Sketching ‘City Scenes’ to the rhythm of his heartbeat

There might not be anything artistic about daily life. And yet, the strongest photographs ­ if they are well done ­ are the ones of normal people in normal situations. They are even more touching if the photographer manages to catch some kind of suffering or deep sadness in their eyes. Sebastiao Salgado is a master of this art, and his objects are usually disadvantaged, working-class people and the underdogs from developing countries. At the same time, he always manages to show the honor of the people he portrays in his black-and-white photographs.

The art of Komeran Haji is reminiscent of this Brazilian master of photography. His sketches and drawings are snapshots of people in daily situations. With a few lines, he can freeze a movement, a facial expression, the suffering in a mother’s eyes. His preferred techniques are charcoal, gouache and ink on paper. He does not like color too much. “Color is used to make things look beautiful,” the 31-year-old artist said. He prefers black-and-white because he says it makes his art more expressive. Color would distract from the main theme.

The stage for Haji’s art is daily life and the actors are normal people with their day-to-day gestures. There are mothers who carry babies in their arms, loving couples holding hands at a university campus, people waiting for a service. There is an alcoholic sitting on a bench, a smoker who turns his head while rushing away. There are dedicated saxophone, flute and oud players ­ sketches of musicians that are reminiscent of the art of Greta Naufal.

The Lebanese artist Naufal, who gave the welcoming speech at the inauguration of Haji’s first individual exhibition, which took place last Tuesday in the Goethe Institute, referred to the young man’s art as a “dynamism of human beings’ most daily gestures.” She added that there was a certain “nervousness in his drawings.” With a few black lines the artist manages to create expressions of sadness, resignation, expectation and suffering.

“Many artists like to draw nature,” he said. “For me, to draw human beings is more important.” And there is a reason for this: “Human beings are not very important in our region,” the artist said. “There is so much hatred and people want to destroy each other.”

Haji’s art does not contain a political message, but rather a humanistic one. When asked about his own origins, the artist hesitates to answer and does not really like to speak about nationalities, which are the cause of much suffering. In the end, Haji said he was born as a Kurd in Turkey, but that he has been living in Lebanon for 30 years.

Suffering seems to be an important component of the artist’s life ­ or at least of his daily observations. Suffering as an expression is also a main theme in Haji’s work. “There are people who seem perfectly normal at first sight,” the painter said, “but with a second glance, you can see that they carry a lot of suffering inside them.”

As he walks around the city, receptive to everything around him, he burns the everyday images into his retina. Then he adds a bit of his own mental state and makes sketches that are “close to the rhythm of his heartbeat,” ­ and that is how he created his “City Scenes.”

City Scenes is shown at the Goethe Institute in Beirut. The exhibition runs until Feb. 26, 2004 . For more information, please contact 01/740524.





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