Painter Issa Hal­loum's vi­sion of the Bekaa

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENT -

Le­banese artist Issa Hal­loum cel­e­brates Le­banon’s land­scapes through his paint­ings

You don’t need to have a con­ver­sa­tion with artist Issa Hal­loum to dis­cover his love of the ru­ral re­gions of Le­banon’s Bekaa. His deep con­nec­tion to the land and peo­ple of his home­town Al Ain, a vil­lage 33km north of Baal­beck, and the sur­round­ing area is im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous in his paint­ings. His pieces, char­ac­ter­ized by thick lin­ear brush­strokes and blocks of color in a Mediter­ranean pal­ette, show daily life in Le­banon’s ru­ral parts, from fer­tile land­scapes of agri­cul­tural fields in shades of green and their work­ers, to snow-filled scenes in the Bekaa or day­time gath­er­ings in lo­cal cafes. His artis­tic pre­oc­cu­pa­tion seems to be with rep­re­sent­ing the beauty of Le­banon’s land­scapes. Hal­loum, an unas­sum­ing man, mod­est and softly spo­ken, started drawing and paint­ing at an early age, en­cour­aged by his el­der brother. “When all the other kids were out­side play­ing foot­ball I was not in­ter­ested,” he says. “I wanted to stay home and paint.” Later he stud­ied art at the Fine Arts In­sti­tute at the Le­banese Uni­ver­sity where he grad­u­ated in 1995 be­fore be­ing ac­cepted at the renowned arts estab­lish­ment Br­era Academy in Mi­lan. Here Hal­loum found an in­cu­bat­ing com­mu­nity where he con­nected with other artists. Though the ma­jor­ity of Le­banese artists choose to base them­selves in Beirut, to be in the midst of the coun­try’s artis­tic cen­ter, Hal­loum prefers his home re­gion of Al Ain. “I be­long to this land. I have my own work­shop, my own life here,” he says. “I paint wher­ever I go, but when­ever I’m in the Bekaa I have a stronger feel­ing for the land­scape.”

I paint wher­ever

I go, but when­ever I’m in the Bekaa I have a stronger feel­ing for the land­scape

Di­rectly in­spired by the land­scapes sur­round­ing him, Hal­loum takes his paint­ing ma­te­ri­als into na­ture and set­tles when he finds a nice com­po­si­tion, first sketch­ing in char­coal and then be­gin­ning the lay­ers of paint. He of­ten works on nu­mer­ous paint­ings around a theme for a planned col­lec­tion si­mul­ta­ne­ously. “I work all the time, but [it might mean] sit­ting in my stu­dio, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, read­ing, and look­ing at my work. I’ll take one paint­ing with me to the kitchen and living room, so I can live with it and see what’s miss­ing. It moves with me.” Drawn to nat­u­ral scenes full of color and life, fall is Hal­loum’s fa­vorite sea­son to paint out­doors; “I love the pal­ette of colors,” he says. His paint­ings show a va­ri­ety of land­scapes, from moun­tains to val­leys, but it’s the agri­cul­tural fields that re­ally move him, and re­peat­edly ap­pear through­out his work. “I love the colors and sep­a­ra­tions. It helps for the com­po­si­tion.” He also has an at­tach­ment to the work­ers of the land. “They’re good peo­ple. [Those] work­ing on the soil are the real peo­ple,” he says. “We are the peo­ple who make prob­lems. They plant the wheat, we eat it but then we sit on the com­puter. They’re pro­vid­ing us with life.” Though Hal­loum wishes art could be de­cen­tral­ized from the cap­i­tal city, he doesn’t ex­pect the Bekaa to de­velop its own arts scene. “I’ve tried be­fore but there’s no ac­cep­tance. Peo­ple are not in­ter­ested.” When friends ask how he can leave his stu­dio un­locked with his paint­ings in his home vil­lage, he laughs. “I would love it if some­one stole one, it would mean some­one in the area has an in­ter­est in art.” Hal­loum is pass­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence onto the next gen­er­a­tion, teach­ing at the Is­lamic Uni­ver­sity of Le­banon, in Khaldeh. He trav­els to Beirut reg­u­larly for solo and col­lec­tive ex­hi­bi­tions, many of which have taken place at Al­wane Gallery. But the rich lands of the Bekaa soon draw him back again.

Spring Fields

Af­ter­noon Si­lence

is­sa­hal­loum.com Hal­loum’s next ex­hi­bi­tion will take place in spring 2015 at Al­wane Gallery (01 975250, Saifi Vil­lage, Saifi)

The Bal­cony

The Poppy Field

The Red Chair

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