Omar Hassan Paints by Punching Away His Pain

Omar Hassan was 15 when he made his first foray into art—tagging the walls of his native Milan with graffiti. He has since come in from the street to the studio, where he approaches his paintings and sculptures as he once did urban surfaces. This spring, Contini Art UK presents a selection of his recent works in “Omar Hassan: Breaking Through.”

“Breaking Through,” his first solo showing in the UK, is titled after the series of paintings on view. These explosive, abstract, large-scale compositions stem from his life experiences and reflect a mixture of tragedy and determination. When he was still a teen, Hassan lost his best friend in an accident during one of their graffiti outings. He took up boxing as a constructive outlet for his pain, and discovered his love for the sport. An early diagnosis of diabetes cut short his pursuit of boxing, causing him to seek a new path—this time, in art.

The “Breaking Through” works were not painted in the traditional sense. Rather, they were boxed into being. To make them, Hassan dons boxing gloves—a paint-splattered pair of which is also included in the exhibition—and goes head-to-head with the canvas. By dipping his gloves into various brightly colored pigments and punching them onto the canvas, he creates compositions full of bursting, overlapping circular forms. These appear to hover against the blank grounds, like gathering storm clouds that emit rivulets of paint, which collect at the bottom of each composition.

Though all of Hassan’s works are autobiographical, this series is perhaps most intensely reflective of the strength, anger, and creative energy that drives him. As he once said: “I want to [be] known not only as an artist but as a human being, I believe that art conveys a positive message for the sake of all. In this case I would like to demonstrate that the diabetes disease like any other difficult health condition can help [us] to grow and develop.”

—Karen Kedmey


Omar Hassan: Breaking Through” is on view at Contini Art UK, London, Apr. 24 – Jun. 10, 2015.

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