Hassan Massoudy: Breath, Gesture and Light at October Gallery

The October Gallery is currently home to a beautiful exhibition by the artistic master-calligrapher, Hassad Massoudy. This is his second solo exhibition held at October Gallery, a gorgeous space to exhibit Massoudy’s work.

Massoudy was born in Najaf, Iraq and grew up in a traditional Muslim society. He moved to Baghdad in 1961 where he learned classic Arabic calligraphy. In 1969, he moved to Paris and enrolled in the “Ecole des Beaux-Arts” where he studied figurative painting. He did not stop calligraphy altogether however but in order to pay for his studies, he provided headlines in calligraphy for Arabic magazines.

Massoudy has often been considered as the “greatest living calligrapher”. Featuring the texts of a diverse range of writers in his works, from poet, Charles Baudelaire and philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Virgil and Ibn ‘Arabi. Massoudy’s work contains balance between erudite discipline and artistic experimentation, played out through his understanding and use of vigorous lines, strength of gesture alongside abandon and grace. After receiving his degree in 1975, Massoudy returned to calligraphy but this time, using traditional classical styles in his own more modern and liberated manner.

Two of the main themes in Massoudy’s work are peace and tolerance. These themes are also what led Massoudy into working with Amnesty International, UNICEF and other related organisations.

Massoudy’s works are extremely colourful, light and airy. There is something very calming and balanced about his paintings, inviting the viewer to take in beautifully executed messages.

Colour plays an important role in the artist’s work.  Many of his pantings are all in blue, or at least contain blue. Blue is the colour of the sea and sky and is often associated with depth and stability. It is known to symbolise trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, truth, and faith. Blue is also considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. No doubt, Massoudy used a heavy amount of blue in order to achieve this calming effect on viewers, aiding in the creation of serene and placid minds.

Massoudy also features yellow a lot in his works, a colour that is associated with sunshine, joy and happiness, intellect and energy. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness and stimulates mental activity. However, when overused, yellow can have a disturbing effect; it is known that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Yellow is seen before other colours when placed against black, and in heraldry, yellow indicates honour and loyalty.

After the bold and apparent use of such serene and joyous colours, Massoudy also uses a fair amount of red in his paintings, taking the viewers’ emotions in a different direction. Red is the colour of fire and blood, and is so often associated with energy, war, strength, and power, as well passion, desire, and love. Red is an incredibly emotionally intense colour, being known to enhance human metabolism, increase respiration rate, and raise blood pressure. It has very high visibility and is used to indicate courage. Red is used to simulate people into making quick decisions and evoke erotic feelings.

Massoudy has carefully, and consciously chosen his colour schemes to create a wave of sensations and emotions for viewers. Colours definitely have a huge impact and effect on all of our lives, whether consciously or sub-consciously and Massoudy has harnessed their influential power in his artworks.  Massoudy’s use of colour, coupled with his stunning calligraphy creates breathtaking results. He is known to step away from the norm while creating, using what suits him best for what he desires to create, sometimes throwing away a paintbrush to use a piece of cloth or a window wiper to create the beautiful, free-flowing effects he is known and loved for. 

Massoudy’s work is incredibly instinctual, tapping into viewers’ senses and emotions in a simple but striking way. The exhibition is a small oasis in the middle of London that offers a sense of harmony and tranquility to all who visit, sheltered from the busy chaotic world outside.

"Hassan Massoudy: Breath, Gesture and Light" is on at October Gallery until 27th January 2018.  More information may be found here.