Canaan’s artistic work

Aziza Diab

Canaan’s artistic work includes sculpture and painting. He has produced a number of sculptures using liberal amounts


Canaan’s artistic work includes sculpture and painting. He has produced a number of sculptures using liberal amounts of both metal and wood in addition to environmental sculptures that can be found in a number of public places. The structural superficies is one of Canaan’s works. This piece demonstrates the artist’s talent as well as his ability to utilize simple materials in portraying concepts rich in deep, symbolic meaning. His work portrays a variety of aspects that include daily life, the artist’s culture, identity and surroundings. Canaan’s oil paintings are divided into two collections; the first consists of abstract oil paintings while the second is comprised of ornamental paintings, modeled on oriental Islamic ornaments. Moreover, he has produced large-scale works that cover walls, made of mosaic and inspired by ornamental paintings. The works were the result of team work between the artist and school children they are located in varius schools in the galilee.
Canaan’s biography begins with a collection titled Mahareeth, (Ploughs). He began work on this [series] collection during his last year of academic studies at Bezalel-El in Jerusalem. At that time Canaan weighed the concept of “western” artistic styles, but decided to explore his roots as well as himself through art, keeping close to his native culture. The name Canaan was most likely the starting point for his journey of discovery that continues through today. Canaanites were the country’s native citizens and brought with them primitive agricultural methods which included the plough, still in use today. Canaan’s collection Mahareeth includes several sculptures that vary in their design, and are made from wood, metala combination of both. The works include small abstract forms that combine the humananimal body and the plough. Space plays a fundamental role in building the ploughs. Canaan never closes his metal forms but rather keeps space between their parts so spectators can examine the work from different angles. The combination between the solidity of the metal and the freedom of space gives his sculptures a design-able dimension which unites the sculpture and its surrounding on one hand and the spectators’ imagination on the other, allowing spectators to complete the space themselves.
Land and Sky is another of Canaan’s works. In it he combines a plough planted deep in the ground and a giant bird about to land on the ground. In this plough, more than any other, he combines the concept of clinging to ones land and roots while at the same time soaring high in the freedom of space. However the sculpture’s mass pulls it down toward the ground.
Despite the various similarities which can be found between Canaan’s plough and the relationship between man and his land,the reality of the Palestinian minority (of which the artist is a part of), we can still see that his sculptures stand steady on the ground uniting the patience and wisdom of old men with the eternalness of god.
Abu-Joma’a, the wooden flute player, is one of Canaan’s free sculptures. The screws in this sculpture are visible to the spectator who will note that they connect his body parts, which would seem to turn this realistic character of a Palestinian musician into a robot. Canaan tries to tell us something about the old man’s loneliness that has become a part of ancient folklore, not quite able to find a place for himself and his flute in modern bands. In his work Ala-Mosiqya (Musical Instrument), which is made of metal and wood, the artist again focuses on the subject of music by performing on a string instrument, disassembling its parts and rebuilding it according to his own style. Canaan insists on preserving the original raw materials and its natural color. While most of his works are both huge and heavy, they are also stable on the ground while standing tall.
Canaan considers himself a sculptor in the first degree. He prefers working directly with his materials, molding them with his fingers while developing the work. This direct relation between artist and raw material has left marks on the artist’s hands. In addition to his sculptures he has produced a collection of abstract oil paintings. One of the best known of these works is titled Anat’s Temple. Once again Canaan seeks his Canaanites roots, but this time he does it by using the goddess of fertility. Anat stands in her temple, her head is a yellow circle surrounded with a green square. Her head is separated from her body, and her mind from her heart.While in another piece of art, a wooden superficies on it a cooper abstract form; we see Anat standing in her complete divine dignity, holding a cane as if she’s sending her blessings to mother earth and it’s people. The circles present her femininity.
Canaan’s paintings can be distinguished by their powerfully bright colors. As opposed to his dried sculptures which lack manufactured colors, we can see that his abstract paintings are highly colorful and vibrant. The artist paints layer upon layer of color. His paintings do not relate to a specific subject, rather they give their spectators the ability to penetrate and explore whatever the work may inspire within them. While Canaan sees his paintings as an attempt to draw, I interpret them as being a huge store of energy and emotions. In his ornamented paintings, inspired by Islamic mosaic ornaments like the ones that decorated Hisham’s palace in Jericho, we can note that the artist repeats the pictures of deer, butterflies, camels and Anat the goddess in strong bright colors. The artist’s use of this style emerged from him having designed walls in several public places around his village. He employs the use of richly ornamented characters from folklore in striving to continue the ancient tradition found in the roots and history of Islamic art.
Canaan uses a variety of events from his life’s experience in his work, some of which are personal while others communal. One of these subjects is expressed in a collection called Azwaj (Couples). This collection uses a variety of techniques, made in burnt wood with jutting male eyes reminiscent of African art. The artist uses twisted lines to express the bond established between couples during an eternal kiss.
He tries to incarnate reality through his unique, artistic language away from the natural expressive style. His emphasis is on the incarnation of the essence of objects by using simple shapes such as the circle and ellipse. In another work on the same subject we see two characters joined through the weaving of threads that resembles a loom, otherwise known as a noul, a device once used for weaving textiles. Despite the fact that both man and woman are standing far from each other as individuals he doesn’t ignore the creation of the weave that will combine them. Canaan repeats this work through various techniques, which indicates that he is evolving the subject during short periods of time.
In another sculpture made of wood which he has titled Samda, the artist portrays the familiar scene of a village wedding party in which the bride sits glimmering on stage while the families dance and celebrate. The woman’s body very much resembles a seat, with a high wooden back attached to metal wires which symbolizes her long hair, wrapped around an empty head. The male sits beside the bride in an empty hollow space. His contours are in the shape of a person. The man’s empty space inspires many questions, some which may be humorous while others are ironic. It offers the observer the opportunity to join the scene and play Bride and Groom.
Canaan’s two most expressive works of art are titled Tanatharto (deseprsed). One is a painting composed of disjointed cubes which lie on a blue and purple background. Through the work he invokes tension by using both basic and complementary colors. Small ornamental shapes cover the cube’s surface, which resembles the ornamented tiles used in Palestinian homes. Though there isn’t a single complete cube in the entire work. While the cubes may lie near one another, they don’t come together to form a unit. The embodiment of Canaan’s creative work is its ability to express. It can be sad, angry, naïve, funny, intricateeven silent, but no matter what it expresses it still observes from a distance. We might even find all these characteristics come together in Canaan’s personality as both man and artist.
One of his structural superficies is a big collection called Mashateeh. The collection is made up of items resembling structures that rest on simple wooden platforms. The artist’s mastery of using raw materials in order to express himself is what is most striking. Among this collection are three notably remarkable pieces of art. One of them is titled Hajiz (Barrier). It portrays the humility and agony of a vanquished people who suffer the iniquity of occupation. The other work is titled Soura Thatiya (Self Portrait). This work shows, through the emptiness of the head, the colorful mat Haseera which is found in every Palestinian home. These elements are a part of Canaan’s identity and culture. The artist grew up in a family of carpenters, which might explain the significance that wood plays in his work. In another piece called Mashrabia, we notice vines inside a rectangle. Canaan’s nobility is seen in the way he uses simple objects that represent meaning from our life, reality, history and of our struggle for our own identity. In each of his works he tries to tell us who he is and where he came from.
Istisqaa’ (Seeking a Drink)is a metal sculpture of two women. One of them is standing and the other is sitting while having the millstone on her head. The artist builds his sculpture from metal flat boards and joins them with metal pipes. Canaan combines his inspiration of ancient culture and history with modern techniques such as welding and building. This style specializes the work of the twentieth century artists.
 One of Canaan’s remarkable works is a group of four sculptures that discuss the exodus issue Tahjeer. In these sculptures, he leaves his artistic finger print, his nationality and his identity. Canaan talks about the Palestinian’s history and suffering in a brief abstract way. He started working on the first sculpture in 1992.The sculpture is made of aluminum and it is a ship carrying a group of men , women ,children and old men. .After a couple of years Canaan designs the same subject only this time he uses metal and replaces the human figures with keys. Sometimes the keys appear in different heights as a caravan. Sometimes they are made of stone and aluminum as he expressed them in the sculpture that had participated in Amman’s 2002 sculpturing festival. In another metal sculpture located in Wadi Nisnas in Haifa, the standing keys transforms to a pile of tired keys. These human keys which are a symbol of home and land and the dream of returning, has become impossible after all these years of waiting.
His last collection includes environmental sculptures. These works vary in both material and technique and are exhibited in a variety of public places. Sometimes it is even used as a game. The first sculpture in this collection is named Basalat Al-azhar, (Flower bulb). Once again the work of art can alternatively be used as a seat. His sculpture designs fit the surrounding and invite the audience to inter his work, to be a part of it and to interact with it.