Feature: Anas AL Horani. Photography: Courtesy of Wadi Finan Art Gallery
Besher Koshaji’s exhibition at Wadi Finan Art Gallery was both formulaic and gorgeous
Meeting Besher Koshaji, the talented young Syrian artist whose works were exhibited in Wadi Finan Art Gallery last month, was a delight. He was a calm and generous character, who sought to talk about his work in a simple and direct manner, and this simplicity and directness were perfectly captured in his rich and complex paintings.
Besher Koshaji began his artistic life in 2007, depicting a variety of buildings, houses and streets familiar to him. “At the time,” Koshaji reflects, “My work was heavily influenced by Picasso, Braque and the Cubists.” Leaving Syria afterwards, where Koshaji’s home was and where his family resided, and moving to Jordan in 2012, was a scarring experience, which Koshaji sought to sublimate artistically.
“I realized at one point that my memories of the neighbourhood in which I lived, and of the country as a whole, were slowly fading away.” Koshaji contemplated, “It’s what time does anyway, and I had to preserve what I remembered.” He then started working on his latest exhibited series.
Working on the series, Koshaji employed a new technique that he never heretofore tried, which involved constructing shapes from seemingly disjointed – but aesthetically unified – lines and swathes of colour. Large and rich expanses of negative space sometimes emphasized the resulting figures; some other times the lack of any negative space threatened to spill from the canvas. And in each case, the result was thrilling and marvellous.
In his earlier works, many of the scenes Koshaji painted from recollection were ambiguous and unsettling – everything, from concrete buildings to human beings, was reduced to silhouettes, abstract lines and broken shapes. It was as if Koshaji saw everything through refracting – or maybe simply broken – lens. It was, moreover, as if he inhabited the universe shown through this lens. However, in his new collection, that loss of acuity seemed to have been embraced.
Besher Koshaji’s new collection, which was exhibited in Wadi Finan Art Gallery under the title “Reflections”, seemed more at ease with the nature of memory. Although figures and shapes were also reduced to hues of colour and paralleling or juxtaposing lines, this time they appeared endowed with a sense of serenity, or even nostalgia. One of the more popular works depicted a man offering a red-clad woman a flower, and the faces of the figures were splendidly reminiscent of the golden age of Arab song.
Against the dark backdrop of Koshaji’s art, which constitutes of meditations on loss and distance, forgetfulness and the arbitrariness of time, its unwillingness to provide easy answers is exhilarating. “I don’t think art must have any specific function in the world,” he said at one point. “I think art is an expression in itself, and that is more than enough.” Koshaji’s paintings are expressions of yearning and other things, too. But they are – more importantly – always grounded in the universal.
Reflecting on his artistic growth, Koshaji says, “I think with this collection that I have finally found my own style. My own voice.”