Dr. Abdulmannan Shamma

The Artist Dr. Khaled Al-Maz

I have frequently heard his name for the last fifty years and I personally met him in the middle nineteen sixties. But we lived close to each other for more than thirty years, so we were sons of the same generation, contemporaries. We have been colleagues in the painting department in the Fine Art College at the University of Damascus since his return from Paris in 1974 until this day.

More than half a century passed and Khaled Al-Maz is still drawing, painting, and sculpting, using a wide range of materials.

It happened that his home was near mine for a long time and his atelier near mine, too. We worked together on numerous occasions, we held mutual artistic activities in a number of Syrian governorates as well as in many Arabian and foreign countries. That is how I came to know him and accompanied him while he traveled. We worked together in the students’ atelier and lecture halls and in the management of the college and its various scientific and artistic activities, in meetings and sub-committees in addition to various union activities and evening family gatherings.

In respect of all the above I may say that Khaled Al-Maz enjoys a distinguished personality that enables him to confront various problems as well as negative and positive standpoints with noticeable spontaneity and rationality, distinguished by witticism with particular flavor which is the spirit of youthfulness, that never deserts him because it lives in his body and soul. The artist went through various artistic stages. They are in our view successive stations. Let us acknowledge them briefly.

The first stage : The stage prior to study in Egypt. This is the preparatory and secondary stages when he lived in Lattakia where he was born, in the decade of the fifties. Our assessment of this early period of his artistic life is that he painted and pictured tableau expressing different subjects, the most prominent among which are natural sceneries and silent nature, and portraits. When we examine the work, we are assured through its evident appearance that he was endowed with the artistic gift so early in life. His tendency towards nature and life, and his spontaneous feeling for the environment and capability to express it added to his effectiveness.

The second stage : The study in Egypt, during the first half of the nineteen sixties. This period distinguished his serious stand to face up to the challenges of academic study requirements which were prevalent in The College of Fine Art, Halwan University in Cairo. Here his real gifts appeared. They grew and flourished quickly as he studied side by side with his colleagues. He excelled most of them noticeably. At the end of this stage he appeared to be influenced by the popular Egyptian art and ancient Egyptian art as well as by his contemporaries – lecturers and other things. This was through the social subjects which he treated in that period, especially the graduation project where realistic style dominated his work. That period was filled with pleasant exaggeration in style, color, and expression.

The third stage : This took place between his study in Egypt and France in the second half of the nineteen sixties. We can say that most of his artistic work in that period was characterized by clear architectural creations. The people in it came in the form of groups and masses as sculpted, monumental coherence, obvious in characteristics and expressions in style and contents; some appeared as if they were colored mural relief executed with various materials, showing diverse rhythm of light and color. There are glimpses expressing the June 1967 setback. The impacts did not slip from his memory as a Syrian Arab artist as was apparent in his work. His tendency and talents were directed towards sculpted and obvious asceticism in using glittering colors. He expressed his subjects with single neutral color and its grade was either hot or cold. At this stage his inclinations started to appear to dwarf people in the manner of grouping, cleaving, or distracting them. This appeared later in more than one occasion.

The fourth stage : The study period which took place in the first half of the nineteen seventies. Here the influence of the modern western approaches in plastic art began to appear in his work, such as cubic, surrealism, abstraction and other things which he saw and admired in Paris, in addition to his continually being affected spontaneously by the popular Egyptian art. This is in addition to his trend towards simplicity, formation and decoration, while maintaining the subject and its great importance which was of concern to him. He began in this stage to weave his tableau, weaving that was identical, coherent and intrinsic in taking form.

The fifth stage : The stage after studying in France. It is the period stretching from the mid nineteen seventies of the until this day. This artistic method predominated in it despite the many changes that he went through in that period, so there was a thin thread that tied them all as at the beginning of that period he concentrated on essential subjects, the most important of which were the oriental baths with their female characters, their loveable exaggeration, shy movements and foggy beautiful naked bodies. They lean here, sit or stand there, keeping within sedate rhythm. He also concentrated on structural, oriental decoration entwining and framing them as columns, archways and arches beside cracked squares which reveal the near and the far as a sign to note a third dimension of simplicity as geometrical shape and color perspective, but all this can be completed by using relevant signs and terminologies, affected some times by ancient Egyptian art and by Arabic Islamic art.

During the following period he only drew his women in colored space interacting together in a very romantic harmony. The heroes are restricted to female characters whose numbers are doubled later on in one tableau. This applies even though on other subjects, which he dealt with during this stage such as motherhood, silent nature, portrays, and other of those subjects which contain various artistic subjects in one painting.

What is important for us is that in spite of all these differences that have been scattered here and there in his artistic works, they are governed in the end by one artistic pursuance, and a similar feeling to a great extent. In all his work the artist Khaled Al Maz excels in the use of distribution of dark and light colors as well as the hot and cold within formal and colorful harmonies. These grow as a result of experiences coupled with his great concern in the general uniformity and his ability to distribute all their elements and terms because they constitute, where he is concerned, fundamental bases that cannot be done away with for any successful piece of work. Anyhow, the dialogue remains between hot and cold on one hand and light and dark on the other, to toy with the eye of the viewer and tickle their emotions – feelings particularly when accompanied by obscurity, sometimes, and formal colorful exaggeration at other times.

In addition to this, Khaled, despite his continuation with his pursuance which crystallized in the last quarter of the twentieth century, began to incline anew to the past when his nostalgia for modification and exaggeration predominated at the end of the sixties. The manifestation of dwarfism and cohesion began to appear anew not only in his female characters but also in the rest of the elements in his tableau and also in a new painting expression style , especially what he produced in the year 2002 when he was sent to Omaha in the United States for a scientific research. Here we can specify in mentioning the triplicate which he executed there with an acrylic substance. Colleague Khaled Al Maz was fortunate in general creation as well as harmonious design and colors with the conversation, blending and changes among their characters and elements; these came to express that he was a true artist. In our opinion this triplicate has summarized his artistic method which was adopted over a period exceeding thirty-five years.

Before conclusion it is important to mention that the artist Khaled did not confine himself to frozen artistic surroundings neither to the practice of artistic method nor to other artistic interests. He experienced impulses as many others did attracting him to right and left, some of which led him towards absurd configuration, although he succeeds in some or most of them; he quickly discovered that they led him outside his basic interests. He withdrew from them and returned to his longing to paint and picture women as a mother, a sister, wife, and the beloved, etc. He truly became an abiding artist with some expression of our beautiful and poetical reality which he chose and concentrated on through his long art progress; to weave during it, his own distinguished tableau. He is, in addition to all these, an artist unprejudiced towards all and likes to listen to others and acts on the advice of those he trusts and their ideas. He loves to talk about himself as an innocent child in its spontaneity.

However, Khaled Al-Maz, an artist and a friend, is regarded as companion on the long art road full of love and gaiety and good company. His flexibility and quick spontaneous changes, unforeseen sometimes, all grow as a result of his continuous love for experiment. It was truly reflected in his artistic work because all these qualities form in the end important landmarks which drew his outstanding artistic personality.

Dr. Abdulmannan Shamma Professor, Artist