Open Your Window…

When I arrived in France at the turn of this century, the Parisian buildings facades first caught my attention with their multiple shapes and sizes, not least because I was used to seeing lots of them in Beirut. My old relationship with windows were thus rekindled. I once highlighted that intimate relationship in a piece that I wrote  recentely on Artistic Life in Paris, saying « windows always had a lot of meaning in my life. As a child I used to catch  through windows glimpses of empty roads, while being overwhelmed with the frightening noise of the civil war raging outside and forcing adults and children to hurry to underground shelters. Through the window of the plane that carried me, sixteen years ago, to Paris, over the Lebanese beaches and Mediterranean Sea, I watched my charming city of Beirut disappear behind the clouds leaving no physical trace for me to hold on to… I then saw through another window, the moonlight sneaking into one of the old buildings on Montmartre hill, one of the renowned Parisian landmark, adding an extra dose of charm to this ancient flat and serene atelier…»

I have been watching Parisian Windows for years, observing their details, the voluptuous contours, forms and multiple designs. In the meantime, the Lebanese war was always in mind, as I vividly remembered how we sought shelter from the missiles raining on us. Despite the pain that was in abundance in this memory, I could see some positive images, which I still cherish. For example, it was somehow refreshing to see war narrowing the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  Snobbish and wealthy people were thus having to share their fear, bread and butter in underground shelters with ordinary people. They both, the rich and poor, were also hoping to see an end to the devastating war so Beirut would regain its glory, as the Pearl of the East, as a shining spot free of intolerance and discrimination, as it was before the war. I, for one, still dream of Beirut’s glorious past rising from the dead, and I believe it will.

I was sure I will embark at one point on an artistic exercise centred around windows. Yet, I didn’t want that exercise to be purely aesthetic; I rather wanted it to portray my own experience . My goal was never to offer the same tired stuff about the war and its suffering, which have long been covered by many; I have always been obsessed with seeking to keep the war at bay, and spreading peace and security.  Time flew, as it always does, and I suddenly managed to find the link between what I had always wanted to portray and the concept of window itself. This is how the idea of the windows collection was born in 2008, simple layouts for windows that evolved with time.

In conclusion, I will now quote few lines from a letter that I sent a friend of mine a year ago, along with a picture of the piece I  was then working on. I hope the following extract sums up the general idea behind “windows collection”.

«The window is the focal point of these collection. That small space with different shapes and sizes, which allows us to visually access any house, and the space that surrounds us. It is a channel of continuing communication with others; windows remain open physically or metaphorically, in contrast with doors which are often closed.

A window is aesthetically unique, its glass may let us see, simultaneously, the inside and outside reflections. It could lay bare the inside with all its details, dreams,  complexities and secrets, and also the outside in all its charm, pain and questions.

This collection aims to represent the essence of what I loved, and lived through, in Paris. This love of mine, is another manifestation of what I very much liked about the 60s Beirut, yet could not live through it because of the time factor. My love In both cases, boils down to the thought of coexistence of all religions, cultures and political ideas in one building ( building here is meant to symbolize a country, town, street or represent an actual building). Each one has their windows to keep from the world, their secrets, obsessions and imagination. We may and ,may not, open our windows; however, they constantly help us to enrich the world and make it more beautiful. When love, tolerance, and humanity prevail in the good future, we all aspire to, we will be happy to get close to each other, and for our windows to coalesce and merge united in love, to celebrate common living irrespective of architectural lines or traditional rules.»

Bilal Bassal