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Exclusive Interview: Hassan Massoudy, The best calligrapher in the world & an Iraqi Painter.

m9 - Exclusive Interview: Hassan Massoudy, The best calligrapher in the world & an Iraqi Painter.

Team Salaamy:We are pleased by the opportunity to have a conversation with you ,It would be a pleasure to know more about Hassan Massoudy the name that has set the Standards of calligraphy today .

Hassan Massoudy : I am happy to share as much as I can .

Team Salaamy : Which is your favorite artwork made by you?

Hassan Massoudy: I have been studying and working in the arts field for half a century now, I have a big amount of art pieces which makes it hard to chose one as a favorite. Nevertheless, each year new artworks shine according to the experiences I go through. These artworks reflect what is deeply hidden in human consciousness. So profound that words cannot express it. You use several influences to create a painting, this gives shapes, colors, and poetic expressions that cannot be translated into words. It is expressing yourself through art; it is beautiful even if it discusses a painful subject. 

Therefore, beauty is what helps us survive. And it is the shortest route to meet other human beings. Hence my favourite artwork is actually all of them since they show me who I am; if I were wither sad or happy I would see that in my paintings and I would want to know why I feel like that. I believe that the audience shares the same feelings I do.

Team Salaamy: What makes calligraffiti so special and do you think its taking street art to a new level?

Hassan Massoudy :There is a hidden connection between traditional Arabic calligraphy and Calligraffiti. For example, the scripting tool: a traditional calligrapher makes contact with a surface using the pen he made himself, using the ink he made out of ash and Arabian glue, that surface he prepared using layers of starch and egg white. Meanwhile, a street artist uses a commercial tool that sprays colours by the press of a button without making any contact with the surface. He is like a dancer sending colours through space. This method was not common sixty years ago and I envy them for that, the feeling of infinite freedom combining dancing and scripting. Therefore, street art is considered a temporary type of art due to the fact that it lacks elegant art pieces. In general, there is an intersection between the two types, and it is possible that Calligraffiti might develop in the future. 

Team Salaamy : How was the journey from Iraq to Paris for the greatest calligrapher alive?

Hassan Massoudy : Leaving Baghdad was painful. But the hospitality I got in Paris brought hope back to me. Fifty years have passed living in the Parisian artistic atmosphere and all the wonderful meetings with different types of arts. Not to mention the discussion through art with the audience in several European cities that made me feel like an artist with people interested in my works. What Michel Tournier said about me being one of the greatest Arabic calligraphers, who knows, maybe one day I will be.I met the writer Michel Tournier in 1984, he used to visit art exhibitions and parties I run and participate in during writing his book ” Golden Droplet”. This novel discussed the consumption of picturing in the western world, while abstract was creating its footsteps in the east through Arabic calligraphy and ornaments. Therefore, he found that the art I practice helped him in some areas in his novel.

Team Salamy : What has inspired you the most as an artist?

Hassan Massoudy : Everything I see in nature inspires me and makes me wonder if I can translate these feelings into an art piece. You do not mimic what you see, you get inspired by it. Trees, for instance, are either standing tall through space in a clear expression of victory like palm trees meanwhile others look as if they are defeated and down to earth. Nevertheless, when a storm hits those short trees rise, and the tall tree falls to the ground. Hence, you can apply that to everything like people in different characters and or birds. I have other inspiration sources including Oriental and Western music. I read poetry and quotes that carry ancient wisdom in human relations, and expressions to understand human nature.

Team Salaamy : You love poetry a lot who is your favorite poet?

Hassan Massoudy :Arabian poetry is rich in creativity and beauty by using words for more than a thousand years. It started in the desert where it recorded the history and traditions of every tribe. The absence of writing tools forced Beduins to memorize things instead of writing them down. Since it was easier to memorize a rhymed context, people used poetry regularly. Plenty of Beduins had it as a hobby to recite poetry. Gradually, this form of art discussed different topics during the Abbasid era; the era of glory, success, luxury, gardens and intellectuality amongst the people of the Islamic empire. Topics ranged from love to cultural fields like travelling or short letters. an example of that would-be the following poem for Al-Nabigha describing one of the great battles:  

Horses with a hollow stomach … horses satiated by the wind of the sands … horses gnawing, impatient, their bit. AL – NABIGHA ( 535 –  604 ) s.  

  — With regards to traveling, there is a massive amount of poems, I would pick this line from them:

Travel if you aim for a certain value. By traveling the skies the crescent becomes a full moon. Ibn Qalakis (1137-1172)    I also love what Imru’ Al-Qais in his poem ” The Desert – 6th century”, he might be the first to show us his environment as pictures in words. In addition to that the wisdom and thoughtful pictures in Al-Mutanabbi poetry ( Iraq – 10th century). I like to read for other poets like Ibn Zaydun ( Andalusia – 11th century) and Ibn Al-Farid ( Cairo – 13th century) Let us admire this poetic line: when you glanced at me I understood the meaning of love. Ibn Zaydoun     11thc.    


I also admire musical tones in the words and meaning of this line: Better than pearls and coral is the gesture of one man towards another man. Walibah Ibn A – Hbbab 8th c.In general, I admire poetry that contains mirth that entertains ears. But I even admire more poems that with a few words would paint a picture in mind that you can clearly see. Above all of them are those that discuss human issues by describing events in a few words. 

Team Salaamy : What is your message to the world as an artist?

Hassan Massoudy : Do my best working and speaking up for human rights everywhere. Reinforcing the concept of freedom by showing the importance of free speech and being pleased with what we have instead of being hungry for what we don’t all around the world.Also working for Global peace instead of starting wars, wars that destroy humanity, build hatred and creating grudges. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said: You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one.

Team Salaamy :What do you love about Islamic art and how it has changed you as a person?

Hassan Massoudy: When I used to live in Baghdad art to me was just Western art, but in Paris, I have found other forms of art and especially the interest of Oriental art throughout museums and books. Islamic art was the missing link in my culture. Once I finished my study I decided to indulge in Arabic calligraphy. My first trip was to Cairo, the downtown was a permanent art exhibition. With trips to the House of Books and going through old manuscripts. During the evenings I would stop by a calligraphy school to meet scholars and learn from them. This increased my passion for scripting more than any other daily activity. After that, I went to Bursa (the first capital of the Ottoman Empire). I was astonished by the huge presence of the Arabian letter on walls and architectural milestones. Also in Istanbul, where the classic form of scripting was abundant in Mosques and museums. When I got back I was determined to spread this form of art given that I have been practicing it. Searching through Arabian manuscripts in the National French Library and after five years I started working on an Arabic calligraphy book. This book is still in the market for forty years. To get hold of all the fields that we use calligraphy in it is important to study architectural monuments that were decorated with it and daily use of scripting. Therefore, in the first five years in Paris, I spent studying Western art followed by another five years studying Islamic art. The latter form of art is the reason why I stuck with water coloring. Also, I learned about other forms of Islamic art through calligraphy in museums and picture books. 

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Pic Courtesy :Hassan Massoudy
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Pic Courtesy : Hassan Massoudy
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Pic Courtesy : Hassan Massoudy
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Pic Courtesy : Hassan Masoudy
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Pic Courtesy : Hassan Massoudy
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Pic Courtesy : Hassan Massoudy
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  1. Calli Nest 4 months ago

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