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Louay Kayyali is best-known for his depictions of dispossessed marginalized people from his society. Working-class figures have always been his favorite subject, and he most frequently depicts them as solitary figures, finding inspiration mainly from street vendors and beggars.
In the first lot, The resting beggar, Kayyali portrays a street scene of an older man slumped on the floor, exhausted from the burdens of life and absorbed in a daydream. He wears a dark coat, holding a large bag which appears to be half empty. He is resting his head on his right hand, but shutting his eyes to the world, perhaps dreaming of another chance as he struggles to survive in a harsh, judgmental society.
Melancholy and resignation best characterize much of Kayyali's work after the 1967 war and the sentiments of political failure in the Arab World in general. Active during a time of immense upheaval, Kayyali was one of the region's most prominent socio-political artists, his paintings externalizing the pressing humanitarian and political issues that surrounded him. His powerful depictions of ordinary people are characterized by strong fluid lines that define the figures and the absence of extraneous detail. Despite his sensitivity to textures, namely the use of the masonite board, the clarity of Kayyali's outlines remain very classical. The nuances are worked to a minimum with a transparent layering, which keeps the texture of the masonite intense and preserves its raw state. Using masonite board as the support for many of his works, was also a visual vehicle for Kayyali to emphasize on the hardship of reality.
An artist of remarkable depth and skill, Louay Kayyali sought throughout his life to record the beauty and fragility of life, as well as to document the kind of humanity that belongs to a lost paradise. He wanted his art to be the awakening light that reminded people of these lost graceful souls, which politicians and selfish figures of society neglected.
The second lot by Kayyali is a tall, thin and elegant boy, Kayyali's 'Fatta' from 1975, a very important work in terms of contrast between the very image of a bourgeois aesthete and the humble corresponding job of the fisherman. The young boy is standing in the forefront of the canvas, face-to-face with the viewer and the outside world. For a figure by Kayyali, he is surprisingly a very optimistic character as he is holding a catch. and he does not seem to be sad nor is he empty-handed, as most of the other fishermen in other works by Kayyali from the same series, most of which were executed in Arwad island on the outskirts of Tartous.
In most of the paintings from the fishermen series, Louay Kayyali hints to the loss, suffering and hardship of the fishermen and of his fellow compatriots in Syria. There is a strong undertone of politics, in that it portrays the defiance and stillness which the Arab world was confronted to since the mid-sixties. In the background there lies a single boat, always parked on the yellow Mediterranean sand as in many of Kayyali's works. The voyage takes place only in the artist's imagination and never in his own works, nor in the reality of Syria in the 1970s. The small fisherman's boat is like the country and its people: in a state of total immobility.
The artist further questions notions of lost time and long hours waiting for the catch in solitude and serenity yet the subtle hint of a smile on this figure's face communicates a sense of positive attitude. He clutches onto his catch of the day with both hands and wraps it delicately in the white cloth that is delicately falling along his back. This 'Fatta', is portrayed in a fashionable way, standing still as if posing for a photograph, with his eyes directly staring at the viewer, ready to be challenged whilst keeping a strong and victorious attitude. One can feel that this work was painted at a high period of convalescence from the artist's depression, a time when his figures also took on a more monumental appearance. Kayyali's 'happy' periods tended to be quite rare, but during such moments he took joy in exaggerating the colour contrasts in his work and by adding vibrant yellow and red tones, enveloped with his perfect flow of an elegant black contour; Kayyali had always been attracted by simple lines in depicting his subjects. People and laborers, from the peasants found in his earlier paintings in the cotton fields near Aleppo to the sellers in the streets of Damascus, fascinated Kayyali as figures for his paintings. The fishermen series is an equally important subject matter for Kayyali which he revisited in a number of periods throughout his career. When he was commissioned to produce a large canvas for the National Museum of Damascus, his choice was that of the fishermen at work.