Whilst sauntering the over familiar streets of Mayfair mews in the heart of the almost grey London, I came across Contini Art Gallery in the ides of November. The colossal HOPE by American Artist Robert Indiani invited me to the modern art gallery.
The Prepared disposition of work didn’t startle me, but there was more to Omar Hassan. The boxing glove dripped in paint was shot by my SLR camera and a year later I found him. I call it Serendipity.
The half Italian- half Egyptian grew up in Milan boxing, though destiny had something else in store for him.
1) How has being an artist helped you express yourself? How did it all start?
-Since when I was a kid I have spent my time with colors and paper… Later, when I was faced with the famous question of “who do I want to be?” , my answer was: I want to be an artist,I want to paint every day! Then I’ve started to become aware of what I was doing.
2) What is your inspiration?
-I try to find inspiration from life experiences. Everything could be an inspiration: the nature ,the people ,the animals , the different feelings ….I try to see everything in a different way with more sensibility.
3) Miami, London and Milan. What is the common link between these cities for you?
-For sure the common link is art: Milan is my city , this is where I live and where I have my big studio and where I paint and then London and Miami are two amazing cities where I can show my work with two different galleries. I would also say that these three cities are very cosmopolitan and multicultural.
4) Your splashed boxing gloves created quite a stir. What’s the story?
-You’re referring to my series called- Breaking Through. The creation of the paintings from that series involves me dipping my boxing gloves into an array of colorful paint pots and punching onto large white canvases, in a very physical display of strength, anger and cathartic energy.
When I was a teenager I started boxing. One might say this was a way control my fiery personality. However later, I was forced to abandon professional boxing and the lure of competitive sport when my diagnosis of diabetes was discovered – disqualifying me from professional boxing on the grounds of health and safety.
Of course, with this series there was and still is a risk of coming across as a boxer trying to be an artist. But it’s not the case. The History of Art showed us that simple things prevail, hence dipping the gloves in color and throwing punches at the canvas are simple gestures, but are actually really strong and powerful gestures. Through this ‘’per formative’’ action, I wanted to celebrate the concept of boxing therefore I introduced a new very spontaneous pictorial gesture which is very spontaneous and has lots of impact. There was also a risk that my performance could be seen as too theatrical and rehearsed and I absolutely wanted to avoid that. I only wanted to have a link between my body, the canvas and those noble movements of boxing to express this link through colors.
5) You have redefined street art and the use of spray painting into contemporary. What was the reaction?
– I really want to make clear that I am not a street artist. This is very important! I started with Street Art because when I was a teenager, I had a very close friend, who used to paint every day with spray paint on the wall while myself I was drawing on paper. He constantly told me to try until one day I tried two or three paintings on the wall. Later, at the Accademia di Brera, Milan, I studied Fine Art . I wanted to intertwine the techniques of street art and fine art. I also wanted to elevate the street art to a new level within the contemporary art scene.
I can say that my interest for the art in general started through Street Art but in general there is some confusion about what is Street Art and what is Writing. They do have some similarities, but they are two different things. For instance they both use spray paint and the street as their medium. But writing is really specific; it’s a study of the lettering where the artist writes his name in thousand of different ways. I really want to stress this important difference as very often both ‘’street artists’’ and ‘’writers’’ are classified as vandals.
I never saw myself neither as a ‘’street artist’’ nor as a ‘’writer’’ as I did not do a lot of ‘’ Street Art ‘’ works. I only shared the street as a space to expose my public art works, but I was never really part of the street art movement. Nevertheless, I love this culture and I think it is not valued as much as it deserves.
Nowadays it is very difficult to be original and contemporary with paintings because lots of techniques have already been used during the past centuries. It’s very hard to find a new way of painting in this society of images, full of photographs and all kinds of new technologies. For that reason I pledge to keep the painting contemporary, through my gestural painting which is full of energy and colors.
6) Where Can we find you next? What are you working on at the moment?
-Well there’s a million of things happening right now… But, in the very near future I have a major event in Milan, during Miart and I am going to Poland straight after and then right away to New York. I think it’s amazing that we live in a world that art can really be international and I am glad that people all over the world appreciate my art.
Photo Credits- Lorenzo Palmieri & Olga Miljko.
You can find Omar’s work at – http://www.omarhassan.biz
Thank you Omar for sharing your journey and taking out time for the Terrible Two’s. We look forward to seeing your work in India.
Zina Singh for Terrible Two’s