London artist Christine Jamil captures Hope on canvas
By James Brewer
Her eyes are anxious, a little wary of her surroundings, but there is quiet determination in the face of the young girl in the painting by Christine Saleh Jamil. Above all, her bearing signifies hope, and Hope is the title that Christine gives to this work – “one of my favourite and most special paintings.”
Painted in oil and acrylic on canvas, Hope was a signature work in the spring 2017 exhibition at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery which featured a total of eight exponents of painting, sculpture and ceramics.
Hope was inspired by a portrait taken by an outstanding photographer, Sebastian Rich, whose portfolio includes many studies for the United Nations agency Unicef.
As Christine began delineating the girl’s eyes, “I spontaneously chose my eye colour for her left eye because I felt deeply connected to her. I do not know the girl, but from the moment I saw her photo I felt her fear, her sadness, her hopes for a peaceful and better future.
“My intention was that my painting Hope would give the observer the same feelings I experienced, the impulse to find hope in even the most difficult circumstances.”
Sebastian Rich describes himself as “a photographer of war and occasionally peace.” He has taken affecting pictures in Afghanistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Cameroon, Mozambique, Malawi, South Sudan, Nigeria and other theatres of suffering.
Christine has captured with her brushes the same quality that in Sebastian’s portraits tugs irresistibly at the heartstrings. Even in the cramped conditions in which refugees survive in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, young Syrians will offer a smile. Once when the cameraman was shooting there a little girl jumped into his sight and shyly gave him a bunch of red flowers. “In such moments of inherent human kindness…my heart just melts,” he has written.
Christine, who lives in London, started exploring art at an early age, using many types of medium (these days she concentrates on oils and acrylic but likes to experiment with watercolours and new products in the market). She completed a diploma in interior design and obtained a distinction at Regent Academy of Fine Arts.
She has deep feelings for Lebanon: “One thing that makes Lebanon extraordinary is the land. Lebanon is naturally beautiful, but peace and quiet can often be a balancing act, as much of the country has seen suffering. For me, capturing these precious moments allows me to share with the observer a moment of tranquillity, and to allow them to see through my art that so much of the land still blooms and brings joy to the people.”
Wherever she is, “I am drawn to my physical surroundings. My love for nature ignites my creativity. I paint what I feel, to make what is invisible to the observer visible. It is through nature that I feel connected to my innermost feelings which in turn drives my passion to paint.”
This was notably the case with Crete. “I visited the island a few times on holiday. It was one of the most magical destinations I have ever been to. It has a heavenly natural beauty, as well as ethereal sceneries. The sandy beaches, the crystal-clear water, the people of Crete being so welcoming and warm, and the fantastic cuisine make Crete the perfect escape and a place to find creative inspiration.”
Closer to home, tree-dominated landscapes are among her subjects. “I take photos of what catches my attention, I then create a sketch which is used as a reference for when I paint in my studio.
“I visit Kenwood House, Hampstead, regularly. It is a breath-taking place where I relax, unwind and become inspired.
“I spend my time catching glimpses of the way the trees look when I walk past them. A tree is a source of energy on many levels that brings peace and serenity to those observing it. In my paintings, I try to communicate all the wonderful gifts of healing a tree gives to humanity. Kenwood House and park is a place that allows me to do so.”
During a winter season, Christine decided to paint a series celebrating the less clement weather. Titles included L’Amour, Snow on its way, Dancing in the snow. The series again was “inspired by nature and life. It is about learning to live with, and enjoy the inevitable storms of life… to dance in the rain, to sing through the darkness, and to enjoy our life no matter what the weather may be.
“We all face storms in our lives but it is up to us to determine how we will respond to these unsettling situations. It is our choice.”
Another frequent theme is equine subjects. “I love animals, I have a Pomeranian dog that I adore, but I especially love horses. I believe that horses are like humans, they think and feel like we do.
“I take horse riding lessons at Kings Oak Equestrian Centre. Riding has not only helped me physically and mentally but it has helped me emotionally. I feel a deep spiritual connection with these awesome creatures.
“While I am at the stables I take photos that inspire my sketches and my paintings.”
Christine greatly appreciates Arabic calligraphy, and has incorporated scripts into some paintings. She counts herself fortunate to have collaborated with Mourad Boutros, one of the world’s most outstanding calligraphers, to create a unique collaboration for a single piece of art, Every Man, oil on canvas with a motto (He [Allah] created from the South Wind a mare), that was exhibited at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibitions in 2015 and 2016.
The Lebanese calligrapher has developed many fonts, one of which is widely used in signs for highways, airports, hospitals and offices in the Arabic-speaking world. Christine’s painting is featured in his newly released book Arabic For Designers published by Thames & Hudson.
Past artists admired by Christine include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh; while current practitioners she follows keenly include denim artist Ian Berry, equine specialist Tony O’Connor, and Canada’s Peter Terrin.
Plans for 2017 include participating in July in the Enfield Art and Design Exhibition, and in October at a show at the Landmark Arts Centre in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames.
Christine’s website is www.christineartwork.com