03 Mar Anas AlBraehe, the artist who transcends the image. By Christiane Waked, Editor: Maya Khalifé
Picture this: while other kids were playing ball outside, a little boy was way happier scribbling with his pencils and choosing the right colours from his crayons, to match the flowers and the mountains of Suweida, a small village in Syria where he is originally from.
Anas is the youngest of his family, which makes him the most observant one. Neither his parents nor his siblings were educated, yet he managed to graduate from university with a Masters’ degree in Art Therapy from the Lebanese University.
As the only blond in the family with an exotic look, he always felt like an outcast, deprived of a sense of belonging, yearning for that adventurous elsewhere that would nurture his talent.
So when his mother, with whom he had a fusional relationship passed away, there was no more reason for him to stay. At 22, he moved to Lebanon, having discovered around that age that he can actually sell his paintings in art galleries in the nearby country.
Anas always thought that the only thing he could do with his talent was to teach painting, so when Saleh Barakat discovered his talent and offered to sponsor his work, the young prodigy finally spread his wings and plunged even deeper into his wild creative mind.
In Syria, he used to paint his neighbour Manal. She was a 40-year-old woman with Down syndrome. Anas wanted to transcend the image of Manal’s physical shape, for he knew that her identity ran deeper than her appearance. The young artist is sensitive, and while showing me Manal’s paintings, never once mentions her disorder.
He looks at me and says: “I saw in Manal what you are seeing now!”. I was very touched that he guessed my thoughts. I replied: “Pure beauty! Indeed, there is no deception in her eyes”.
He then shows me a painting of a young boy and an older woman, holding a thread together. He points his fingers at the boy and says: “That is me Christiane, holding on to that last thread that relates me to my mother. She was a tailor, you know”.
He looks at me while my tears betray me. I ask him to excuse me as this particular subject is painful to me.
We interrupt the interview as he opens a bottle of wine and change the subject to talk about our common friend, the talented painter Annie Kurkdjian. Her portrait hanging above my head, I salute him for this wonderful painting that managed to capture Annie’s intense eyes.
I ask him if we can resume our interview, he nods his head and tells me about his series of painting people asleep, most of whom were his own roommates. Some of them are refugees displaced by war, the majority are laborers whose only vulnerable moment can be captured while they’re asleep.
Anas presents himself as a dream catcher, insisting that dream is the only state in which humans can still be truly free.
I try to engage him in a discussion about politics in arts, he smiles and humbly replies that he doesn’t even know the names of presidents or which flag belongs to which country.
As a Political analyst myself, Anas’ comment makes me smile and I secretly envy his innocence, until he tells me that he has a weakness for older women. The young artist makes me laugh hard, as I wonder if I should mention to him that I am not a cougar myself!
I regain focus and ask him about his next exhibition. He shows me big beautiful landscape paintings which immediately make me think of Gauguin. He doesn’t have the same style but I am sure he thinks colours the same way Gauguin did.
“How old is Anas’ soul?”, I wonder. This very young sensitive man’s soul has for sure crossed oceans of time to offer such beauty to this world.
I feel suddenly reduced. “How amI adding any beauty to this world?”, I think to myself.
Maybe in my quest for such beauty, I accidentally became an art critic, just to be able to hang out with artists blessed with innocent souls.
Christiane Waked is a columnist, Risk and political analyst, Arts & Culture contributor. She is the former Press Attaché of the French Embassy to the UAE and former analyst and linguist of the French Interior Ministry.