09 May 2018

The history of Jerusalem through the works of Shehab Kawasmi

The works of this artist combine a range of techniques from pencil drawing to digital editing. They portray a unique image of the holy city and the changes occurring over the years.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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In his small studio, no more than a few square metres, graphic artist Shehab Kawasmi is surrounded by a number of expressive works produced throughout his forty-year career in Jerusalem.

“This talent first appeared at primary school. That was when I took up painting as a hobby. This then continued into higher education and finally I decided to enrol at the House of Artists in West Jerusalem. It is linked with the Art and Design Academy of Bezalel at the Hebrew University. I then got an art scholarship in France and Austria, where I had a chance to continue developing my potential.
I specialise in the city of Jerusalem. I have attempted to represent how it appeared in ancient times rather than today, trying to focus on historical and religious sites – both Islamic and Christian – as well as on the most eminent architectural features of the city."

Shehab Kawasmi’s paintings often are inspired by original photography first generated by Armenian photographers. These were the first to undertake this profession in Palestine. Kawasmi uses a pencil in most of his works, which marry up different styles, in order to confer maximum realism to his subjects. His latest publication, the book "Kan Yama Kan (Once Upon a Time): Jerusalem 100 years ago", collects seventy works. Each is completed by a blurb on English and Arabic.

"I found myself drawing in pencil almost by accident. I don’t have a large studio, which would be necessary to paint in colour. What encouraged me towards a pencil technique was the idea of producing a documentary-book on Jerusalem as it appeared 150 years ago. My desire was to start from pre-existing paintings inspired by the past and to integrate them with the same places as they appear today.

Kawasmi’s works therefore are not just limited to pencil drawings. They range from watercolour to oil painting and include digital integration techniques, which means superimposing old and new images as he attempts to display the transformations which happened throughout the years. This gives the viewer not only a picture of the time but an outlook on the history of the city.