In review: Usama Alnassar, A Life & the Other Form of Life

Under the intriguing title A Life & the Other Form of Life, sculptor Usama Alnassar is presenting at Clara Street Gallery an exhibition of his recent marble sculptures and works on paper.

Perhaps this intriguing title is partly explained from the artist’s own words. Alnassar describes in his statement how he sees beauty and goodness in human forms and in other life forms – though he may at other times have regarded such life forms as hostile.

Born in Damascus in 1975 into an artistic family, Alnassar moved to Italy’s Apuan Alps in 1999. Here at Carrara, amongst the marble quarries frequented by Michelangelo, he set up a fantastic sculpture studio. He continues to create, work and teach there.

Alnassar believes his encounter with Syrian and European cultures increased his sensitivity to the changes constantly occurring in human life and relationships.

The exhibition title chosen by Alnassar can perhaps also be explained by viewing the works on display in this striking exhibition. The works on paper have an enigmatic character. The beautifully coloured, freeform motifs in the paintings provide a counterpoint to the human elements in the pictures – the heads, faces and figures being presented in a more dreamlike and spectral way.

The sculptures themselves also focus on the human reality of face and head – a reality unique to the Alnassar vision. However, we sense an extra element – an element which allows space for the interplay of alternate realities, of other perspectives; perspectives which sometimes can only be imagined.

Interestingly, the catalogue titles given to the individual works (including some duplication) are also somewhat enigmatic. The titles allow for individual interpretation and so seek the engagement of the viewer’s imagination: A Man Something A Woman SomethingA Girl Looking Somewhere Else etc.

Alnassar’s says:  I do not want to immortalise the moment but to record the time.

But for one piece in alabaster, the sculptures are all of Carrara marble. The marble is mesmerizing. It is either black marble e.g. A woman and a black centre of psyche or the beautifully veined, paonazzo marble e.g. Looking up (pictured above). The marble surface is sometimes ‘polished’ to a glorious lustre, while some areas are left unpolished and even show the sculptor’s tool marks. Alternative realities again, perhaps!

The Clara Street Gallery is associated with the Tom Bass Sculpture Studio School and the studio is privileged to host Alnassar as a guest teacher. Since 2016, every January, Alnassar has offered intensive marble carving workshops to full classes at the TBSSS Erskineville studio (of course, Covid years excepted!)

Clara Street Gallery and TBSSS congratulate Alnassar on this wonderful exhibition and look forward to continuing our enjoyable association with Alnassar in the future. The exhibition continues until 2 March 2024 and can be viewed between the hours of 10am – 1pm, Monday to Friday, or online here.

Article by Christine Crimmins.

Pictured above: Usama Alnassar, Looking up, Paonazzo Carrara Mable, height: 36cm.

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