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Maysoon Masalha & Bassam Al Selawi

Introduction to Maysoon Masalha and Bassam Al-Selawi 


Maysoon Masalha and Bassam Al-Selawi are two renowned Jordanian artists who have made a significant impact on the art world with their unique and innovative shadow sculptures. Their art combines modern sculpture techniques with traditional Arabic calligraphy to create breathtaking pieces that reveal a hidden dimension when illuminated. This research will delve into their background, artistic journey, and the creative process that led them to develop their distinctive shadow sculptures. 


Born and raised in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, both Maysoon Masalha and Bassam Al-Selawi studied Fine Art in their home country. They spent several years teaching art and experimenting with various mediums, materials, and techniques. During their time instructing Palestinian refugee children, they honed their skills further, driven by the necessity to innovate and think creatively due to limited resources. 


Masalha went on to teach art at United Nations Schools for Palestinian Refugees, where she discovered the profound impact that art can have on both her students and the community. She later became an art supervisor at the UN Education Development Center, managing a team of art teachers, organizing workshops, and public arts projects. As Manager of Art Craft at Art Hub, Masalha continues to encourage others to discover their artistic talents while creating her own artwork. 


Al-Selawi strongly believes that visual art is a powerful means of self-expression and that everyone should have the opportunity to practice art, regardless of their talent level. As Manager of Applied Art at Art Hub, he shares his experiences and understanding of art in various capacities, working toward making the world a better place through art. Al-Selawi is also responsible for the design and installation of art commissions, ranging from decorative to practical furnishings. 


Together, Masalha and Al-Selawi have developed a unique technique for creating shadow sculptures, showcasing their work in a dedicated gallery at Art Hub. Their art is a perfect fusion of painting, sculpture, shadow, and light, adding a fourth dimension to the three-dimensional sculptures. The artists use Arabic calligraphy in most of their sculptures, reflecting shadows that paint an image on the wall, which is formed in the viewer's mind when reading the phrases. 


Using different materials and innovative techniques, Masalha and Al-Selawi have explored the interplay between light and shadow to create their signature pieces. At first glance, one might mistake their shadow sculptures for installations, as they consist of intricate carvings of Arabic calligraphy mounted on the wall, with a seemingly painted silhouette behind them. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that the spotlight casts the shadow, revealing the true ingenuity of the artists. 


The artists have participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, as well as art fairs and symposiums, showcasing their unique art around the world. Some of their notable exhibitions include Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al-Serkal Cultural Foundation, Sofitel Abu Dhabi, and Baginiskaya Gallery in Dubai. They have also taken part in international events such as Beirut Art Fair, Abu Dhabi Art Fair, and Liwa Art Hub's various festivals. 


In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the creative process behind Masalha and Al-Selawi's shadow sculptures, exploring their techniques, materials, and the inspiration behind their work. 

Part 2 of 5: The Creative Process and Techniques of Maysoon Masalha and Bassam Al-Selawi 


The creation of shadow sculptures by Maysoon Masalha and Bassam Al-Selawi involves a complex and time-consuming process that combines their skills in sculpture, calligraphy, and lighting. Their work often features verses from the Quran and poetic phrases, with the shadows illustrating the emotions or stories evoked by the words on the sculptures themselves. 


1. Conceptualization and Design 


The artists begin by conceptualizing the idea for their sculpture, considering the calligraphic text and the corresponding shadow image they wish to create. They sketch the desired shadow and design the sculpture accordingly, taking into account the interplay between light and shadow that will bring their artwork to life. 


2. Sculpting 


Once the design is finalized, Masalha and Al-Selawi create the initial sculpture out of clay, carefully crafting the calligraphic elements and relief forms that will ultimately cast the intended shadow. This stage requires a high level of precision and attention to detail, as the artists must ensure that the three-dimensional sculpture will produce the desired shadow effect. 


3. Mold Creation 


After completing the clay sculpture, the artists create a rubber mold around it using a special mold material. This mold captures the intricate details of the clay sculpture, allowing them to produce multiple resin casts with the same design.