Interview with Sinan Hussein, the painter of souls

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Sinan Hussein, the Muslim artist who painted the soul of Abraham

Rome, May 9th 2019, St. Paul’s Within The Walls, Episcopal Church. A peaceful man is walking in the garden, because I’m late. Inside the church, the art exhibition “Abraham. Out of One, Many”, an artistic exploration about Abraham, the common ancestor of the three great monotheistic religions: Christian, Jewish and Muslim. In Italy, Jewish and Muslim perspectives are a minority’s point of view. I’m sharing with you my encounter with Sinan Hussein, the Muslim artist who painted the soul of Abraham and a lot of other souls.

Sinan: Surrealism from a Muslim background

Sinan Hussein is a painter well known around the world. His artwork is valued by many galleries and private collectors, above all in Middle Eastern and Arab countries. Sinan was born in Baghdad 42 years ago. His family is still living in Baghdad: 4 brother and 3 sisters, all of them living in Iraq. He studied art there, then moved to Jordan, Kuwait and America, finally, because of the war and the political instability in his native country. Today he is living in Massachussets, United States.

He is considerated part of contemporary artistic surrealism.


Abraham. Out of One, Many 

So…Let’s talk: Sinan, Abraham and me. Abraham, from the paints, he is talking, I’m sure. “I can’t talk about myself a lot. It’s difficult for me.” Explained Sinan. “I can’t, too – I say – I let what I do, and write, and paint talk for me. Let we your Abraham talk for you? In this exhibition, Sinan painted three symbolic scenes about Abraham’s life, connected with the themes of pilgrimage and immigration. In the paint “Living as a pilgrim“, the artist painted the symbol of pilgrimage in Islam, the black box shaped Ka’ba كعبة , (Mecca), upon Abraham’s head. In Islamic iconography, the blue represents positive energy and the wish for goodness and joy in life: this is the interpretation for the blue glove.


Sinan Hussein, Living as a Pilgrim, mixed media on canvas, 2019


Sinan, the man is the artist?

Sinan became an artist, in his tale, at 15.

“I don’t know how I become an artist. Just, I draw. I need it, like a drug. If I’m not drawing, I’m angry, I’m a different person. If I’m not drawing, I’m thinking about art, I see art in my mind. The technique I prefer is oil on canvas and let the colors live. I like contrast. Red, blue and behind orange: the shock in your eyes is a shock in your mind. Make you understand the scene and the emotions inside easily.”

Where could you find Sinan’s artworks?

Sinan made a lot of solo exhibition in the Middle East: Kuwait, Jordan, Barhein, Qatar, Oman. He is very active and creative in America, too: Washington, Seattle and, at present, two exihibitions of him are underway, the first in Chicago and the other one in Michigan Museum. Sinan explain to me that, if possible, he always prefers solo exhibitions. Why?

“Because my painting doesn’t need anything near: too much figures, too much colours, too much imagination, stories, talkings. Too much. It is the harmony of my souls.”

Really, I’m agree. His painting catchs attention, because it is very deep and rich of suggestions. I’m watching to it and this paint is asking a lot of questions to me…too much questions. I couldn’t listen to other artworks, not in the meantime.

Painting is connecting people

“I love when people say to me what they see in my works, because they express under different perspectives what I mean. I like it, because sometimes is near to my mind, but sometimes too much far away: it is communication, in any case, and this is the point.”


Sinan Hussein, Welcoming The Strangers, mixed media on canvas, 2019

Religion of humanity

What about religion, Sinan? This exhibition is about Abraham, so this is a basic question for me, now. His answer make me think: “I’m not Jewish, I’m not Christian, but…I’m not Muslim too. Muslims pray 5 times a day, at least. I don’t pray: my pray is humanity. My background, the culture of my family in Baghdad, is Muslim, of course. But I don’t like this kind of labels. I live religion, but I feel it like humanity. That’s all.”

The Father of religions

So, why a religious subject for your painting?

“I liked the idea behind this art exhibition, because it was a satisfying challenge for me to create small paintings, very packed, with historical meanings. All the religions are talking about Ebraism. Ebraism is father of all the religions in my opinion. Stories about Ebraism talk about our origins, about history of humanity: it’s important for all of us, not only for Jewish.”

And love?

“I have a son who is living in America with my ex-wife, an American woman of Syrian origins. Before, he lived with me for two years, just with me. But I have to travel a lot, so it’s better for him to  stay with his mother. We have a good relation, now. Marriage is scary. You lost freedom, no time for yourself, no painting, no passions. My mind was pressed and I lost my identity. This is my experience about relationship, I’m sorry.”


Sinan Hussein, Sacrificial Love, mixed media on canvas, 2019

Painting is a pray

“I just need a place for painting and I feel good. It could be Baghdad, could be Rome, could be Seattle. Before, an artist needed to stay in Paris or in London to become famous. Now, technologies and connections around the world let the talent recognizable, anywhere. Any gallery can find you easily: Google, just need Google.”

“I just looked for my soul. I searched myself inside, because when you know yourself, you know anything. I don’t’need to touch anybody if I am with myself. Painting is like a pray.

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