Mohammed Masri, a Syrian artist, has taught art for most of his life and believes strongly in education and imagination. Though retired, he hasn't put down the brush. He talks about his mentors and inspirations.
When I was a child, I liked to look at everything around me in a state of deep meditation. Our teacher felt that there was something different in us, so he pushed us to draw. He began by making us draw step by step. After still-life drawing we went out into nature to paint the landscape, and to paint around the city. During the summer we would stay in a little house for one month and would draw the farmers, the ancient buildings and the landscapes. After this experience, I had my mind set on studying art.
At university we were in contact with many teachers from Italy, France and Egypt as well as many Syrian teachers who were important - people like Fateh Moudarres and Louay Kayali. They taught us to be serious in studying the human form. We were taught to see the still lifes and the landscapes in new ways and discover the details. Also from the library at the university, we began to know and see art like Picasso, Braque, and the art of Renaissance Italy.
I don't begin with any thoughts of what I will draw. When I begin, I put colours and lines on the surface of the canvas. This helps me to begin without any pressure. With these lines and colours, I find myself discovering the figures I'm creating. So the painting takes time to be born. I like to look at it for a long time; it makes me tired but it gives me pleasure.
Painting is my life. It makes me feel human. The artist feels everything around him, what is happening to human beings, hunger, war, worry about his future, humanity in general. The paintings help him to express these feelings.
I enjoy listening to music, reading poetry, literature, history books and novels, especially in Arabic, and even Arabic translations of world-renowned authors - above all nowadays Latin American literature. All of this is necessary for an artist to have a wider imagination and a variety of knowledge.
When I begin to draw, I don't think about the colour. The atmosphere or mood dictates it. It's very spontaneous. It's like you are drowning in inspiration and not able to find solid ground. Whether you do it right or wrong, you can later modify it. You modify as you go. Sometimes the colours are contradictory and at other times they are in harmony.
I'm a shy man and have a few friends. I like to be alone. But it doesn't mean that I don't like people. I like honest and simple people, whether they are rich or poor.
You must seek out knowledge, read about art, see many paintings from different artists and work hard to develop your own style.
The Majlis Gallery, Dubai, 04 353 6233. The exhibition ends on Wednesday, but some paintings will remain throughout January and the beginning of February. @email:www.themajlisgallery.com