Thirteen years ago, on (November 7, 2009), the pioneering plastic artist, Hashem Ali Abdullah, died in the city of Taiz, at the age of 64, after carving his name as a innovator of modern art in Yemen, whose “creative and spontaneous effort succeeded in making art possible in the happy Yemen, whose cultural and artistic past indicates his present completely, and even surpasses it in many cases. Considering the artist Hashem Ali as the founder of contemporary Yemeni composition, which is an appropriate and deserved appreciation, depends on the moment of the launch of plastic experiments and their integration into the contemporary horizon and then modernization at the same time, which is a rare occurrence compared to the process of plastic works in other Arab countries Which witnessed smooth stages characterized by the work of amateurs, foreigners, or students of art, and despite this, Hashem Ali’s start and his influence on his students and the medium in which he was allowed to live, had a foundational effect, even if it dates back to the sixties as a time limit. Hashem Ali's studio and its embrace of his students bridged the noticeable gap in plastic abilities or places of organized study (1).
Light in the Heart of Darkness
Dr. Abdu Al-Hameed Ibrahim says in his book "The Contemporary Yemeni Story" 1977: "The appearance of Mohammad Abdu Al-Wali in the world of the contemporary Yemeni story is like a plant emerging from among the rocks. This is true of Hashem Ali's art, but I am looking for something harder than rock to formulate the meaning I want to express. Hashem has risen like a light in the heart of darkness, and if Mohammad Abdu Al-Wali has found a path before him that many have trod, despite their varying luck of success, then Hashem is the beginning, and every start is tough. He started playing with colors and talking to Sabr mountain and its girls, at a time when painting did not exist in the northern part of the country. He landed in Taiz when drawing was a pagan feature, and the north was devoid of a single tablet or a modern statue” (2).
Realistic Turning Point
Although after he was able, in his early artistic years, to be familiar with the rules of drawing and painting, and produced many portraits in which the scholastic and realistic style overlapped, he then turned to expression within modern trends, such as cubism and abstraction. However, he gradually retreated towards the realist approach, to the physical reality without direct or literal transmission, as the composition of his paintings became dependent on the language of formation from the particles of the external environment, not realism. In many of his works, he designs a new world, reshaping it from the tangible vocabulary, but without being bound by the building and structure of form within the framework of visual reality, on the contrary; as it relies on the abolition of the accepted formal measurements, and resorts to its own standards, from which it achieves the presence of an invisible world. The physical representation was present in an accidental way that did not make it an objective in itself. In paintings such as: “Artist”, “Dancer”, “Motherhood”, “Flute Player”, “Damp Player”, “Calf Player”, the partial turns into a whole, and the material into the spiritual, because it connects the form and the essence, and elaborates on giving various connotations that make the viewer deal with the real scene as if he were discovering an unreal life (3).
A reading and theorizing outlet
Hashem Ali's paintings, with their multiplicity of styles, opened for students a reading and theoretical outlet, which made it easier for many of them to position them in the contexts of the scholastic influence of contemporary art currents, which Hashem contacted through reading and not on the learning bench.
He was not only an inspiring and pioneering painter of modern art in Yemen as considered by scholars and those interested, and a teacher to dozens of novice artists, some of whom became popular names inside and outside Yemen, but he was a true thinker and philosopher who remarkably surrounded the history of arts and human civilizations, and his mastery of English helped him in that.
He sided with narrations, modern poetry and music, and any knowledgeable conversation with him is not devoid of the security of his live citations of fictional works or the works of poets and musicians, to reinforce his ideas and what he wants to communicate to his listener.
Despite the length of his artistic experience, which spanned nearly half a century and gave him great fame, he did not rely on it in the first place. Until the end of his life, he continued to renew his subjects and his color perspective, which became more splendid, joyful and poetic, even when he draws mountain villages, one of which will be mentioned with this restoration in the anniversary of his departure, which was on November 7, 2009.
From the folk tale he drew inspiration, and from the stinging sarcasm he presented his visuals that resemble the pains of simple people, and from nature he questioned the lack of her visuals crowded in color; Drawing alleys, mosques, fruit sellers, water-purveyors, porters, peasants, Sufis and dervishes playing tambourines, fishermen and rural women as well as drawing villages and animals. He painted all of this with oil and black ink, so his paintings, with their multiplicity of stylistics, opened for students a reading and theorizing outlet, which made it easier for many of them to position them in the contexts of the scholastic influence of contemporary art currents, which Hashem contacted through reading and not on the study bench.
From the colored stones of Taiz, he completed the "Mural of the Sun" in one of its parks near the Faculty of Arts, before artists and intellectuals honored him in 2012, by drawing a mural for him in the mail round on the occasion of the third anniversary of his death. Shortly after, everyone rose up in solidarity with this mural, which was distorted by obscurantists who hate and criminalize art.
He painted and sculpted everything related to the beauty of human and nature, even in their most miserable condition. Dozens of the paintings of his students, painters and artists today, are not devoid of their spiritual and aesthetic touches, even as they try to act on his advice that urges them to search for their own personalities, away from his influences and the impacts of others (3).
Colored light fields
The artist (Hashem Ali) unites in the contents of his painting the spirit of deft diagnosis, and the ingenuity of conveying the forms of his social and life reality, where the skill is superior, and the manifestations in the rough and soft brush strokes on the surface of the canvas, electrified with his pictorial touches, perceptive, and harmonious for the seasons and chapters of the life cycle four seasons. Where the seasons are besieged, with the spirit of the foot of the colored cloth, and the face of the pain of the distressed human with various torments, where the obsession is open to the earth and the human being, the color rain, the nature of life, the climates of the transformations of the place, and the human being. In the vain of aesthetic waiting, for the delight of light where awakening is the spirit of embroidered supplication, in the dresses of his women drawn with rare brutal beauty, and from the spirit of the effects of the ignition of separations. In the spirit of sunrise and colors, colorful fields of light come, like sunflowers. In the bitterness of beautiful patience, for the women of happy Yemen, as they are the first to be wrapped in the magic of its glow, and the first to pray to the anthem of brightness and hope. On colorful travel bags, on hope and exhaustion, and the feasibility of waiting. In the sunny balconies of oasis, with rose water, dream, things, and sleepy magic. In the songs of the poor, in the spirit of light, for the harbors of the color of ears, the sea, the mountains, and the valleys, the weddings of lead and blood. In the revenge of the tribes, when the dagger is shrouded in the glow of the red of blood, so that the life of the generous wounds does not die. In the glow of the weddings of the poor, because ignorance and mental illness, and the chronic heat of the sign of time, in the balconies of fire, are still oysters of difficult time, in the dancing porridge of the book of conditions, where stopping, slowing down, refraction and light.
In the colors of the late artist's painting, who painted the glow of light, in the neighing of the blood of the poor, and planted the paths of hope, in the cliff of the torrent of colors of purity, in the decade of the tumultuous spirit of silence. In the spring of the heights, where the poor dreaming of the clouds dwell (4).
(1) Dr. Hatem Al-Sakr, Book of the Visual and the Written, Sharjah Department of Culture and Information, 2007, p. 132.
(2) Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Saqqaf, Writings of the October 14th Foundation, Aden, 1981, p. 108.
(3) d. Amna Al-Nusairi, a Study in Al-Hilyah; The Adventure of Hashem Ali, Khuyut Platform, November 7, 2020.
(4) Mohammad Abdu Al-Wahhab Al-Shaibani, about Hashem Ali, whom I knew, Khuyut platform, November 7, 2020.
(4) Abboud Salman Al-Ali Al-Obaid, Hashem Ali’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063484129569, September 7, 2013.