Widely recognised for his depictions of the daily struggles and the social deprivation of the masses, the Aleppo-born Louay Kayyali, along with his fellow friend and artist Fateh Moudarres, is undeniably the Father of Modern art in Syria. Having studied in Rome, he participated in many exhibitions and fairs around the world and represented Syria with Moudarres at the 1960 Venice Biennale. Sinking into a deep depression after the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War in 1967, Kayyali's paintings expressed the struggle of a nation as well as his own personal battles. His works, like a window into the lives of the Syrian society reveal his vision of the Arab world in times of war and defeat as they equally evoke his fascination with people and labourers, like the peasants from his earlier paintings in the cotton fields near Aleppo, to the sellers in the streets of Damascus. Occasionally, Kayyali painted landscapes, mostly depicting the village of Maaloula, north of Damascus. The present work, a colourful portrayal of Ras al-Bassit, a popular resort destination historically known as Posideion north of Latakia on the Mediterranean sea, is a rare and exceptional composition painted in the mid-1970s, in the golden age of his career.
Often choosing simple and naive subjects and setting them against a neutral background, Kayyali hinted through most of his works at a broader reality, that of the distressed society he lived in as if to silently protest against it. Suffering from psychological distress and depression, the artist developed a style at the crossroads between Realism, Expressionism and abstraction through deeply sentimental paintings that subtly revealed the pressing humanitarian and political issues of his time and his own sadness and melancholy.
But the present work is striking by its rarity and use of brighter colours. 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 added deep yellows and oranges, setting his Modernist sceneries in the hot afternoon of the day. If at first glance, the present landscape appears to be a joyful composition through which the artist reflected a moment in time when he moved away from the burden of the city, it nevertheless reveals a deep melancholic sentiment and intentionally pressures the viewer to protest against the artists failed strive for escape.
During his short life, Louay Kayyali dedicated himself to condemning the social injustices that he witnessed and his works, although seemingly infused with romanticism and serenity, reveal the struggles of the humankind and are thus politically charged. The present depiction of Ras al-Bassit is a rare and outstanding work of art that perhaps hints at the artists unsuccessful attempts at healing himself and fighting against his inner torment and solitude.