LOCAL ARTIST'S SUCCESS IN MAJOR NATIONAL PORTRAIT EXHIBITION

Work by local artist MASRI, has been selected from over 1,300 entries to appear alongside paintings by some of Britain's leading portrait artists.

It will hang alongside portraits of Her Majesty the Queen, Patron of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, celebrities and major public figures as well as outstanding work painted by members of the Society, and by artists who selected through the open submission on the merit of their work.

The work will be eligible for major prizes: Prizes awarded include the 10,000 GBP Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture, the 2,000GBP Prince of Wales Prize Award for Drawing and the 3,000 GBP de Laszlo Foundation Award.

Royal Society of Portrait Painters
www.therp.co.uk

MASRI HAYSSAM:Self-portrait of An Artist

Hania Jurdak for Cedar Wings Magazine

To all who wish to think, to all who desire to dream and live through the sunset beneath the crest of a rolling ocean wave, and to all who search for happiness and spring after winter, to all who can not express their thoughts and their anger, to all sensible, delicate persons, I dedicate my art, So diverse, from one moment to another in continuity.

"The earliest memory I have is my passion to paint. This passion grew with me. As a kid, I bought art books, and my big passion was color tubes. That made me very happy, " said Masri when Cedar Wings correspondent Hania Jurdak caught up with him during his visit to Lebanon. Born in Lebanon, this Lebanese painter-gone-international had studied architecture in Tripoli and traveled to Florence to pursue studies in graphic design, photography and art history. Florence is where he has resided for 21 years, and where his atelier is located. He has held exhibitions Italy, Norway, Switzerland, USA and Japan.

Masri is a painter with a capable and comprehensive palette equally at home with landscapes and portraits conceived in an abstract expressionist style. Sometimes criticized for having different styles, he says: " I attempt to master each teachnique I apply. And I put a lot of love in my paints. I control the technique rather than the other way round. An actor can be comic or tragic, on stage and on screen. Why can't the same apply to a painter? I find it strange that artists spend 40 years painting the same topics.

The key to understanding Masri's art, and his most innovative works, are his self-portraits, which number around 50, samples of which you see in this article. "If you want to understand my art, look at my self-portraits. If you focus at any of my paintings, you'll see my self-portrait in different forms and different expressions".

Masri's self-portraits, rather than painted, are carved using the spatula technique. They speak of sobriety, perceptiveness, anxiety, anger and rebellion. They depict voices and conflicts and a man in deep thought. The man is young and old, and if there is a suggestion of contentment in any of them, it is something that must be sought. The face is sometimes clear and sharp, sometimes vague and mystical. The self-portrait is sometimes in focus - and when it isn't, it is engaged in a wild search for focus where only the eyes remain distinguishable, a guide to the character's dilemma.

For Masri, starting a painting is like slipping into a different world in a mad search for the right colors. " I mix the colors sometimes directly on the canvas. I can not control my touches because my hands tremble, behaving directly. Nervously. Spontaneously. Sincerely. Handling the canvas is usually violent to a large extent. I prefer that nobody sees me when painting. Suddenly, in a sudden end to this very nervous and uncontrollable situation, I feel I should stop and not touch the canvas anymore and that if I did touch it, it would destroy everything. I treat paint with the utmost sensitivity, like you would a newborn baby".

Painting requires concentrated energy. Says Masri:" My style is that I do not like to use a lot of words. I prefer to conserve this energy for my paintings. The best conversations I've had are with my paints. By the time I finish a painting, I feel tired. " It must be interesting seeing the embodiment of your psychic energy on canvas, captured forever in color and form! The toughest thing about being an artist? " To continue with the art, and find something new to create and to find inspiration".

Masri's art exhibits mixed techniques ranging between abstractionism and realism, and as any true expression of human consciousness, it exhibits diversity, inconsistency, and extremes, travelling from the poetic to the harsh and from the pure and innocent to the overwhelmingly sarcastic. "My aim is to create art that lures the viewer into its world, that demands to be seen. When my work moves people, I feel that the message I meant to communicate has reached home", he says.

Art has a basic role in bringing about social change. And the key to enabling art to fulfill that role is art education. " In Europe," says Masri, "children get their fill of the spirit of art. If a painting offers something deeper than what the eye can see, it's good to have what it takes to see that. Art is a ladder to climb step by step. Its testimony is people's opinion, particularly educated ones." Art is a language of its own - and a universal one. It can communicate things directly, even complex psychological issues, by appealing to our primal selves. " Let us hear the artist," says Masri," We've heard everyone else".