and elegant way, squares and geometric shapes.

7IBER: What change do you see in the art scene in Jordan?

OB: The art scene has come a long way in Jordan. I feel that there are many new and talented young artists. They are more daring and experimental, which is wonderful to see. I think it’s wonderful because the more you see their work, the more I see new and different ideas.

7IBER: Can you give any words of advice for the next generation?

OB: I don’t want the young to be put down by the hurdles facing artists; hurdles are in every profession. Painting can be time-consuming and even expensive, especially if you have a big solo exhibition, and finding a gallery could be an ordeal because sometimes they are looking for specific artists. But still, I don’t want the young to be discouraged, because they will get their big break soon, especially if they have the flair and the eye for art.

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