In an attempt to delve into the private universe of artists and art collectors, Selections is exploring the sanctuaries of various men and women, some living and others who have passed away, and shedding light on places that remain out of bounds for the majority of people. We examine how these artists and art collectors live, what surrounds them and how they go about thinking, dreaming and creating. In order to get as personal as possible, we came up with customised questions that we then presented to each of these men and women (and in the case of those who passed away to their children), tailoring our queries to the way each of them lives and goes about creating his or her work. In parallel, we shot a short film, which you can view on our website, that navigates each artist and art collector’s sanctuary. The film allows viewers to get up close and personal with artists and art collectors who seldom open their personal space up to the world. A fascinating artistic journey into the hearts and minds of some of the region’s most intriguing people.
A celebrated artist and son of the late sculptor Michel Basbous, Anachar Basbous lives and works in Rachana, Northern Lebanon, a scenic village that has been transformed into an open-air art gallery, featuring sculptures by the Basbous family as well as international artists. After studying architecture wall design at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts et des Métiers d’Art (ENSAAMA) in Paris, Basbous returned to Lebanon in 1992, where he founded his own sculpture workshop in Rachana, creating stone, wood and metal sculptures. His recent exhibits include a showing at Art Capital 2017 at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Were you always destined to be an artist?
I do believe I was, not necessarily a sculptor but surely an artist.
You were born into a family of artists. To what extent is your art influenced by their work?
At the beginning of my artistic career, my sculpture was consequently influenced by my father’s and my uncles’ work, but with time I became more fascinated by their lives. They were great men living in a great era.
From what do you derive your inspiration?
Essentially from everything I love, maybe that’s why you don’t find in my work reflections of war, crisis, oppression, etc. You will find more architecture, construction, science, cosmos, light, sun, etc.
What constitutes great art in your opinion?
Great art is emotion, force, uniqueness and beauty. Yes, beauty.
Describe your studio practice and your working methods.
My studio is a multi-material workshop. I work in stone, marble, concrete, basalt, wood, resins, steel, stainless steel and bronze. My work usually start with a maquette, but sometimes I attack the material and begin my sculpture with a complete improvisation, and no need to say that the more the risk is high, the more the result is spectacular and more doors are open.
An idea germinates in your mind and then what happens?
The first question is what would the material be, the second is technicality, third question whether I use a maquette or no and then no more questions.
Have your life experiences been transformative in terms of your career as an artist?
Yes, pain, death, war, love, birth, children. These experiences are charged with emotion, and emotion is energy for creativity. Each artist reacts differently to these experiences. Some will use its energy in direct form with direct expressions and direct dialects, others will be affected and touched, but the reflection of their experiences will be subtle or more difficult to discover. Maybe we shouldn’t put artists into categories, maybe analysing my own life and experiences is not what I am good at. Maybe protecting my energy and the mystery of it, first from myself, is a priority.
Has there been a principle influence behind the evolution of your work?
There are many influences: my father’s life, my mother’s poetry, architecture, construction, technology or simply a new epoxy glue.
When do you know that a work is finished, that it is the best it can be?
When I am in a creation mode, I engage an intense dialogue with my sculpture and in a dialogue you don’t talk all the time, you listen too. It’s the sculpture who tells me: it’s enough!
Is contemporary art democratic or elitist?
I live in a village, and I do sculptures that no one understands but everyone loves.
Say you knew you were going to die tomorrow. What would you want to take with you in a little knapsack?
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Sanctuaries #47