Positive response to Gaza artist's work on show in Chichester

Laila Kassab
Laila Kassab

Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery is reporting a strong and positive response to its latest Outside In exhibition – a commission which invited Palestinian artist Laila Kassab to produce new work inspired by Outsider artist Scottie Wilson.

The resulting artwork is on show until July 29 in the exhibition Colliding Worlds.

Outside In exhibitions coordinator Cornelia Marland said: “Through an open call in 2017, Outside In and Pallant House Gallery offered an exciting opportunity for artists to submit proposals in response to the artwork of Scottie Wilson. Contemporary artist Greg Bromley, a social worker from Yorkshire, was awarded the commission, but due to the high quality of Laila Kassab’s proposal, and the unique opportunity at stake, it was decided to offer a second commission.

“Since Laila is unable to leave Gaza, Outside In ran a successful crowdfunding campaign which took place in May 2018, raising the extra funds needed for Laila to take part in this commission, and ensuring her art work could travel safely to Pallant House Gallery.”

Cornelia said: “The response has been really fantastic, as the comments book shows. I think people have been really intrigued. I think it is the fact that we are talking about an artist in Gaza. We work with artists who face barriers in the art world, and she faces a very significant barrier. Her social circumstances mean that it is hard to get her art out of Gaza. We had the successful crowdfunding campaign building up to it.”

There is also fascination in the art itself: “It is very vibrant. A lot of people have been surprised by that. Within her work there is so much hope, and I think that is something that people have really picked up on.

“Laila is a self-taught artist, creating beautifully colourful artworks reflecting her life experiences. For Laila, her life in Gaza did not provide her with what she needed to pursue a career as an artist. She grew up in a poor family in inadequate living conditions and felt that the events surrounding her led her to she calls ‘a dismal life’.

“It was through art that she was able to transform her sadness into creativity. Using charcoal to draw directly onto the walls of her home, she was able to express her feelings inside and turn unhappiness into hope for herself and those around her.”

Laila was drawn to this commission as she saw many similarities between herself and Scottie Wilson.

Laila explains: “Scottie and I share the urge to express our art in the face of a life of poverty, personal hardship and painful memories of war.”

“Paying tribute to Scottie’s art, I will draw the commissioned paintings in bright and warm colours combined with each other to create bold paintings full of lines and curves, symbols and secrets. I will use flora, fish, birds, animals, and other creatures, possibly merging with faces, symbolising freedom, oppression, despair and hope”.

Alongside the commissioned work, there is a selection of work by Scottie Wilson from the Pallant House Gallery collection. Scottie’s distinctive art work has been widely admired and collected by influential members of the art world, including Jean Dubuffet and Pablo Picasso.

Cornelia said: “His works embody a sense of morality, wherein characters called ‘evils’ and ‘greedies’ are juxtaposed with naturalistic forms, such as birds, fish and trees, to symbolise goodness and truth.”

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