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Ghassan Al-Nana

Ghassan was born in Homs, Syria in 1953.

I don’t know exactly when I stated drawing; What I know is that I used to fill my textbooks and notebooks with baby scribbles. Pictures from children's magazines formed my first visual tastes and they were my first teacher.

In middle school, I began to experiment with all kinds of colours. Whether it was painting in old neighbourhoods and copying the works of international artists.

Between 1969-1971 I studied at the Fine Arts Center in Homs. Here, I was pointed in the right direction. I began my academic studies with simplified studies of art history, aesthetics, painting techniques and colours.

My love for drawing and my passion for colour is what finalised my decision of what I will be in the future. So, I continued my studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus, Department of Oil Painting, from 1972 to 1978. I was obsessed with developing my artistic abilities and learning as much as possible about International Fine Art through the college’s library and Syrian Fine Art through visiting art galleries, my frequent visits to the National Museum of Painting and getting acquainted with Syrian Fine art with its periods and old historical variants. With my belief that art has a social and human message in addition to its aesthetic message, I started an expressive reality, and I made my graduation project’s subject about workers waiting on the sidewalks. This approach continued in my work after graduation by addressing different life issues.

I travelled to Russia in 1989 until 1992. I visited its museums and for the first time I saw original works by international artists. I’ve seen how they use colours, cumulative processes and brushstrokes to achieve dazzling and light-filled results that we don’t see in books. This affected my position and thus my artistic work and methods of treatment, with a more liberal vision, with a tendency towards colour tricks, reduction, deletion and condensation, to reach the spirit of shapes, to the limits of abstraction.

Between 1995-2002, I fell in love with paperwork, which prompted me to test the types of paper and experiment with different methods in preparing it to obtain a special texture for the surface. I did not adopt a ready-made, specific technique, but the results were momentary and ever-changing. I worked on light and its contrasts, space and the effects of these works entered my larger paintings, which was executed in oil colours, relying on light as the main component.

Between 2002-2011, I worked on two axis: The first was the eye, facing nature in open air and capturing its changes with scenes from Syrian countryside and views of plains, valleys and mountains. Here there is no role for ideas, Colour, lines and direct touch are the questions of artistic language and what drives its intuition. The second axis is imagination through two groups wrapping around each other or sitting around a table. The second group deals with interior scenes in realistic form despite its reliance on imagination, experience and memory.

I stopped drawing for a while due to my disablement and inability to express the horror and tragedy that war in Syria had created, from the devastation and destruction. I went back to drawing after that. The topics of homelessness, emigration and displacement appeared, and that sad murkiness characterised my work.

Ultimately, I do not narrate or tell a story, but rather create an event, expressing my daily concerns which are similar to the concerns of my people, by using my own experience, knowledge and insight to create. I get my work done with some kind of feeling. I try to get to the essence and soul of things, utilising my photographical abilities and techniques. I work on colour with its harmonies and on shape and space, using oil colours without adding other materials.