Maher Kouraytem was born in Ras Beirut in 1976. An autodidact artist, Maher participated in Sursok Museum (2008-2009), and many collective exhibitions in Unesco palace, Babel theater, T-Marbouta, Graffitti, MSCC, CCF,… Lately he exhibited his paintings and etchings at a Solo show in Zico house.
“I don’t like to categorize myself in any artistic name but “outsider art” and “art brut” suits me the most”.
LR: So Maher, let’s start by asking how did you get interested in art?
MK: It started when I met Emma Harake actually, though you could say that this meeting reminded me of art, because I’ve always enjoyed visiting galleries. Even as a child at the French Protestant School, art was my favorite subject. We had an art teacher called Greta Khoury Nawfal, who now still teaches at the school, and at LAU in Beirut, and it was her who raised my first interest in art.
LR: Maher, I know that you studied accounting earlier?
MK: Yes, I have an accounting background, but I simply couldn’t see myself in accounting.
LR: Who do you consider your favorite artists?
MK: I like Courbet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso…and many others, but I have to admit that I am fascinated by Chagall’s dreamy paintings, but not as an inspiration. My paintings look nothing like Chagal’s though.
LR: Maher, I can see from your paintings that you are so much interested in the female form.
MK: I simply love the female body.
LR: Who doesn’t!
MK: That is what I am most attracted to, so naturally that is my object of interest.
LR: What about other inspirations?
MK: Animals. I like these two subjects mainly, the female body and animals.
LR: Is there any symbolism for the animals that you paint?
MK: Yes there is, but mainly, there is a story behind the painting and the animal I choose. I saw an owl once, and I was telling Emma (Harake) about it, so she suggested that I draw that owl. This dialogue triggered a series of owl paintings. The research on the symbolism comes afterward.
LR: Do you and Emma collaborate all the time ?
MK: We used to most of the time, but for now, each one of us is embarking on our own artistic adventure, yet this doesn’t mean that we are not going to collaborate again in the future.
LR: What about the medium that you paint with?
MK: It’s mainly acrylics.
LR: What about oils, or other mediums?
MK: I like all of them, but mainly I am attracted to acrylics.
LR: What are some of your upcoming projects?
MK: I am submitting some work to the NDU exhibition, and there was a group exhibition in Maarouf Saad Cultural Center in Saida. It is something that I have arranged with the committee at MSCC. I am also considering participating in a collective exhibition in Zahle as well.
LR: Maher, let me ask you, how do you see the finance part of the profession? Are there a lot of opportunities for rising artists in Lebanon?
MK: There are few opportunities, but in general the art market in Lebanon is rusty. I have been selling some of my art works, but it is not enough to finance my art at this stage.
LR: this brings my next question, how do you finance your work?
MK: It’s difficult; I have been changing jobs for as long as I can remember. Currently I am doing some free lance jobs, and I have sold some works here at my recent exhibition in Zico House, but this isn’t enough, because there is some sort of monopoly on art in Lebanon. The influential galleries are three or four, and they are somehow conservative.
However there are many new art galleries that are emerging now such as Beirut art center, and the running horse. Sfeir Semler Gallery, also shares the same traits of daring and taking risks with new artists and media.
LR: The energy that is on the art scene today is very promising, a lot of energy. A period of stagnation passed after the end of the war, but now the scene has bounced back strong, and we can build on it.
MK: That is true, a few years back, there were a couple of big names that were showcasing, and that was it.
LR: Your work has been accepted in the Sursok museum.
MK: My work was accepted by the jury two years ago. Sursok museum is also accepting new work. It is a good opportunity, and a good incentive to keep going, to have your paintings on display at the museum. It is a sign of recognition, and a step in the right direction.
LR: Maher, thank you very much for your time, and best of luck with the upcoming exhibition.
MK: Thanks Maroun, and thanks for LebRecord.
Maher’s contact Info:
Mobile: 03 783979