Inventing figures that evade the classical vision, reflecting the everyday life and the human spirit, joy, sadness, violence and hope without time or space limitations, breaking the imposed framework in order to achieve a universe peculiar to himself, while maintaining a civic and humanistic connection with today’s world, such are the impressions that the art of Yaser Safi offers to the viewer: an art that breathes and blows a wind of freedom.
We met him in Berlin, where he settled a short time ago. Yaser Safi is a discreet, courteous and considerate man. Calm and composed, his eyes speak volumes about his experience of life and exile, his artistic struggle and his fight to arrogate his values.
For Yaser Safi, to address social or political issues in art is by no means problematical or paradoxical, provided that this is achieved outside the imposed frameworks and through an independent artistic vision. From his experience of the humanly disastrous situation in Syria, he seeks to reinstall a moral vision. A commitment that is essential in our present time, meanwhile that should not, according to the artist, sacrifices artistic quality. Thus, the beauty of a work does not detract from the idea he wishes to communicate. Even when he speaks of violence, lack of freedom or death, in his paintings and engravings there is a sense of a childish infatuation, joyful or derisive, a perfume of innocence, in the manner of a child who looks with astonishment at the world around him.
Childhood is omnipresent in Yaser Safi’s artistic work, not only through the ingenuity of his characters, but also in his pictorial language which is naïve, yet only in appearance. His body of art radiates personal as well as universal values, a profound meaning which imperceptibly conceals behind ambivalent simplicity, and a will to live and transform the world into a more just and equitable space.
“Each artist must have his own color balance, since this is part of his identity and this is his own singular voice…” said Yaser Safi. Between sculpture, engraving and painting, the artist does not mix different means of expression; what inspires him is the matter itself, since “each matter has its own language, and this language must be used in creation”. This principle is applied by the artist to each of his works, and in the creative phase, he allows himself to be absorbed body and soul by his work, subduing his imminent emotions and feelings and releasing them on the canvas.
Yaser Safi dislikes to impose interpretations, but prefers to evoke “visual questions”, and to allow the viewer free choice as to deepen his own vision of the work through his cognition and imagination. If the artist tends to give titles to his artworks, he chooses them preferably short and symbolic. It leaves the viewer with a whole horizon of possibilities and the task of aligning them to compose a novel sentence or chapter, centred however on the artist’s ideas, since these titles are for the latter an alphabet.
Emptiness, the movement freed from any constraint and limit that he grants himself, and which he grants his characters, are among the outstanding elements in its work: they float in a surreal atmosphere that defies gravity. What the artist wants to show is the very spirit of these characters, because by accentuating their emotions, these take on the infinite dimensions of free space. Some characters have their feet on the ground, would it be a sign of wisdom? Not always, for sometimes we understand that it is indeed an attachment to material things and a remoteness to human values. Righteous values need an unconditional space of freedom that Yaser Safi knows how to impose in his works as an absolute necessity.
We also wonder about the notion of time in the work of Yaser Safi. Much of the artworks he has realized in recent years have been reactions to events that occurred in his homeland, one can find military details or other similar distinctive features. These situations are eloquent, even for a viewer unaware of the situation in Syria, for the dimensions are human, and the unrighteous condemned as well as the values advocated remain universal, reminding us the history of man who never ceases to repeat his mistakes, and in the midst of the beauty of life, who continues to create destruction and to bargain with death.
“An artist can not paint a rose while breathing gas” commented Yaser during a radio interview in 2015, hence his will and commitment to recreate the moral structure of Syrian civil society. From his anxiety towards his country and his anger, he does not draw hatred, but a profound reflection on what should be condemned and what should be undertaken to deal with injustice.
The great Syrian artist Youssef Abdelke commented on Yaser Safi during his exhibition in Beirut in 2015: “As they draw (a gun) on people, children, innocence and the future, Yaser’s work draws on perfection and delicacy, the brilliance of the color and the integrity of the line… in order to go further in an expression devoid of any rule …”
In this way, Yaser Safi moves away from the current technical rules of painting, and intuitively offers his lines and colors a freedom that he cherishes so much and hopes to see spread beyond his works.
Text by Khaled Youssef
Editing by Danii Kessjan
Photo credit ©Khaled Youssef