The artist, who exhibited at the Italian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, will present a profoundly personal new body of work merging two diverse worlds, street art with fine art.
Omar Hassan was born in 1987 in Milan, Italy, to an Italian mother and Egyptian father. His best friend, a prolific graffiti artist, encouraged a 15-year-old Omar to join him in experimenting on the walls of his native city. Hassan later witnessed his best friend fall to his death in one of Milan’s underground tunnels.
The tragedy proved a formative event for Hassan. The artist felt compelled to explore various paths, experimenting with a significant talent for boxing and fearless creative risk however he was forced to hide that fact that he suffered from diabetes. Hassan was forced to abandon his love of the boxing and the lure of competitive sport when this diagnosis was discovered and returned his focus to his artistic practice.
As a monument to this important time of his life, the exhibition will include ten paintings produced through the artist’s new boxing-inspired technique; the series is called Breaking Through. The creation of these paintings involved Hassan dipping his boxing gloves into an array of colourful paint pots and punching onto a large white canvas, in a very physical display of strength, anger and cathartic energy.
The Breaking Through series is a beautifully pure and raw insight into how the artist channels his energy and portraits his story into a work of art: the street and fine artist, the boxer and the young man living with diabetes.
Also part of the exhibition will be the #Injections series, a direct reference to Hassan’s daily insulin shots. These points of light represent the artist’s positive outlook in bursts of colour on bright canvas.
There is great joy in Omar Hassan’s creations, glorious proof of his determination to “break through” the universal struggle.
The spray-canned ‘dots’ reflect the immediacy of street art culture, where speed, with visual impact, is so important. His colourful canvases are framed in a style that is evocative of 16th and 18th century old masters, Hassan changing the function of the frames by painting over them, transcending both fine art and street art in perfect fusion.
Hassan continually references his formal education at Academy of Arts of Brera. A fine example of this is Hassan’s Venere al Quadro (2011). The piece involves a smaller version of a Venus de Milo statue, covered in his signature spray-painted dots in yellow and orange, displayed just in front of a canvas sprayed with the same colours. The result is an optical illusion, the three dimensional sculpture vanishing into the canvas.
The exhibition will be in support of Diabetes UK. ContiniArtUK will be making a substantial contribution to the charity at the end of the exhibition.
The catalogue features a foreword essay by writer and curator Cedar Lewisohn.