The canvas came to life right before our very eyes.
The French artist Heol’s deft fingers moved quickly and decisively. A dab here, a stroke there. He was bold in his choice of color. However, the vibrant hues never clashed, and each touch of paint augmented the harmony of the colors. They just were. Witnessing his imagination transition onto the canvas was incredible. It almost felt as though you could follow his train of thought.
On one side of the canvas was the outline of a man. The colors appeared to come out of nowhere as he began to take form. In a matter of minutes, he grew a goatee and wore a puff-sleeved tunic while his hands held an oud. His eyes were closed and his brow furrowed. He looked as though he wasn’t in the present moment—his music seemed to have drawn him miles away from where he sat strumming the strings of his instrument. His face reflected the inner peace his music evidently gave him. It made me wonder; what was he playing that affected him so deeply? Who was he playing it for?
The other artist, Amira Behbehani from Kuwait, highlighted contours of veiled women and then a man in a ghutra on the other end of the canvas, adding more details and definitive features to the entire painting. She drew a vague mass with menacing holes in it upon the center. This lay untouched for a long while and I brooded over what it would eventually be cultivated into; it didn’t look very attractive right then. Defined lines and strokes of paint were added and a woman’s eyes – beautiful eyes – emerged from behind a veil. I construed each as mirroring different emotions; one, pensiveness, the other, shock. The artists worked in sync, enhancing the eyes with finishing touches as their talent leaped out from the painting.
There was live music accompanying the art, reverberating through the hall, performed by two versatile French musicians that formed the ‘Ganga Mix’ duo—Pierre-Yves Prothais on drums and vocals, and Nournours Lhoumeau alternating on trumpets and keyboards. They would frequently play some very peculiar-looking percussive instruments. The rhythms coming out of these were quite mind-boggling. Each track held an element of surprise, for you never knew what to expect. One track conjured up an image from an old Western: that of a rattlesnake rattling its tail, scuttling through a desert, with the wind gusting in the background.
Hashim Al Nasser, a talented local guitarist, joined the duo for the latter half of the performance. They played several tracks, some soothing, transporting you to distant lands, others upbeat and playful, evoking smiles of delight from the audience. Every single toe-tapping song encompassed a fascinating blend of varying rhythms.
I must note how big a difference it makes to attend an event like this with someone who expresses their interpretation of art. A discussion on the interpretation of a painting, since it varies from one person to another, stimulates the senses into observing minute details that someone with a marginal knowledge of art may not notice.
Overall, it was an extraordinary event, one like no other held here before. A huge shout out goes to the Institut Français du Koweït for taking the initiative and introducing the concept of Live Painting—the performance of improvisational art accompanied by live music—to Kuwait. Hopefully, this will be the first of many.
Stay updated for upcoming concerts and events through kuwait-music.com. Images courtesy of Kuwait Music.