Choose… and win or lose

Decision-making dilemmas are something that the multi-disciplinary artist Jimmy El Homsy explores in his latest artworks and has also experienced in real life, as ArtScoops discovers

For artists based in Lebanon, the traumatic events of the past two years have certainly provided plenty of inspiration and subject matter but have also, inevitably, been challenging on both an emotional and practical level. 

This uncomfortable and, at times, difficult-to-reconcile dilemma is one that the Lebanese multi-disciplinary artist Jimmy El Homsy has experienced first-hand since 2019, as he explained to ArtScoops. 

“Of course, we Lebanese have faced very dark and difficult times in recent years, but the situation also affected me in a positive way by opening up my mind,” he said. “I realised that I was becoming more emotional in my work.”

While that work included the art that Jimmy was creating throughout the crisis, he was also referring to other diverse projects he undertook simultaneously, which ranged from art tuition and guided art therapy to life-coaching. “After the Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020, it became clear that people needed some escape from the external problems around us. Art was one way they could disconnect from the situation and express their emotions,” he explained. “The entire process was also rewarding for me personally. I wanted to find a way of lifting my mood, while helping other people and these projects were ideal in that respect.” 

Like many others trying to organise activities in Lebanon, Jimmy found himself up against a raft of challenges, including power cuts and fuel shortages until, finally, he reluctantly brought the art and therapy projects to an end. Meantime, he found the unprecedented situation was taking his own creativity in a new direction. “I found myself experimenting with ‘portrait étude’, which was a new style for me and one that I’m focusing on much more than before,” he said.  

Trying out new ideas comes naturally to Jimmy, who dislikes the idea of having his work pigeon-holed. “I’m not keen on putting myself and my work in one box,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed figurative art, for example, but have recently begun moving towards abstract work.” 

His philosophy is unsurprising, given Jimmy’s varied career path, which includes roles in graphic design, illustration and digital projects, after he graduated with a BA of Arts in Graphic Design and Fine Arts from the American University of Science and Technology in 2008.

In fact, Jimmy was enjoying a successful career in advertising and marketing when he made the pivotal decision to focus entirely on art. “The time felt right to concentrate on what I love doing most,” he explained. “When the revolution began, everything slowed down a little and that made me even more convinced that it was the right decision. I returned to Lebanon one week before flights stopped due to lockdown and, by chance, found myself in the ideal environment to create art.”

Work created in the lead-up to these unprecedented times, includes his ‘Dot dot dot’ series, a multi-faceted visual art project encompassing sketches, painting, street photography and body art. Jimmy explained that the project was a broad-based study of humanity and the spectrum of emotions we experience when wrestling with the challenges faced in everyday life in our bid to find happiness.

The ‘sketches’ from the project were also showcased in a dedicated virtual exhibition held during the pandemic, giving audiences an opportunity to observe in detail this intriguing series of works in which Jimmy explores several complex and multi-layered themes, including the choices we face when making difficult decisions. These dilemmas, he said, can determine our future, resulting in us either standing tall, with the ability to connect the dots and achieve success, or slipping through a crack into a deep void.

In some of the key pieces, Jimmy also explores the concept of spinning, as seen in the action of a whirling dervish or the pattern at the epicentre of a flower, for example – a type of dynamism that has long fascinated him, in part due to its associations with elevation and aspiring to reach a higher level of spirituality. 

Jimmy found himself experimenting with a broad range of media for the pieces featured in the ‘Dot dot dot’ series, turning increasingly to oil paint, alongside acrylic, gold leaf and ink, which has long been a fascination of his. “You get one shot at an idea when working with ink – one chance to get that brushstroke right or you lose everything,” he said. “It’s different to working with other media when you can layer and build on what you’ve done. I enjoy that challenge.” His characteristic use of rich colours, combined to create emotion and mood, are also to the fore in this series, and were once again in evidence at a show held with Kan Yama Kan Designs at Rmeil Gallery in October. Key pieces from the ‘Dot dot dot’ series are also available to buy on ArtScoops.

Travel is another of Jimmy’s passions and, as we spoke, he was already packing his bags for an open-ended trip to Paris – a destination he is confident will produce inspiration and positivity. “I love travelling – it’s something I believe every artist should do since it opens the mind and enables you to learn. Remaining in the same community can be suffocating, it’s like staying in a box,” he said. “I’m looking forward to exploring the city from an artistic viewpoint, meeting new people, being inspired and continuing to develop my own style.”

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