Artist of the Month June 2018
Each month we choose one of the fantastic artists represented on our website to be our Artist of the Month.
This month, to coincide with the opening of our new exhibition Colliding Worlds: Scottie Wilson and Laila Kassab, Laila is our Artist of the Month. As part of Outside In and Pallant House Gallery's biennial co-commission, Laila was selected to respond to works by Scottish Outsider Artist, Scottie Wilson.
Coliling Worlds: Scottie Wilson and Laila Kassab will run from 13 June - 29 July at Pallant House Gallery.
When and how did your interest in art develop?
I am Palestinian refugee born and raised in the alleys of the camps in Rafah after my grandparents were expelled from the village of Kratia.
I studied at UNRWA schools. My artistic vocation came out in my childhood when I was 8 years old. I discovered that I have instinctive talent, distinctive way of art and a volcano of emotions that I wanted to express.
I tried to understand what a painter needs and what tools they need to have to be creative. I was looking for information through books on art and research through the Internet to bring out integrated art paintings. There were a lot of frustrating events and frustrated people who were trying to push me down and violence in my childhood as well; I became more determined to complete my career in art. Using the colours of wood and white paper that I got as prizes from the competitions, I was able to participate in the first collective exhibition in 2007 with a large group of artists entitled Spotlight. I was cut off from art for years because of financial conditions.
When I got some money, I went back to grab my pots again and I was brimming with new artistic perceptions for my new paintings. I came back with a new style and a philosophy of my own and I started my experience and research again, feeling a wonderful comfort when I drew one of my paintings. I think it is rare to have a situation that I went through, with the same conditions as I did not study art in universities. I was studying art myself and for a short period for four years of training courses, continuous drawing and colour mixing, this lead me to become a professional artist.
All I needed in my quest for self-determination was to relax, fight and meditate and think about the issues logically. I lived in the siege and successive wars and due to the lack of technical tools because of the closure of the crossings, the poverty and oppression suffered by women in Arab societies. From rejecting my ambition and suppressing my dreams, my paintings despite their joyous colours, came from behind the lines of human suffering.
But my artistic paintings have been removed from Gaza to the exhibitions in London, Paris, and America. It was a rebirth of my soul. It was a new hope that made me breathe freely. My passion for freedom is the only hope that every man wishes. My participation in exhibitions is a transfer and a depiction of the suffering of my people above the walls of occupation, to remain an identity that reflects me and a good opportunity to connect Palestinian art culture with European artistic cultures.
How would you describe your art work?
I consider myself an artist instinctively, I have many emotions and feelings towards everything I see. I love yellow and violet red as they demonstrate the heat of the situations I depict. I love blues and I like the overlap of colours to form layers of colour contiguous and they renew the faces in the paintings, often to form sculptured art to embody all the context of my environment and the events that were formed within me and through all that I lived in. My style as an artist is to make the scenes of my paintings feel like a reality, this is not just a painting, but a book that must be read and interpreted. I consider painting as the only outlet for my painful experiences and my life in my country. I do not enjoy human rights like any other person in the world. I draw realistic dreams that are embodied in the faces and details that reflect within me. There is a conflict in my paintings, between colours and the storyline.
What influences your art?
At last, I was able to find myself a place on the walls of the exhibitions of Britain, Paris, and America and this is an achievement. It is my first and most important step without a doubt. I have been able to prove my presence as a Palestinian artist and make myself a foothold in international exhibitions. This will open the way for my dreams to highlight my creations, but on the other hand, I consider art as my means of resistance against the oppression of the occupation. Many things affect my art, such as the absence of opportunities, the absence of an official incubator, and the cultural body that supports artists in Gaza. It is no longer a hindrance as much as it is the birth of creativity because the artist monitors real-life colours and brushes and papers and paints; These feel like a tool to deliver my message from Gaza to the world. In the paintings, I express the lack freedom and prisoners and women's issues. They are where I consider myself responsible for my case and asking for world to know about it.
What process do you go through when you are creating a piece (starting with the initial idea)?
The artist is the one who feels that reality cannot have meaning unless it fits into the realm of his own world and that the task of discovering that world is to remove the dust of the dark, to become the reality of the artist. The artist is the one who draws the world into her importance that he/she can express his/her ideas, not the genius of the artist to convey reality honestly, but his genius to "express reality deeply" and can be drawn on any surface of stone or metal, wood or paper or cloth. But it is important to have the initial idea of drawing- Sketching. Then I start to implement my plate with more love, music and calm.
What does art mean to you? Which artists, if any, have you drawn inspiration from?
Art is my only way to express my feelings and struggles that are subjective. It is something that is necessary for me, like water and air. It is my spiritual food. I consider it a gift from God. Every night I bring myself a cup of tea to create a serene atmosphere for myself. I try to look for a new idea, leaving my pen free to spontaneously reflect a sense or cause on my white papers. This is my life- a spot of colour on white paper. It really is enhancing.
Do you have a favourite piece (of your own work)?
I do not tend to follow a specific artist or any specific art schools but I believe in diversity. I believe that fine art is a collection of ideas that each artist has his/her own specificity and his way of expressing what s/he feels to finally reach the aesthetic value in his paintings. A great attraction to the work of the Palestinian fine artist Kamel al-Mughni, an artist who was also born in Gaza.
If so, which one and why? What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?
Music and colours can inspire people to change societies, and painting is like a voice coming from the depths. I did not know from which direction the sound came from. It is a woman confined inside me. I wonder if there was anyone who heard her voice like me or me alone. "Who cannot hear her voice? "All of Eve is constrained by her society, her tired head gives way to nightmares, her tears are scratching her eyes, the sadness is spontaneous, she suddenly rises up after the pain of her hurts, she rebels and breaks the restrictions. I only tell you my story and what my anger suggests about the bad reality I live in. The colour that crosses me? " I can say that all my paintings are close to me because they represent my real sense, because the artist when he finishes painting becomes is like a new life coming into the world
What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?
I like, of course, that viewers are drawn to my paintings just as moths are attracted to light and when a viewer is attracted to a particular painting, it may have stirred something in his/her subconscious that may make him/her smile, grieve or revolt. I love the feeling that my paintings are like flowers filled with nectar thoughts, and attracted to the minds of the viewers.
How (and when) did you first hear about Outside In?
I heard about outside in from one of my friends in Britain and they suggested the idea of participating in the contest despite all the difficulties. The judges approved my selection within the contestants and my name has been announced as a winner in the competition and was on a news story. It’s a real achievement for me.
How has being a part of Outside In been beneficial for you?
I participated in many art exhibitions that contributed to my art show and hope to do more with Outside In.
* Spot Light Show 2007
* Create your own gift yourself 2009
* Who can sleep in Gaza? 2013
Exhibition: paintings from Besieged Gaza fund art 2015
Exhibition of a print of a painting by Laila Kassab 2015
Exhibition: art under siege 2017
I will be sharing a collection of my paintings in April, which will be exhibited in Paris
I will also participate in a collection of my paintings at the exhibition on the opening of the Palestinian Museum in America, where the founder of the Palestinian Museum in America, the Palestinian businessman Faisal Saleh, founder of the Palestinian Museum in America, wanted to show my paintings in his museum
As well as participating in the presentation of my paintings in the exhibition along with the paintings of the wonderful painter Scottie Wilson, who attracted me to the beauty of his paintings that took me to a remote place beyond the borders of the homeland and time and history.
What's next for you as an artist?
This opportunity will certainly have a great impact on my artistic career. A golden opportunity like this will help me make my way to my future aspirations as a painter and my paintings on the outside and on websites will make a great number of people recognize my art. Even though I live in a city isolated from the world, I got to win the contest. This will add a lot to my creative experience and build a lot of friendships with other painters, sharing personal experiences and continue harmony between two different cultures.
I will try to express in my next paintings about my life and my suffering. It is a revolutionary aspect with a deep depth and a human dimension to not abide by time. A woman exhausted from the burdens of life. Women revolted against male power and social heritage, which tried to prove its presence strongly to face reality. In my opinion, the women in Gaza are the remnants of a burning fire and a violent clash.
This will be portrayed by using colours in a certain way to convey that feeling of lack of freedom and women's resilience during these challenges.
It is worth mentioning that as an artist I like to express the issues of women and human rights in my paintings.