curated by Martina Corgnati
Palazzo Pubblico Magazzini del Sale
Ali Hassoun’s return to Siena is a part of a long journey which has led him to grapple with various situations in the West, and with his experiences of the Eastern Mediterranean. His aims has been to explore the various “contaminations” between cultures that, for centuries, have been enriched by differences involving ferocious contrasts which, strangely enough, have never stopped the two from absorbing what was really beautiful and useful from both.
Siena was the first European stop-off of the young Lebanese artist. Here he passed a fairly long period of time which he made the most of, both for increasing awareness of his work and for making his first serious steps in the art world.
The public came to know him through various shows which underlined both his inborn talent and his eagerness to increase constantly, even if slowly, his ability to express himself.
During his years here in Siena he managed to gather together a group of friends who encouraged, counseled, and supported him: what could be better for the aims of a young artist?
Ali Hassoun then left Siena for other places, ones better adapted to developing his career more fully. But even when he came into contact with more prestigious and exclusive milieus, he never lost sight either of his own character or of his own friends. What was imprinted on his mind was to come to grips with something that seemed out if his reach. But he finally got there by making clear the prevalence of the fascinating and- when it comes down to it- definitive aspects of things we still do not know enough about. So, as with other early, almost initiative, relationships, his relationships with his friends from Siena continue to be fruitful.
Ali has come back to Siena in order to reveal, with this long-awaited show, just how his career has developed. But the most important event for Hassoun and for our city will take place on next 2 July: then his work “Drappellone” will be contended for by Siena’s ten districts during the Provenzano Palio. An occasion which will doubtless allow him to enter into the heart of hearts even of the many Sienese who do not know him: yet.
In the background, the unmistakable shape of the Estense Castle appears at the end of a sloping plane shown in a disturbing perspective; along it is an orderly arrangement of muses with a column for a body and the blind and disturbing face of a manikin. De Chirico? No, Ali Hassoun. Emphasized, and seemingly suspended against the impenetrable depth of this monochrome landscape, is a dark-skinned, foreign-looking child who fingers her lip in puzzlement. She is the “sign”, the wayfarer who continually crosses the frontier between two worlds: the same frontier that the artist has crossed and which by now is the most characteristic aspect of all his work.
Not that this wayfarer is always seen in the same way; it is not a recognizable and repetitive referential point. No: at times it is a small boy, or a female figure; but what is important is the mysterious consistency and “double role” that this presence has in the painting in which it plays a part but from which it is also excluded. It is “internal” but also extraneous. For example, in the case of Muse inquietanti [Disturbing Muses], the little girl is part of the image that we observe, yet she is also a viewer who does not stay inside the painting but, quite the contrary, shares our own space; she is thus transformed into a kind of measurement, an incarnation of distance. Thanks to her we know that the image is not there but intangible, distant. And we also know that not even we are there but, instead, are separated by an intermediate plane, a “wing” which for seventeenth century landscapists was, for instance, provided by a tree or the parapet of a loggia but which Ali Hassoun, instead, humanizes: he even celebrates it as a kind of “narrative voice”, both the key to understanding that particular image and also the occasion for détournement, for enchantment and fantasy.