Samir Sammoun was born in a quaint Lebanese village perched atop the Chouf Mountain, 40 km south of Beirut. To this day, the artist vividly recalls the colourful Mediterranean landscape of his childhood.
Samir Sammoun immigrated from Lebanon to Canada at age 21 where he obtained degrees in electronic engineering and telecommunications. Since graduation, he has pursued his professional career as well as his passion, painting. Chris Klimantiris, who began representing Samir Sammoun in 1996, provides an eloquent reaction to the artist’s work. “The first time that I saw Samir’s paintings, I was fascinated by his refined technique. I felt like a time traveler, transported to turn-of-the-century Paris and the Impressionists.”
Samir Sammoun does have a unique postimpressionist style and technique. A great colorist by nature, he has a very rich palette of up to 30 tones and shades. He uses soft, round brushes and works mainly on rough jute and linen canvas, strong material that is capable of holding the generous amount of oil colors that Samir uses to create a backdrop.
When starting to paint, Sammoun carefully prepares his canvas with burnt sienna, which he applies with a pig-bristle brush then wipes with a rag to remove any excess. His goal is to have the grain of the canvas show. This technique is used to create the illusion of light emanating from inside the painting.
Layers of paint give a natural texture to the canvas. The artist’s technique, successive voluntary strokes, generates a certain relief and variation in the shades.
A landscape artist, Samir Sammoun has a vast repertoire of pictorial themes, e.g. willows, apple trees in bloom, wheat fields, olive trees, villages, storms, churchyards and streetscapes. His paintings reflect a tranquil happy mood. This is the art of a man who loves life. As the artist puts it, “I try to make the person looking at my painting feel the color of the sky, the temperature of the air, and the breeze in the apple trees or the wheat stalks.”
Sammoun’s art should be viewed from a distance of a few feet. At first glance, his paintings seem blurred. Only when the viewer is at the right distance does the depth of the relief and scene appear in three dimensions. Sammoun almost never uses classical perspective. His initial sketch resembles a few blotches that outline shadows and basic reference points in the scene that he has already turned over many times in his mind. The work is then carried out in the ‘automatist’ style that relies on the number of strokes previously applied. The final result comes only at the end when the layers of light are placed in the appropriate places according to the texture generated.
Sammoun’s subtle touch appears in his ‘wheat fields’ series. Here the rhythmic gesture of the artist combines grace and spontaneity. The delicate touches highlight the slender stalks and the tufts heavy with grain. The artist knows instinctively where the impact should be in the painting. “At times, it is the canvas that seems to evolve on its own. It is through this process that I feel I am playing with the fate of my renderings on the canvas. And it is from this inspiration that I feel I am the one to harness the fate of what is to follow.”
Birth: Lebanon, Joun, 1952
• Art Gallery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal, Québec, Canada
• Marc-Aurèle Fortin Museum, Montréal, Québec, Canada
• Permanent Collection of the Plattsburgh Sate University Art Museum, Plattsburgh, New York
• McCord Museum, Montréal, February to March 2002
• St-Joseph Oratory Museum, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Also in private collections in the United States, Canada, France, and England