Specialist dealer and artist Fayez Barakat is a man more readily associated with international antiquities that stretch from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi, than contemporary abstract paintings. Yet for some thirty years now Barakat has privately and very prolifically produced thousands of works, from locations as diverse as Jordan, North America and the United Arab Emirates, that redefine contemporary abstraction. He discussed his work and his philosophy of life with Culture Trip.
Fayez Barakat’s works of charmed abstraction are each in their own visions of utter complexity, as Barakat manages with due diligence and good cause, to manipulate acrylic and oil paints as threads of coloured light, to become the messengers for his abstracted communiqué. A painterly summons that is conjured from a vast body of abstracted works, has its audience in awe of the proven sophistication of each individual work. Yet for Fayez Barakat his vision is clear, and in conversation it appears that his is a calling that necessitates him to paint with a rare and spirited dedication that has actually reshaped abstraction beyond recognition.
Pressing an association with the fore-fathers of modern painting, French impressionist Claude Monet, American Mark Rothko, Spaniard Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, among others; Fayez Barakat recalls these leading protagonists of modern painting as his contemporaries; men with a vision for painting that was uncompleted, as each of their lifetimes proved a mere fleeting moment for the development of abstraction. Addressing sensations that are as integral to our humanity as the blood that courses through our veins, Barakat wants to paint his way into historical consciousness with works of astonishing beauty. For Barakat, canvas, oil and acrylic are the raw material for his inspired visions of abstraction; each unique painting marking a new moment in his career. His works are proof of the regal strength of his long-standing ability to reshape abstraction. Any rare exhibition of works represents only the tip of a colossal iceberg that constitutes Barakat’s accomplished works of abstraction, which are held in significant collections across the world, like prizes, testament to one man’s ambitious flare and private passion.
What are your special interests, your critical and cultural views? And what are your motives to paint?
Fayez Barakat: My name is Fayez Barakat. I am an Arab American of Palestinian origin. I have been an art dealer and an artist all my life. I paint in both oil and acrylic, mainly on canvas, but I have also expressed myself in a variety of mediums. My critical and cultural views are summarized by my few wishes and dreams for the world to raise its consciousness to a higher level of sensitivity and of understanding their role in life to enhance themselves with there surroundings to create a more peaceful, calmer and cleaner environment. I am highly motivated and paint on a daily basis. Through the experience of painting, I am continuously learning about myself and about my potential to express myself. I thrive on educating the viewers through my artwork, allowing them to rise subconsciously and subliminally question themselves, hoping that the viewer will access a window of enlightenment. The ultimate goal is that we will all cope with one another in complete harmony.
Explain what you mean by the essence of the man?
The essence of man, or the human being, is mind, body, and soul.
As an impassioned collector of the ancients what has motivated your interest in contemporary art? How long have you been committed to antiquity and when did you turn to painting? Are they both one and the same for you?
Art for me has no boundaries. I am very passionate about collecting and dealing in ancient art from all cultures. I also still live in the present and feel that contemporary art is a necessity for our mental growth to meet the challenges of the 21st century. I painted since I was two years old. All art has beauty to behold, appreciate and learn from. Each artwork carries a message bombarded by the energy of the artist.
Do you see a relationship between your specialist interest in antiquity and your commitment to contemporary art practice?
Without a doubt, I am very influenced by the past.
With regard to your paintings, why employ abstraction?
I do not only employ abstraction. I have mastered over 100 different styles, and techniques, but the mood of the moment is the deciding factor.
Did you ever consider representation? Have you abandoned representation for a reason? Or is there much greater merit in committing to pure abstraction?
I do not enjoy what you refer to as representation because so many artists practice and paint in this style.
Might it be argued that abstraction, in its purist sense, is a lesser art than good representation? Or is the object a distraction from pure expression?
Art is art in all its forms.
Are you seeking to communicate in all of your works a sense of greater expression, impulsive and unchallenged?
I seek to communicate in all of my art works with the mind, body and soul. I feel that I am a medium, transferring a message of enlightenment through form and colour.
With your relentless and prolific commitment to abstraction, who, from modern and contemporary art history, have been your artists, your influences?
Almost every artist dead or alive has influenced me in one way or another. As an artist, I look at a work of art differently than a layperson would. I always put myself in the shoes of the artist that created the artwork and compare myself with the skill, mood and motivation behind the creation and its intended message.
How important were modern western movements to your accomplished practice? How significant were artists like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly, even the impressionist Claude Monet to you?
Extremely important, they all touch my heart and senses.
‘American Abstract Expressionism’ had a relation to politics and liberalism, what are your politics, or is abstraction ‘apolitical’ by nature? Are your paintings an expression of more liberal ideals?
The politics you see in my paintings focus mainly on meditation, fantasy, bliss and nirvana, including all the attributes associated with the above. I am a liberal artist that supports freedom of expression in all its mediums.
Are your paintings all a hedonistic act?
My paintings are my best teachers and best students alike. They offer me the pleasure of breathing and smelling the roses.
French artist Yves Klein invented ‘Klein Blu;’ do you consider yourself you have fashioned abstraction in a new direction?
I feel it is unfair to call any form of art as abstract. I believe people refer to abstract art as abstract because they have failed to perceive in their mind a proper definition.
Do you see an endpoint for abstraction; will you ever consider the return of representation to your works?
There is no beginning or end of an artistic phase. I will continue painting in all the different schools I feel comfortable with.
What are your conditions for painting? Your studio, the light?
I enjoy having a very large studio with lots of light and a phenomenal view is always an extra bonus. I happen to have 5 studios around the world.
Do you always wash over a canvas with a specific colour? Have you considered working straight onto untreated canvas, without an underlying colour?
I always prefer to paint on linen canvases. I am not intimidated by size—the larger the better. Generally, I prefer to prepare my canvases with solid colours; however I have also worked on unprepared canvases.
The titles for the works, how significant are they to you?
They are very significant as they reflect a memory, a reflection or a fantasy.
What single action is fundamental to every single work?
Love, challenge, fantasy, passion, ideal and positive energy,
Is it a fundamental that your audience see what you want them to see in your works? How important is interpretation to you? Or misinterpretation even?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and each one of us appreciates art in relation to one’s level of consciousness.
American Cy Twombly has always been criticised for works that resembles child-like doodles, even now at his death. Do you fear such criticism?
Anytime anyone discovers the child in me through my paintings, that person is an old soul.
Cy Twombly, upon his death, was regarded as one of the most significant painters of the modern era; do you wish for your commitment to abstraction to be regarded with equal measure?
If the world finds me deserving of such an honor. That will bring a smile to my face.
Is it right that you decide whether someone is worthy of one of your works or not, when you discuss their commitment being in equal measure to your original dedication to a painting? Does not a work become someone else’s property upon your having completed it?
I believe in destiny. Therefore, I feel that each of my works will end up in the right places, at the right time, where they would be needed most.
I have always found abstraction an impossible language, in that is it without explanation? Is good painting, great painting without explanation? Are the mechanisms for reality, our lives, and a point of departure when considering painting and greater aesthetics?
There is energy, life and beauty in all art.
Is painting as significant or as fundamental as breathing? The blood that runs through your veins, is it for painting?
Painting is extremely significant to me and as long as I breathe, I feel lucky to be able to paint.
Your palette, your technique, is it determined by your reinventing your practice regularly?
Each day brings an inspiration to me and each time I breathe, I am grateful to know that a new message to the world needs to be delivered through the beauty of each symphony that I create in colour.
What is fundamental when considering your works?
Reading between the lines is as challenging as reading through the flow and ebb of the colours used and the forms created.
Do you see it as necessary, in the future, to dedicate your works to a specific place or space as Mark Rothko and Henri Matisse have done so positively?
My art is for the world.
If you were to stop painting tomorrow, what would your last painting look like?
Is complexity the merit of better painting or do you find virtue in moving between degrees of complexity and simplicity in your paintings?
Simplicity and complexity are intertwined in my paintings and the aim is realizing harmony, synergy and perfection.
Is sophistication, aesthetic accomplishment in the eye of the beholder?
Yes, if the beholder was disciplined.
What of the future?
Yesterday is history; the future is a mystery and today is a celebration of life.