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Painter finds the eyes have it in her portraits
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When Basmat Levin walks into work every day, she has numerous sets of eyes following her every move. She describes them as her friends, her intrigues, her source of inspiration and her artistic obsession.

The Israeli artist's muses are the numerous faces she captures with her camera. Her photographs become the source material for the paintings of human faces she creates from the people she has come across in her travels around the globe.

Levin's latest collection of faces forms the basis of her newest exhibition "Shanghai Facebook2," which opens today and will run until October 4 at Tangram Art Center at 50 Moganshan Road.

The New York-based artist spent three years in Shanghai from 2005 painting in her Moganshan Road studio and 90 percent of the more than 50 works in the exhibition are of people she met in Shanghai.

"Faces have always fascinated me, most of all the eyes," she says.

"The eyes tell it all. They are the window of the soul. I am trying to capture this concept through my paintings. It is my way of exploring China's amazing ancient culture through the faces of its people."

"Facebook2" is the sequel to her previous exhibition in Shanghai of local and international portraits in April last year.

Her previous collection included a series of paintings inspired by Peking Opera and this newest exhibition features a section inspired by Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) art.

"I got a lot of books depicting the Tang Dynasty and I looked at them a lot. I was fascinated by the grace and elegance - I tried to paint them in the only way I can through my eyes," she says. "There will be a special room in the exhibition for my paintings depicting people from the time of the Tang Dynasty and I am not sure how it will look to Chinese people, but it is my view."

Levin describes herself as a fast painter whose oil paintings have many layers of color.

"I work on about 15 paintings at the same time. I have the studio full of faces," she says.

"I come in the morning and I look around and I ask who am I going to paint, and then I go, OK I will paint you. I paint a little bit and then move on - my portraits are like my friends."

Born in Jerusalem, Levin studied drawing, painting, sculpture, video and computer graphics.

Her work has been on display in the United States at a number of galleries including New York's Elizabeth Harris Gallery and DOT.51 Gallery in Miami.

Some of her paintings have also been featured in major motion pictures, including "Dinner Rush," "Suburban Girl" and "Morning Glory."

Levin's constant companion is her camera. Everywhere she goes she takes pictures of her friends and interesting strangers.

She says when people see their likenesses in a painting there are mixed reactions. Some people do not like particular physical aspects such as a double chin or wrinkles, while others see an aspect of themselves.

"I had one woman say, you captured both sides of me, one side is my evil side, the other side is my angel," she says.

Date: through October 4 (Mondays by appointment only), 10am-6pm
Address: 2/F, Bldg 17, 50 Moganshan Rd, Shanghai
Tel: 6299-9868
Website: www.basmatlevin.com

(Shanghai Daily September 8, 2009)

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