Art and Cake LA Interview written by Gary Brewer

Habib Hajallie: Facing History - by Gary Brewer


“Compassion is the basis of morality.” - Arthur Schopenhauer


A face is like a map- it conveys the genetic lines of our forebears and the ethnic and geographical lines of the journeys that our ancestors travelled which have given shape to a person. The subtle nuances within one’s face reflect the experiences of that person’s life in the world in which they live, as well as the histories of migration and the complex synthesis of ethnic, cultural and language forms that give rise to a world in constant renewal.


As artists we seek to speak truth about our experience in the world: it is a form of philosophy embedded and conveyed through matter- transformed through the suppleness of mind, imagination and skill into visual expression. It can capture through metaphor and poetry, a record of our experiences and our responses to the forces that have formed who we are in the world. It can also be a catalyst that directs and helps shape the metamorphosis of society.

Habib Hajallie is an artist who uses portraiture as a vehicle to tell stories. His materials are black ballpoint pens on repurposed pages from books that he carefully chooses for the content and ideas that they contain. He said of this, “I find the works of philosophers and writers who are dealing with issues that are relevant to a specific concept. I pragmatically place an image onto the text- what words can be seen and which ones are covered up- are crucial to the composition. Or how the words may emerge through a gradient, from darkness to light, all contribute to the ideas behind my work. I create my drawings using the ballpoint pen as a point of entry, to break down the barriers that the world of art often imposes on people from working class/immigrant backgrounds. When a person who doesn’t usually engage with fine art, thinks of oil paintings- the cost of the materials and where one buys them- can put up a barrier to their ability to access the artwork. By using a ballpoint pen, I transcend that impasse. Everyone knows what a pen is, everyone has one. Its commonness gives access to my art for people who may otherwise feel it is outside of their universe.”