‘The surrealistic vision is essentially a humanistic vision because it considers that the true nature of the human entity cannot be observed through the senses. It considers that the real nature of things can only be associated with those feelings stemming from man’s sub-consciousness and his inner being’. (Shaker Hassan Al-Saïd, in his essay Philosophical, Technical and Expressive Aspects of One Dimension, 1973).
Teacher of art history at the Institute of Fine Arts from 1970 to 1980, Shaker Hassan developed in the meantime an innovative theoretical and philosophic approach known as the One Dimension Group, (‘Al-Bu’d Al-Wahid’), founded in 1971. Since then, he investigated the one-dimensional limit between visual reality and surrealism. Contemplation is therefore at the core of his 1970s works to the extent that for him, a painting was not only a plastic creation but also a spiritual quest.
This mysterious and abstract composition titled Jidar min Al Qunaytirah no.1 realised in 1979 precisely illustrates the essence of the painter’s new conceptual approach. Applying mainly earthy tones on the background which seems to be a damaged wall, Shaker Hassan revealed letters and words written or highlighted in red. Similar to Ta’imlat Mowdou’i (‘Meditations’, 1984) offered by Christie’s Dubai on in March 2014 (price realised: $207,750), the script manifestly differs from the traditional calligraphic style insofar as it appears to be a sort of graffiti. Although he was inspired by ‘Al-Hurufyyah Al- Arabiyah’ or Arabic Letterism, he never used it as a means of communication but rather as a real path to mysticism. In the present lot, the sentence ‘La Ghaleb Illa Allah’ (‘God is the only Conqueror’) hangs above another one placed in the middle of the canvas ‘Al-Eiz Al-‘Arabi’ (‘The Arab Pride’). In that way, he endowed this masterpiece with an important religious dimension since he stated that the letters establish a link between Man and God. Belonging to both the physical and material worlds, the subject turns into a vision that is only perceived by the viewer through a range of deep emotions. Losing his own specific spatial and temporal bearings for a short moment, the viewer is confused yet guided by the artist towards a transcendental world. Finally, the support is metaphorically the ‘ego’ and the handwritings are associated with the expression of the human soul’s conscious and subconscious.
In a similar way that internationally renowned Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012) was integrating a form of Oriental calligraphy into his works to explore meditative emptiness, Shaker Hassan Al-Saïd reinvented the art of calligraphy through a contemporary contemplative eye which ultimately shaped his distinctive artistic identity. After the many conflicts rattling the Arab diaspora throughout the 20th century, in this painting Shaker Hassan paid tribute to the Arabs celebrating their culture which is indestructible and will be always a strength.