Although political strife plagued the artist's early years, Samia Halaby’s grand canvases are seemingly neutral. Perhaps they seek an inner peace as they draw upon an explosion of abstract colours that sometimes suggest a notion of boundless freedom beyond the tangible barriers that triangulated her reality. A vivid burst of organic and inorganic shapes, Halaby’s oeuvre is an exercise in unleashing oneself of one’s limitations and exploring the wonders of life.
Samia Halaby emphasised that her early source of inspiration was the geometry and logical patterns seen in Islamic art between the 14th and 17th centuries, especially within Persian carpets. Halaby’s visit to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem had a significant effect on her practice throughout her career, notably the intricate, tessellating patterns of Islamic architecture. These observations helped her understand the concept of spatiality and the perspective needed to describe three dimensional objects on a two dimensional surface. Combined with her study of the various forms of Cubism, she created her own signature style, one that bridged modern European techniques with her Palestinian and Middle Eastern heritage.
Untitled (Michelangelo Perspective no. 162) is the only figurative work by the artist that still remains from her earliest period, and the only one to have ever appeared at auction. With keen attention to the sumptuousness of her herculean figures, Halaby draws from one of the most renowned Italian Renaissance artists, Michelangelo. This work illuminates Halaby’s diverse technical skill and her incredible ability to move between genres and techniques. Untitled (Michelangelo Perspective no. 162) is among the most telling of Halaby’s dual identities. The work synthesises her iconic use of line and colour with a calculated study of fresco-inspired cartoon drawings. The present work evokes the hybridity that is fundamental to the Palestinian landscape and culture—a brilliant collation of all three Abrahamic religions. The rarity of this work lies in its abrupt and syncopated nature, as if Halaby’s canvas is an act of rebellious defamation, both destructive and constructive.
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