Lebanese painter takes art to higher level

BEIRUT (Xinhua) – Sitting alone in a small shop in Kfarhim, a village in Mount Lebanon, with blocks of untouched clay can be very labour intensive.

It can take hours to create a basic piece of pottery to start with.

The slightest mistake can ruin an entire piece with hours of work lavished over it.

But for Bassel Bou Khzam, this is not the case. Bou Khzam enjoys every second spent in his atelier in Chouf, producing creative drawings, 2D clay faces placed on canvas, and other pottery works that reflect Lebanon’s culture and traditions.

“I am a citizen of the village. I have always imagined the village in all of my works. I wanted to symbolise the village so I drew the nature, trees, mountains and snow in my paintings and on pottery jars,” he said.

Bassel Bou Khzam at his shop in the town of Kfarhim, Mount Lebanon on June 28. – XINHUA

The 36-year-old artist started drawing since he was a little child. When he grew up, he learned drawing techniques at the famous Painter Haidar Hamaoui’s Art Centre in Beirut.

When the great painter passed away, Bou Khzam opened his own atelier and started creating drawings about Lebanon, using his own creativity and imagination.

However, Bou Khzam could not sell many of his paintings in the past years because of the economic slowdown in Lebanon and the low purchasing power of the Lebanese people.

This is when the young man decided to come up with something new to be able to grow his business.

“I wanted to come up with a new concept that is affordable to everybody. So I started combining drawing with craftsmanship by creating 2D faces for popular people on canvas and pottery jars by using clay materials and acrylic coloring,” Bou Khzam said.

Bou Khzam explained that 100 per cent hand-made products are very rare to find all over the world, the reason he preferred to stand out by avoiding the use of any machines in his work.

Some of the most popular products made by Bou Khzam include 2D clay shapes on canvas for popular faces such as Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblatt.

“I love producing old people’s faces using clay because I can work more on their detailed features such as wrinkles,” the young artist explained passionately.

The young man’s work started gaining popularity among Lebanese expatriates and foreign tourists after he took part in two or three art exhibitions in different Lebanese areas.

“My works became increasingly popular and I became a member of the Syndicate of Craftsmen in Lebanon which allowed me to participate in more exhibitions in the country,” he said.

Many of Bou Khzam’s works are now showcased in artisanal shops in touristic places in Lebanon and at Beirut airport’s duty free shop.

One of the main pillars of success for any artist, according to the young man, is their capability to work in both classic and contemporary arts without focussing on specific rules.

“When you are a real artist, you allow complete freedom to your imagination and creativity. Artists must be able to place their special touch on their works at the end of the day,” he said.

Contrary to most young Lebanese, Bou Khzam does not wish to leave his country for more exposure despite all the hardships he experienced throughout his path to success.

“How can I leave the country after I’ve spent plenty of nights awake just to get to where I am now?” he said.

However, he wishes that the Lebanese government can pay more attention to local talents by helping them promote their works in markets outside Lebanon.

“I produce over 50 pieces a day. I am happy to do so but young talents deserve attention by the government,” he said.

Bou Khzam said that the government should to promote local industries in foreign markets amid the tough economic situation prevailing in the country.

“Ministries must at least cover the participation of local talents in exhibitions outside Lebanon,” he said.