Works
Overview

Born in Cairo in 1941, the late painter Bassmi Ibrahim studied art in schools there and then moved to New York City in the 1960s, where he experienced late developments in abstract expressionism firsthand (the artist moved to Florida a decade later). While in the city, he developed a painterly style that he would develop for the rest of his life: a fusion of atmospheric color and fluid form, in which light seems to emanate from behind the paintings. Awash with hue, his major series attempts to confer majesty and luminous perception onto compositions that fill the canvas in a non-linear mist. The inspired haze we encounter is lit with diaphanous color, reminding Ibrahim’s audience of the freedoms of abstract expressionism, the monochromatic poise of color field painting, the formlessness of the sea and sky, the intuitive qualities of a non-psychological Rorschach text. Ibrahim eschews the definite outline in favor of atmospheric constructions that seem to hover in mid-air. They employ color as a means of balancing the compositions in their use of differing kinds of light. The paintings are created using mixed-media, but they can seem as if they were watercolors alone given the lightness of their being.

 

It can be said that Ibrahim worked out, during the long tenure of his career, a willed transcendence in painting. Certainly, this links him to his affinity for the abstract expressionists; the artist always remembered a chance meeting with Mark Rothko in the West Village. For many of the artists that preceded and influenced him, the use of color was more or less sufficient in a structural fashion. Ibrahim knew this well and applied it to his own efforts. In the “Isness Series,” the colors are partially transparent, creating passages in which it feels as if waves of pigment are washing over each other. In the “Vibrational States” series, created with small squares of color, similar effects occur, sometimes suggesting a landscape seen from afar. Finally, in the “Layers of Silence” series, the canvases are often, but not always, divided by stripes of white, sometimes simply exercises in color, sometimes looking like an out-of-focus seascape, sometimes even suggesting a manmade structure like a building, seen at a distance. In all cases though, Ibrahim’s point is made through untrammeled passages of tonal hues that result in an undifferentiated fog; linear treatments are foregone in an effort to create a primal experience.

 

The cosmic elements that come to play in Ibrahim’s creativity might be the visual equivalent of creation myths. It is as if the world has just begun in his paintings, before there was time to differentiate form in any major fashion. As a result, color becomes the substitute for form; in this artist’s work, it is a device that is strong enough to maintain a structural present determined, even so, by an atmospheric one. Thus, Ibrahim’s considerable strengths as a poet of being are rendered in terms that are deliberately indefinite, as we can see from the titles of his three series. But that does not mean he is vague. Instead, we bring away from the experience of his art a subliminal message concerning states of awareness that circle about us in the form of tinted light, in a way that reminds us of times of the day: dawn, the middle of the afternoon, evening. It is only when we recognize that the artist creates a visual myth of unlimited existence that his message becomes fully clear, driven as it is by the necessity to convey wonder and a sense of inspired creation.

 -Jonathan Goodman

Video
Biography

Born in Cairo in 1941, Bassmi Ibrahim’s aesthetic education began at home with his father, who was devoted to photography. At school, Bassmi’s talent was recognized at 14 by an art teacher, who for the next seven years instructed him privately both in traditional techniques and in “how to feel and think as an artist". Bassmi went on to study at Ain Shams University, receiving his BA degree in art in 1963. Bassmi attended 4 years of noncredit studies at the College of Fine Art, and while the curriculum focused on making art in older styles, ranging from classical to Impressionist, Bassmi was deeply attracted to modern painting, that eventually became his lifelong preoccupation. In 1965, awakening early one morning with his mind clear and open, Bassmi realized a need to paint from his inner self. What followed was an outpouring of 150 small ink wash images, that connected the observable and the subconscious. This approach, which the artist calls, “painting from my gut and not my mind”, would prove basic to Bassmi’s art.

In the mid-1960s, the artist moved to New York, immersing himself in the world of abstract art. One day in Greenwich Village, Bassmi encountered in person one of his artistic influences, Mark Rothko. Later, while seeing his work the older artist encouraged Bassmi in his path as a painter, and Rothko remains a spiritual mentor. Other important influences include the Abstract Expressionists de Kooning and Pollock, and the Color Field painters Paul Jenkins and Helen Frankenthaler. During this period, Bassmi’s abstract paintings were shown in New York.

In the mid-1970s Bassmi moved to Clearwater, Fl where he took over his father’s printing business and ran an art gallery. During a hiatus from painting, the artist immersed himself in the study of metaphysics and homeopathy. The spiritual depth that he explored became a touchstone for his work, with abstraction an embodiment of the boundlessness of existence itself. In 1999, the artist produced several new paintings, these canvases, while abstract, reflected the artist’s closeness to nature, as well as his feeling for the dialogue of spontaneity and control with liquid, translucent paint. From 2004-2005, Bassmi produced paintings with veils of rich color on white grounds. The Isness Series in 2005 followed a similar format and was inspired by the intrinsic reality of all experience, expressed through luminescent petals and flows of oil and acrylic paint.

Bassmi’s work is in corporate and private collections and has been widely exhibited in the United States and abroad. His recent solo exhibitions include those at St. Petersburg College, the University of South Florida, Eckerd College, Salt Creek Art Colony, Pensacola Museum of Art, Panama City Art Center and Parkersburg Art Center, West Virginia.

Exhibitions
Bibliography

Mary Childs, A Conversation with Bassmi, Working Title, January 2017

Blake Flournoy, One Last Glance at the Isness of Being, Creative Loafing Atlanta, July 2016

Adam Carlson, Review of Exhibition, Creative Loafing Atlanta, September 2014

Lennie Bennett, Review of Exhibition, Tampa Bay Times, September 2011

Megan Voeller, Revew of Exhibition, Creative Loafing Tampa, August 2011

John Mendelsohn, Commentary, 2010

Casey Church, Review of Exhibition, Myrtle Beach Alternatives, September 2009

John Mendelsohn, Bassmi: Vision's Body, 2007

William Zimmer, catalog essay, June 2005
Ruthie Tucker, Amsterdam Whitney International Fine Art, Inc., essay, March 2005
Dominque Nahas, catalog essay, 2002-2003 edition

Leilani Polk, Abstract is the World, Weekly Planet, January 2003

Richard Dubin, brochure essay, Spring 2002
Jeanette Crane, review of exhibition, St. Petersburg Independent, January 12, 1978