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Articles of Nature

Artist Explores Oft-Forgetten Places in the City

by William Henderson
June 12, 2008 (Excerpts taken from original article)

South End-based artist Christos Hamawi explores in his large scale paintings a world often overlooked in the everyday bustle of life. Whether it is a patch of weeds jutting out of a crack in a sidewalk along Massachusetts Avenue, or the way in moss grows quietly, subtly perhaps, on the floor of a forest, or even the way rocks combine and gather on a beach, gently washed by a tide that ebbs and flows, any and all aspects of nature is fair game for Hamawi...

....This show at Arclinea, will have 11 paintings, the largest show he's exhibited in quite some time. "I feel so focused and so together and cohesive right now, and part of that might be because this is one of the first times where I was planning a show over a year ago, and I decided in my mind to plan out each of the pieces."

His planning begins early. He stretches his own canvas — he works in a range of sizes, and the Arclinea show will have large-scale, medium-scale, and small-scale paintings — and then he goes to work, painting every night for a slew of days, then resting, then another long period of time.

Christos Hamawi

"It all depends on the inspiration. It's a complicated process, especially if you're focusing on a particular painting. Each painting is going to have something in it that is a real challenge. You can't force it."

But the looming show, he added, kept him going.

"I think long and hard about the types of subjects I want to focus in on for this show, and this series, and it just came to me. That's part of the process, getting the image, bringing the subject matter to mind, and then doing a lot of exploration," he added.

Such exploration has taken him to Vermont and Provincetown, where he has come away with clumps of weeds or some moss or photographs of a tree's interesting roots. When he can, he takes back the article of nature. If it's not possible, as in the case of a tree's roots, he takes photographs. But painting with the original in view, that helps him render in paint the item of nature to which he's drawn. But he doesn't have to go far to find subject matter. It's a perk, definitely, but when he can walk down his street and find what he calls "urban wilds," inspiration is as easy as to come by as the dawning of a new day.

He described during our interview a day when he went to both Blackstone and Franklin Squares, which are located across the street from each other on Washington Street in the South End of Boston. From the outside, you may think the two parks have much in common. But inside, look deeper, and you'll find that the two parks couldn't be more different. In Franklin Square, Hamawi can find clover and dandelions, which he pulls — not yanks — from the ground with care.

"And I'm sure I looked like a total lunatic bringing it back to the studio," he said. But this is how a painting will start, inspiration, found in an out-of-the-way place; inspiration where perhaps no one else would see it. And when that fails, he need only look around his studio, where he has a collection of different "samples": pine cones and rocks; shells and stones from Herring Cove in Provincetown; branches from trees; leaves that have retained their coloring, others that have not — the world around him, he says, is "full of wild nature growing rampant."

"I love finding these little world that go pretty much ignored," he said. "And you don't have to look far for it." //

Christos Hamawi's "Natural Distractions" will be featured at Arclinea Boston's Art in the Kitchens series from June 21 through July 31. Arclinea Boston is located at 10 St. James Avenue, Boston. For more information go to www.bluebrickstudios.com or www.arclineaboston.com.