Joseph MATAR: The Artist who spoke to nature and unveiled its divine
The other way is more human, more sensitive, more realistic, delicate, fragile, truthful and infinitely more humanistic if you are a Near Easterner or precisely a proud Lebanese…Lebanese of the good old days of Lebanon the Great “Le Grand Liban”, not the Lebanon we hear and read about today on TV and the newspapers since September 15, 1975. I will explain those two differences because they are of a paramount importance and a primordial pre-requisite to understand and truthfully appreciate the art of Maestro, Professor, Dr. Joseph Matar (Yes, he has all these titles). For his paintings are a narrative panoramic socio-ecologico-historical documentary and a sequence of frames and pictures of a vanished golden, majestic, splendidly beautiful, holy, some time half divine-half human, always immortal moments in the history of the land and people of Lebanon, his beloved forgiving and legendary generous people and honorable and warm families.
Thus, if you are not a native of the land of Maestro Matar, then, I should invite you to embark with me on a long, majestic and divinely beautiful journey to the wonderlands we have already seen on Matar’s canvases. You will enjoy the journey… beautiful “Lebanon-Yesteryears” sun rays of one thousand colors will sleep and awake in your eyes while warm tears escaping on the small landscape of your palm will bring you back to “Lebanon-Today” atrocious human reality. This is what you are about to feel and sense upon sailing into the paintings of Maestro Matar. A real genius, a multi-dimensional master of Middle Eastern Painting.
MASTER OF THE LANDSCAPE, NATURE AND INFINITE BEAUTY OF THE “LEVANT”, LEBANON, PHOENICIA, THE GRAND ORIENT.
I lived in Lebanon in the sixties and I witnessed the goodness and beauty of the land and the people of Lebanon. Oh God the merciful! This is what I see when I look at the paintings of Joseph Matar. Here I am in Beyrouth, 3:00 am in the morning, we were partying all night, Maroun Achkar from Chiah and Elie Asfar from Broumana, Ahmad Hassan Yassin from the Basta and Selim Abou Chakra from Moukhtara pushing me in the car…”Hurry Up Maximillien, Hurry Up…it is time for “Lamounada” (Lebanese Citron Lemonade) ..and we are on our way to the city of Batroun near Byblos..driving 40 miles away from Beyrouth at 3:00 am in the morning just to have one or two glasses of Lamounada in Batroun…and as soon as the glasses are empty, we will be en route again to Beyrouth for early breakfast of famous Lebanese sweet, Knefeh Bil Jibn, Znoud Al Sit, Aychi Al Saraya, Halawet Al Jibn, Namourra at a small side-walk café...may be outside the restaurant in the street near the entrance of the restaurant in Zaytouney area, this is the plan for tonight. But, one of my friends had another idea, Maroun said “Hey Chabeb” (Buddies) how about a cup of bones soup “Mar’et Idam” near Cinema Salwa in Mazraa” near Madrasat Al Makassed?
Another day, it is another delightful warm aspect
of Lebanese life; It is the harvest of the green olives in Amchit, Bijjeh,
Jbeil, Ehden, Moukhtara…you see everybody in the fields, under
the blessed olive trees picking up olives from the ground and singing
songs by Wadih El Safeh “Al Loma Loma Loma, Ya Helwi wi Ya Mahdoma”…another
night in my life in Lebanon….A grand affair…A JAZAL Poetry
Party… Zaghloul al Damour or the immortal Khalil Roukoz….poetry,
poems and verses on philosophy of life, destiny, the great mountains
and valleys of Lebanon….Tomorrow is Sunday, and there is another
story to tell you about; every body in the village will gather in the
plaza “center” of the village near the church on Sunday
morning around 10:30 am. People are watching, people are telling stories,
others anxiously awaiting the strong man who is going to grab the rope
of the 1000 year old Maronite or Syriac church bell and begin to jump
up and down to make it ring, one, twice, three time, four times non
stop, and if he succeeds in ringing the bell four times without a break,
then he is the man of the hour…Traditions and beauty of the small
villages of Lebanon are there living and breathing on the magnificent
paintings of Maestro Matar…. After tomorrow? No problem! There
is another story. It is Thursday, “ we better be prepared, the
inspector of the Regie ( A Lebanese Government Tobacco Monopoly Company)
is arriving” shouted
I can see this roof in the paintings of Matar! I can see the tobacco leaves on that roof! I look at those old Lebanese village houses, narrow streets filled with Zaatar and Summack aroma (Oregano and Thyme), dried figs, olives, grapes and memories…all of them in Matar’s paintings…they are so real and so alive in his paintings. Matar with unsurpassed talent and a divine genius has captured those magical, delightful, nostalgic moments of a vanished era. Yes, we might still see some of those old houses, walk through narrow and romantic roads of the beautiful villages of Lebanon, yes we might but, why we have to travel hundreds of miles to experience that, since the whole universe of the old great Lebanon is awaiting us on Matar’s paintings!. To me, his paintings are bigger than life itself. For Matar’s has acquired the perfect knowledge of nature’s warmth and lights through the movement of his brushes and the exact amount of strength and wisdom in applying this or that stroke, drawing this line of leaning toward that curve creating an inviting space on his canvas or covering it with the goods of the valleys of Lebanon and the sun rays of his majestic country….whether he continues to create, paint, illustrate shapes and forms or just walk in his heart with his painting, Matar has already discovered what the Lebanese nature, hills, valleys, grape trees, olive trees, old roofs, narrow streets, friends gatherings and soirees on the veranda need.
Matar knows what theme to bring to life on his canvases, what colors to nourish the linens with, what, how and why this object, this view, this panoramic sensation, this tree branch, this face, this woman, this child, this door, this corner or this frame of a vision from this life and beyond should be part of the fabric of his painting. Matar becomes honestly involved with his painting. He becomes one with the subject, the object, the light, the shade, the sincere emotions, the bright intelligence and above all, he becomes a united being with nature, one persona with perfection, maybe one with the “Divine” as well!
Matar preserves the dignity of natural beauty and makes you wonder whether the man should live in a meaningful world of thoughts and theories to provide safety and wisdom to humankind and society, or whether he should
“Naturally” find safety, theories, thoughts and humanity in the unification of the mind, the heart and the whispers of the beauty of the nature. Matar’s paintings teach you a lesson in philosophy of life, passion for cosmic beauty and green eloquent silence you can only hear in the majestic murmurs of unspoiled beauty called “nature”.
Matar’s paintings invite you to flirt with colors, nature and visions sweeter and stronger than you. Bring nothing for the journey, friend, nothing….. Not even yourself. Forget yourself, for you are going to reinvent yourself once you sail in the colors, forms, shapes and shapes of shapes that exist only in the beauty you bring to and take from nature.
The beauty of nature and the limpid artistic honesty of Matar are twins!
Lebanon is immortal…the real ancient Lebanon! And Matar strengthens Lebanon’s immortality through his paintings. Nabeh El Safah, The Cedars, Adonis, Ashtarout, Ahiram, Didon, the welcoming voices of our parents and friends echoing in the valley and behind the hills of Lebanese villages, the poetry, the friendly political debates of the people of the villages around a “TARNIB” soiree (Lebanese Card Game) under the light of a portable lantern known back then as “The Lux”, because many villages did not have electricity and paved roads and asphalted streets…the boring but necessary sermon of the village priest every Sunday, the good old days, the dried figs on the roof, the harvest of the olives, the making of the “Arak”, all those nostalgic fragments of your past years and life are still alive in Matar paintings, simply because his brushes are part fiber, and part rays of divine inspiration. For, when Mattar paints, Saint Maron is watching… Fakher El Dine is stimulated and ready to take on the Ottoman Empire and the “Al Bab Al Ali” (The High Door), Napoleon is fighting Al Jazzar, he felt tired for a while…he had to lean against those off-white walls Matar painted on his canvas to relax and carry on short after…those white walls of those warm old houses in Matar’s paintings have one million stories to tell you.
You can touch the canvases of Matar if your wishes are to transcend time and space and rediscover the happy simple and warm life of the Lebanese villages and the immensity of the beauty of Lebanese nature. The technique Matar used in creating this very exact and particular tone of off-white color for the village houses walls and particularly the olive-grayish strokes he threw over the trees he painted reveals a supreme mastery of the language of colors, lights, shades, day, night, silence and eloquence of the soul and the timid polite immortality of the Lebanese unspoiled divine landscape!. Matar is the Master of the Near Eastern Landscape Painting! Yes, he walks tall and proud among the greatest artists of his country. Yes, Matar did learn a lot from them. Omar Onsi, a very dear friend of mine who passed away, was one them, one of those great teachers of his. But, Matar did surpass many of them in many instances. In my book, he is as great as Corm, Salibi, Omar Onsi, Moustapha Farroukh, Rashid Wehbi.
Written By Jean-Maximillien de La Croix