A late-summer patchwork

BEIRUT: Summer is a multifaceted thing, of course, and its visual representations ramify as they resonate through the imaginations of artists. So it is with “Accrochage D’Ete” (literally Hanging Summer), a group show now on display at Ashrafieh’s Alice Mogabgab Gallery.

This exhibition is comprised of a wide range of works, all executed in traditional media like painting and sculpture. Pieces by Lebanese painters Fadia Haddad and Rima Amyuni, French artists Charles Belle, Christophe Bonacorsi and Samuel Coisne, and English sculptor Emma Rodgers are among the 17 on display.

Charles Belle’s massive (250x200 cm) acrylic-on-canvas work “Une Belle Riviere” (“A Beautiful River”) is a breathtaking piece. It depicts a black stallion against a purple background, a description that does little justice to the majesty of the thing.

Belle’s touch lies in his use of color. Though limited, his palette – mostly hues of black and purple with notes of orange shimmering between the brush strokes – evokes great nuance.

The textures and contours of the creature’s body are rendered in the varying shades of purple playing, like reflections of the night, off his black coat. Grey-black daubs bring gradations to the velvety purple background.

Belle’s starting point wasn’t to paint a horse exactly, in the view of Gallerist Alice Mogabgab, but the back of a woman. This ambiguity might speak to the work’s sensuality.

Belle’s skill is also evident in the way he plays with light. Although his colors are somber overall, the piece radiates movement as the animal’s musculature emerges from the two-dimensional representation.

The impression of motion also characterizes Emma Rodgers’s 155x30x55 cm ceramic equestrian-themed piece “The Hunt.” Five archer-mounted horses, with golden chains affixed to some of them like ornamental bridles, are held aloft from their base by skewers, making them evocative of a fairground carousel.

The five mounts and the figures riding them are all rendered incomplete, as though the representation reflected the rapidity of their movement, and thus the fragmentary quality of the onlookers’ perception of them.

Small in size, these ceramic fragments are nevertheless impressive for their representation of power. There is something ghoulish in Rodgers’ rendering of her horses and riders, yet the work is less alienating to the onlooker than it is appealing.

At first blush, Caroline Lejeune’s oil-on-canvas piece “Le Jardin d’Agathe” (“Agatha’s Garden,” 195x130 cm) has little in common with Rodgers’ work, yet here too the artist masterfully seduces the onlooker to enter an unnatural world or her own creation.

The work represents an idyllic rural vista of thick vegetation ringing a bayou or pond. Marked by great depth of perspective, the scene has been rendered with a grey-and-white palette, making the work look like a reproduction of a black-and-white photo.

“Accrochage D’Ete” includes some disturbing work as well. A case in point is Christophe Bonacorsi’s “Autoportrait” (“Self-portrait”), in which the artist’s eyes, rotated right in their sockets, stand out luminously white against the slate grey of the figure’s face. Since the figure’s face is lit from the left, the onlooker may wonder to herself who (or what) has attracted his attention.

There is also something arresting in Samuel Coisne’s untitled drawing of a deer-like creature whose antlers extend upward to the size and shape of tree branches. Francophones will detect the amusing pun imbedded in Coisne’s work. Branches are, of course, made of wood. The French word for antlers (“bois”) also translates to mean “wood.”

“Accrochage d’Ete” is on display at Alice Mogabgab Gallery until Sept. 29. For more information, please call 01-204-984.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 05, 2012, on page 16.




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