Friday, December 30, 2016


Saincilus Ismael-  Haiti
All through the Christmas season, we find cultural differences in the art for this joyous and grace-filled  time.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Saincilus Ismael was born in Petite Riviere de l’Artibonite, Haiti in 1940. He was educated by the Friars of St. Mark and at Antenor Fermin High School

 Ismaël led a full and rich life. An agonomist as well as an artist, he was also a political activist. He spent seven years in prison for opposing the Duvaliers, Papa and Baby Doc. Even so, thanks to the popularity of his art, he died a relatively wealthy man by the standards of his homeland: his estate included a Volkswagen.

   The artist spent most of his creative life in Deschapelles as director of an art center associated with an American medical and religious mission. He trained scores of students and exerted a powerful influence on artists working in the 'Artibonite style,' two features of which are elaborately decorated clothing and backgrounds.

   Ismaël has been exhibited worldwide and appears in most surveys of Haitian art published since the 1970s
He was closely associated with Doctor and Mrs. Mellon at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles where he supervised the Ceramics Center. Ismael developed a style that was instantly recognizable, scenes of Haitian peasant life rendered with the intricacy and precision of a Byzantine icon. In an Ismael painting, every garment of a subject's clothing would be a different geometric pattern, as would the houses and the trees.  It is said in Haiti that Ismael's output grew tenfold after his death. 

Gebre Merha was born and raised in the ancient holy city and former imperial capital of Axum (Aksum).  He learned iconography in the traditional manner, passed down for generations in his family of distinguished artists.  He now lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

His family provides him with wood for his carvings and paintings from the mountains surrounding Axum, where the trees are still felled by hand-axe. His icons are painted in glue-based distemper paint and acrylic on un-gessoed wood.  In addition to traditional icons, Gebre paints African designs in acrylic

An almost shocking piece of art, is Louis Kahan's
Flight, with its modern escape from what looks like a city in ruins  (representing our present age?) with the protective Joseph at the wheel of a jalopy. Mary is in the back with the Child, protecting Him.  On top of the vehicle are a saw and hammer (to show Joseph's trade) a spinning wheel, and various pieces of luggage.  The car is obviously breaking through barbed wire, which symbolizes (?) the tyranny under which they are escaping.  It is a bold work of art, very expressive for our day and age.

Louis Kahan (1905- 2002) was an Austrian-born Australian artist whose long career included fashion design, illustration for magazines and journals, painting, printmaking and drawing. He is represented in most major collections in Australia as well as in Europe and USA. He won the Archibald Prize in 1962 with a portrait of Patrick White. 

He enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in 1939 and was sent to Algeria, North Africa as a war artist, although he had never received any formal art training. He had an exhibition at Oran in 1942. He was a voluntary artist for the Red Cross between 1943 and 1945. During this time, photography of soldiers was not permitted. Louis made over 2,000 drawings of wounded soldiers being cared for in the hospital at Oran and these were v-mailed (an early form of microfilm) to the families of soldiers. When he found that the originals were being destroyed after transmission Louis began to save them and over 300 were later given by him to the Red Cross Museum in Washington, USA.   

In his paintings, prints and drawings Louis explored many interests and themes, including dreams, death, and his own life. Childhood games, portraits and nudes were ongoing subjects. Symbolism particularly characterizes his later works. Later, dreamlike prints and paintings often show his tools of the trade: palette, brushes, tailor's scissors and tape. These represent a kind of metaphorical self-portrait and life history.

No comments:

Post a Comment