BEIRUT: In popular culture, dreams are defined as sleep-borne accumulations of emotions and images. Most everyone can recall having been awakened by a disturbing, and inexplicable, dream.
The only thing harder than remembering the fantastical situations of dreams – the weird images juxtaposed against one other – is reading them.
Dreamscapes premise the compositions in Lebanese artist Lara Zankoul’s “Depths,” her series of images now up at Beirut’s Ayyam Gallery. These 10 photographs and two cinemagraphs, all 80x80cm, experiment with the construction and reproduction of dreamlike scenarios and the projection of dream narratives upon less fantastical images.
Cinemagraphs mingle features of cinema and still photography. Such works are comprised of a brief series of photos of a single object taken in rapid succession to capture minute motion (a portrait’s blinking eyes, for example), which are replayed consecutively.
Zankoul’s cinemagraph “Heartbeat” depicts a seated woman, specifically framing her from her chest to her knees. She wears a white dress and holds on her lap a glass jar containing a blue butterfly.
There is nothing extraordinary in this tableau itself, which has doubtless been captured in still photos innumerable times, but in the movement the cinemagraph selectively lends to it. Quite literally contained within the frame of the glass jar, the movement brings a dream-like aspect to the scene, implying something about hope and freedom.
The wise use of color convention here is as significant to the poetry of this work as its employment of cinemagraphic movement.
The trapped insect’s beating wings are a vivid blue – perhaps evoking the sky toward which the bug aspires to escape – trimmed in black, which is generally a funerary hue. Though the girl’s dress is white, suggesting innocence, her bright red fingernails recollect a carnivore’s bloodied talons. Yet, flensed of the distraction that might be provoked by the girl’s facial expression, the composition’s overall effect is harmonious and decorative.
In Zankoul’s other installation, entitled “Gossiper,” four teapots hang from a ceiling. One of them sways gently, as if moved by a breeze. This teapot is the gossiper suggested in the title, the one member of the group fidgeting, as though vibrating from the juicy information it contains.
The still photos are of varied genre. Some portray frankly surrealistic tableaux. In “Window Absorbed” for instance, a woman clad in a white gown clings to a window frame of a room whose decor and floor tiling suggest a late-Ottoman lineage.
Her body is nearly parallel to the floor, as though she’s being elevated by a supernatural force arising from the antique floor – or else being “blown” by the gale of contemporary reality issuing defiantly through the closed window.
Again, Zankoul makes good use of light, shadow and color, with the predominant blues and white – juxtaposed with the minimal use of flesh tone in her hands and the floor’s floral pattern – imbuing the work with an aspect of the sacral, or its opposite.
“Drown in Dreams” represents a woman lying on bed, sleeping. This bed is situated in a body of water near the brink of what appears to be a small waterfall. She is clad in a light green gown and wears a floral laurel in her hair, conveying the impression of a fairytale – a variation on the Sleeping Beauty theme.
Zankoul’s photograph “Birds” represents a man seen from the back, wearing a suit and a porkpie hat. He gazes skyward at three eponymous “birds,” which are actually airborne bowties.
Some arts aficionados may find an insinuation of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte here. He was fond of depicting men in hats – witness works like “Man in a Bowler Hat,” “The Son of Man” and “The Horrendous Stopper.”
Zankoul’s bowties appear to hover in the air, as if taking advantage of their newly liberated status.
The works in “Depths” reflect a range of moods and, as it were, depth. A clever patchwork of realism and surrealism, the fantastical and the mundane, these works are highly wall-worthy.
Lara Zankoul’s “Depths” is up at Ayyam Gallery until Feb. 15. For more information, please call 01-374-450.