Jamelie Hassan

"I went into the National Gallery, and was anxiously staring at Desaparecidos, and the security guard came up to me and he said, 'It's okay, it's politics.' Not art, it's politics. And I had this great sigh of relief. And I left the gallery thinking, okay, that piece is going to speak, it's going to continue to remind and have this significant location to speak from in the institution. It's not being absorbed by the institution."

- Jamelie Hassan, in 'Identity and Cultural Displacement', in Jamelie Hassan et al., Jamelie Hassan, (La Chambre Blanche, Québec, 1996) at p. 22

Art and activism are intertwined in the life of Jamelie Hassan. Her art is both personal and political, addressing worldwide concerns about cultural interactions, the subjection of women, colonialism, racism and political conflict. Using traditional or contemporary cultural artifacts, she works in a visual language of cultural cross-references.

Hassan studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Rome (1967), the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Beirut, Lebanon (1968), the University of Windsor (1969), and the University of Mustansyria, Baghdad (1978-79). In the 1960s, she was familiar with the London, Ontario 'Regional' art of Greg Curnoe, Murray Favro, Ron Martin, Dave Gordon, and John Boyle. Her travels contributed significantly to her artistic development. A visit to Lebanon in 1967 confirmed her Lebanese cultural background. In 1976-1977, she was politicized by encountering postcolonial cultures in Central and South America. She has also visited France, Germany and China.

One of eleven children of Lebanese immigrants, Hassan grew up in an Arabic-speaking household in London, Ontario. She began working full-time as an artist in 1972. In 1976 she began exhibiting 'actualizations', lifesize reconstructions in fiberglass or ceramics of objects. Her art uses photography, text and existing cultural artifacts to make cross-cultural references. It responds to worldwide concerns: cultural displacement, Argentinian dictatorship (Los Desaparecidos, 1981), or the narratives of intersecting cultures (Boutros Al Armenian / Mediterranean Modern, 1997). In 1983 Hassan co-founded the London artist cooperative, Embassy Cultural House, serving on its board from 1985 to 1990.


2001   Governor General's Award in Visual Arts

© John Tamblyn