Inspiration comes from a variety of sources, like walking on the beach, taking a hike or reading a book. Often, inspiration comes from painful experiences. Sameer Elhallaq, for example, draws inspiration from the pain of living under occupation and blockade.
Elhallaq is a Palestinian artist from Gaza. Showing an interest in art at a young age, he joined an art program at the YMCA in Gaza, where he learned drawing and oil painting. Elhallaq went on to study art education at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.
Elhallaq was first influenced by impressionism, a style of art characterized by a unique style of bush strokes and emphasizing light and the “essence” of a subject, rather than its details. Today, Elhallaq is more engaged in expressionism, portraying subjective emotions and responses to particular events, rather than objective reality.
One of his pieces is called “Eyes Toward Jerusalem,” which depicts the relationship between Palestinians and Jerusalem, much like a lover longs for her soulmate. “The woman illustrates Palestinians in all their colors, contemplating the holy city, which the Israeli occupation has been defiling and violating,” Elhallaq says about his painting. He adds that the olive tree behind the woman leans represents Palestinians’ deep roots in their land. The olive tree “is embraced and interlaced with the body and the soul of Palestinians. This shows the world we are an unchangeable part of this land,” he explains.
Another of his paintings is called “Motherhood.” Elhallaq explains it this way: “What inspired me to paint this piece is seeing a scene of a child holding the hand of his mother, as they were escaping death during the last Israeli assault on Gaza. It was a sight that shattered my heart.” This memory motivated Elhallaq to paint multiple pieces featuring women, mothers and their children. I asked whether there are additional reasons why women are central to Elhallaq’s art. “Because women are a symbol of giving, kindness and love,” he answered. “Women represent the Palestinian people in many of my works.”
In another piece, which he has titled “The Palestinian Flag,” Elhallaq depicts the arrogance of the Israeli occupation in its attempt to destroy the steadfastness of Palestinians. “Despite repeated Israeli assaults on Palestinians, their killing and home demolitions, we are still resilient and our flag is still waving,” he says. “The woman escaping the ruins carrying our flag illustrates deliverance and resilience, despite all the pains and misfortunes.”
Published October 1, 2015