Yaser Al-Safi - Poetic Soaring and Childish Icons
(Shadow Puppets)

Asa’ad Orabi 2005

The artist’s paintings, just like his works of engraving, reflect a breath-taking charm which mysteries are so difficult to decipher. This magnetic attraction may relate to his enigmatic characters and exciting carnival hordes that closely resemble shadow puppets. They radiate gladness and pulsate with sadness simultaneously, oscillating between mature meditative tranquility and young childish riot.

However, this attraction may go back to the artist's way of simplifying forms, eloquence in the economy of subjects, modest asceticism of methods of expression, and sometimes the contentment with a limited number of characters and mythological creatures, like in “A Couple of Lovers”. Despite his frivolous insistence, he confines himself to a unified color tone. It is a tone calm in delicate colors, in delicate heat and coldness. Then he jewels his ampleness with gems of shinning colors satiated with intimate pigments, just like the rays of sunrise and dawn, sunset and dusk. He is trying to seize a dreamlike moment of color located in the folds of the memory of time and its straying light without any hope of turning back.

Here are cut-up puppets, thin, with no thickness, size, mass or shadow, swimming in an astral ‘conscientious’ void without horizon, free from gravity. They look closer to an abstract surfaces coming from the sphere of Muhammad Said Al Wasity, Behzad, and Damascene Abu Subhi Al-Tinawi, and like those miniatures and delicate glass drawings restricted to a humble paper-size world.

The human organs are shattered (fingers, feet, masks of heads...) and joints are dislocated. Thus the painting is converted into a new hallucinatory anatomic logic, original and unique.

Some of the formations focus on puritanical platonic love. Bodies suffer from embrace and separation, soaring in a celestial ascending in an upper ethereal world, fleeing from death and sins of the lower world in a space with no shackles.

Through this poetic soaring we discover around the heads the crescent halos borrowed from the quietude of ancient Assyrian icons. The artist sometimes puts his signature in the opposite direction of the painting, reinforcing its spatial astral Dervish- like whirling.

The engravings of Yaser Al-Safi are full of the memory of the local flourishing of this art, from Ghayyath Al-Akhras to Yousef Abdelki. Yet, what distinguishes Yaser is the utmost innocence that forsakes censorship of mind and ideological consciousness. With intuitive childish freedom the artist drops the technical rules and formal decorations. He dislikes polishing, suaveness, academic courtesy, and the virtue of painting. His work, so fresh, looks like children paintings, or at least spontaneous sketches. He prefers the virgin lines and colors, with no revision or rectification. Therefore, he is the artist least expected to stumble over alienation and stereotypes.

His world, as grotesque as it is, has some kind of underlying inevitability, something closer to instinctive fatalism. In this world the figures will not consent to any topographic displacement, and thus convey a crucial contentment to the viewer: they certainly cannot be but what they are.