BEIRUT: It is difficult to imagine any relationship between German artist Zhivago Duncan, Lebanese painter Raouf Rifai and Syrian artist Thaer Maarouf. That said, their works are being hung together at Gemmayzeh’s Joanna Seikaly Gallery as part of the summer collective exhibition.
Nor are they alone. Along with these well-known artists, this wide-ranging exhibition includes work by Samer Saem El Dahr, Nancy Haddad, Fadi Al Hamwi and Maria Kassab.
Two sculptures by Lebanon’s Haddad focus on the use of old machine pieces formed to resemble human shapes. Some of these works have already been exhibited as part of a 2011 show at the former Espace Kettaneh Kunigk. Entitled “Robotto” and “E.T.,” these bronzes bring new meaning to anthropomorphism – depicting the nonhuman in human form.
Something similar might be said of Dahr’s charcoal-on-paper work “Reaction n.7,” in which an odd-looking figure – neither male nor female – gazes eerily at the onlooker. His/her face combines human facial features with what looks like a sheep. This blurry juxtaposition conveys the feeling of witnessing a metamorphosis. If we go further into the analysis, some may find a correlation between Dahr’s work and the awakening of the animal instinct in each one of us.
Those attracted to more classical forms may find their Holy Grail in the works of Raouf Rifai, who is among Lebanon’s most prominent artists. Like that of his contemporary Charles Khoury, Rifai’s work is striking for the colors he uses and his integrating of folklore themes into his paintings.
All entitled “Darawichs,” these pieces portray versions of traditional Middle Eastern men wearing the tarboush. In this series, they either drink coffee or hold flowers.
The artist’s technique is also interesting. Layers and layers of paint are juxtaposed atop one another in order to bring depth and dimension to two-dimensional figures.
Thaer Maarouf’s works are reminiscent of the odd-looking performers that feature in Tod Browing’s 1932 feature “Freaks.”
These paintings, a recent hit at Singapore’s Sana Gallery, portray bestial men and women, using a bright red as a symbol for fury.
In his 2010 solo exhibition “Dying Point,” German artist Zhivago Duncan amazed local art lovers with a graffiti-redolent technique. Located between cartoon and pop art, Duncan’s works overwhelm the onlooker with dynamism and movement.
The sole work on show in the current exhibition is entitled “Killer Pony” – an odd title since there is no pony anywhere in this work. This is the subtlety in Duncan’s artwork.
The pony in question refers to a brand of automobile from the 1960s, which included the much-loved Chevrolet Yenko.
This painting represents a huge open-mouthed skull, onto which two Yenko cars have been placed. For movie aficionados, this killer car may be reminiscent of “Death Proof,” the vehicle Kurt Russell drove in the Quentin Tarantino 2007 feature of the same name. Duncan’s palette of colors is so vivid, the viewer will be forgiven for being reminded of a comic strip.
A panorama of what has been shown at the gallery for the last two years or so, this collective provides a good synopsis for those curious to see just what Joanna Seikaly Gallery has to offer.
“Collective Exhibition” is now on show at Gemmayzeh’s Joanna Seikaly Gallery until the end of August. For more information, please call 70-776-711.