ASSEM AL SABBAN


It is art that says so much in one glance. The compositions of Assem represent many forms of art at once. Using photography as a starting point, he builds an entire world upon a photograph, using textures and images that he compiles one on top of the other. His work even has a musical and story-like quality. There is a surreal quality to the artwork taking the viewer through a fantastical flight of steps and every step up is a level deeper into the heart of the work. Although the subjects of the art may, in an abstract sense, be ordinary – trams, buildings, people, flower, animals – but they are manipulated to say much more. Images intersperse and collide across the surface dipping and ducking through webs of outlines. How does Sabban do it? From the start, since he was 14 years old, he had a camera in his hand. “I still use my Large Format Wooden Camera, and my old Hasselbad”. With the mind of a photographer and a solid loyalty to Photoshop, Sabban has found a fountain of inspiration through photomontage by bringing those two mediums together. He has been using Photoshop since Photoshop 2.5. In comparison to manual methods of photo manipulation, the program provides it all with so much ease and flexibility. What chemicals did to prints in the lab, Photoshop can do in a matter of seconds. Sabban’s method is a matter of compiling and manipulating layers of images, around ten to twenty photos at once, while managing a delicate balance that keeps the final image from appearing too noisy or stuffy and, at the same time, conveying the right emotion or impression. Using the tools in the program, he mixes colors

to create the perfect moods.

“When I’m working on my images, I feel like a painter,” he says, “I create a general view of the image then get into the small details”. There is no specific method or a specific range of tools that he uses in the program. It is a matter of applying the tools that support what his imagination demands of the program. While the method may seem quite doable, with work of such complexity one wonders about the control that is required to keep an image strong without feeding the canvas with too many elements. “It’s really very difficult to feel when to stop,” He says, ”So, I depend on my feeling. Some of my work I leave hanging for months. Then I come back to work on it and it takes only a few strokes of photos, colors, and touches until I feel it could be what I want to express.” Perhaps this aspect of his working method is what makes his artwork unique. Also, he has managed to create an ambience for his work that is consistently and fluidly conveyed in each and every piece, no matter what subject or location is feature in it.

Sabban has been inspired recently by his life in Prague as the diplomat in the Saudi embassy, where he exhibited his art. Looking closely at his work there is a fragile European sensibility to it and there is a fine line between his personality and the surroundings that he captures. According to Sabban, Prague inspired him to go back to photography and, as he used to tell his photography students, it is the place to go for black and white photography. Sabbans’s work was exhibited not only Prague but in many other places, such as, Bon, Germany, Alexandria and Riyadh. In the beginning of his journey as an artist, he lost his studio in Riyadh, which was a devastating incident. While he lost things that were unredeemable, it took him a while to regain his footing and achieve a renaissance for his art. His collection now is very vast, a collection of little stories that come from the heart and an authentic place buried deep in the imagination.


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