Mahmoud HALABI

Mahmoud received a creativity grant. 


What is your artistic background? 

I went to a school of scenography for two years at the Damascus Institute of Fine Arts, without thinking of ever becoming a visual artist, I studied painting for pleasure. I came to France to study scenography and architecture. The first time I had my paintings exhibited was in 2012 for an association that supported Syrian children. I still didn’t have it in mind to become a painter. In 2015, a professor at La Sorbonne asked me why I didn't exhibit, that I should think about exhibiting. At the end of 2015, I started to exhibit in Paris at the Grand Palais and I sold some paintings… The second and third exhibitions went well, I had good feedback, that encouraged me to become a visual artist. I heard about the workshop for artists in exile via Facebook, I took part in a meeting and I registered in August 2017. I got a studio and was invited, during the first edition of the Visions of Exile Festival, to make a video performance (I created a painting in public) during a literary evening. I also took part in the second edition of the festival at the time of the Regardez-Moiexhibition. 


How do you see your profession today?

The role of the artist is very important, art is all around us, we cannot live without it, it is everywhere, in our streets, in our clothes, in our lifestyles. Art is also important for bringing a new perspective to the public. The artist has a way of seeing the world differently, he shows things differently, asks questions. I work with industrial materials (rust, cement, tar, copper...), to paint a portrait of human beings that will make us think about ecological issues, to question our lifestyles for the generations to come. I try to show the future to people, to alarm them, to ask them to pay attention. My way of working is quite violent, I fight a battle with the canvases and put my anger into them, as an answer to a sick world, a world in perdition. 


How do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? 

I don't think much about my own future. I try, in my own small way, to change what is possible. I am rather optimistic, the younger generations are more open than the previous ones and are aware of ecological problems, they are looking for solutions. We have seen a lot of violence and wars in history. It seems to me that the world is becoming more and more humane. In the past, people were wild, today people are trying to improve their lifestyles to make the human condition more bearable. I look forward to the future and its positive changes. If you are optimistic, you move, you look for solutions, but if you are pessimistic, you do nothing.


This interview was conducted in 2018

Photo credit: Céline Anaya Gautier