Contemporary Scars. Q&A with artist Ghaleb Hawila

Ghaleb Hawila
July 4, 2023
Contemporary Scars. Q&A with artist Ghaleb Hawila
Contemporary Scars, which runs for the whole of October, reflects on the conflict between what we present to the outside world and what we carry within ourselves. Ghaleb spoke to us about his inspiration for the show and his influences as an artist.

Contemporary Scars draws on the visual language of calligraphy in a contemporary context. Why?
As an artist, I think in words rather than pictures. I guess that’s the reason why I use Arabic calligraphy as a medium to express my art. It’s also because of its connection to my roots and identity. My training with master calligraphers taught me a lot about humility, perseverance and knowledge in this noble ancient art.
However I’ve learned more from masters from different ages and all over the world, thanks to technology. And that curiosity and freewill unchained me from the classic approach to this art. Arabic calligraphy, in my humble opinion, is a rich, golden, timeless thing that should not belong to one era.

Which great Middle Eastern artists inspire you ?
I try my best not to focus on other Arabic calligraphers’ work, despite their greatness. And I’m not particularly influenced by the current movement. I’m more geared to the creation of new approaches. But I’m inspired by the region’s musicians and composers. So I have the Middle East’s language, sense and feel.
Internationally, Daniel Arsham, Jan Kaláb, Nuno Viegas and INTI are among the artists I admire. Western music has also played a major role in the way I think and compose my work.

Your work has a recurring theme of deep reflection. In your installation Made out of the Universe, the repetition of the relief leads the observer's eye to the centre of the artwork. In Contemporary Scars, you invite the viewer to reflect on their scars from afar in order to bring a deeper consciousness. Is there a spiritual element here?
I'm amazed that the connection between different exhibitions three years apart is obvious. I always try my best not to be influenced by old work and always seek new paths, but it seems that my pieces emanate from a solid core.
I hope to bring consciousness to people through my art, but that’s only a high hope. However, I guess people bring consciousness to my work.

How does your work comment on the current social and political issues in the Middle East ?
I tend to tackle spiritual and personal realizations in my artistic journey. It’s amazing how art has the capability of touching individuals. It’s like magic. However, I do believe in the connection between what's within and what's on the outside.
The Contemporary Scars body of work can easily be interpreted through the collective denial of people in Lebanon and how we never healed from the accumulated tragic events that we’ve been through as a nation. I do see a connection on a collective level despite the fact that this show was inspired by personal scars.

With the growing influence of technology in society, do you see your art style changing in the near future?
Technology and digitization have a big influence on my work. I graduated from a design school with an obsession with minimal layout and grid, working hours on the laptop. Through most of my exhibitions I “collaborated” with machines to execute some artwork. You’ll see that expressed in Contemporary Scars.
However, my style is more influenced by my ability to keep on learning and developing myself. Art should change in shape, but come from the same core.

How excited are you about being chosen to exhibit your work at the Khawla Art Gallery grand launch?
First, I need to admit that I'm still in utter shock. Just like traumatic events, good things can accumulate and leave you overwhelmed.
I'm more than honoured and beyond humbled to have this great opportunity. And I would love to thank all the amazing team who believed in me and accompanied me through the journey of preparing this very special exhibition.
What’s particularly special is the healing that I felt while working on the art. I called it “opening my scars”. And I hope this healing resonates with people who come to view it.

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