Houssam Ballan

Syria, 1983

Figurative painter Houssam Ballan’s canvases are informed by his accomplished technical abilities and through his extensive academic and research endeavour. As an artist, Ballan’s frequent experimentation
informs the growth in his work as he works intuitively. In his earlier paintings, Ballan’s young protagonists are executed with close attention to detail, a form of realism that relies on painterly effects and meticulous line work to create a sculptural sense of figuration. As the bodies of his subjects are given dimensionality, the artist renders their clothes as lines, patterns, and evident brushstrokes with a stylisation that alludes to the passage of time and the presence of an ongoing narrative.
At the centre of his work is the idea that representation cannot solely be based on what one sees, but the understanding of what one is seeing and the feelings it invokes in a person – be it through looking at it from different angles, touching it, allowing it to move you subconsciously, as well as other experiential interactions. Drawing upon the idea that when one tries to remember a person or a specific incident, that person or incident is not remembered in concrete shapes and lines and colours, but blurred into an overall multi-dimensional feeling, the artist minimalises the detail in his work.  
Ballan’s paintings are reminiscent of icons – the figures are usually situated in the centre of the canvas, adding light to his work without painting any shadows on their faces. The artist minimalises the size of the figures bodies, ignoring original dimensions, also characteristic of icons. Ballan explains that ‘when painting an icon, Christian painters didn’t care more about the sacred story or idea than other aspects of the work. I like this spontaneity in painting.’