A slew of art for summer at Janine Rubeiz Gallery

Rim El Jundi’s “Family Trip to Gaza Border” (mixed media-on-canvas, 100x120cm).

BEIRUT: Art exhibitions are often thin on the ground during the summer season. Many gallerists around the city have closed the doors of their artistic venues to enjoy the sunny days. This is not the case in Raouche’s Janine Rubeiz Gallery, which until the end of August is displaying a selection of paintings and sculptures gathered under the all-inclusive title “Recent Works.” The collective exhibition includes 39 artworks by local and regional artists including Ahmed Kleige, Charles Khoury, Mazen Kerbaj, Dalia Baassiri, Chafa Ghaddar and Leila Jabre Jureidini.

Displayed in the main hall and in the offices, the works blend diverse artistic techniques. From abstract to collage, acrylic-on-canvas paintings to bronzes, viewers are greeted with a wide choice of works to contemplate.

Syrian artist and member of the Syrian Fine Arts Union headquarters Ahmed Kleige has been exhibiting his works for several years around Beirut. The only painting on show is a 91x61cm untitled acrylic-on-canvas work. Kleige has captured a woman hiding behind a bullet-riddled wall, with only her face appearing. The color of her skin matches those of the wall – as though, like a chameleon, she is attempting to camouflage herself from unknown predators or enemies.

The woman’s eyes are intriguing. Kleige succeeded in rendering fear and anguish in her gaze. Eyes seem to be the artist’s leitmotiv, playing an important role in many of his works. Although this particular effort risks coming across as insipid, due to its lack of color, the impact this woman’s emotions have on the viewer is not reduced. Anyone looking at Kleige’s painting will find themselves compelled to try to understand what she is going through and why.

Lebanese artist Mohamad Saad is known for his recent dark and enthralling pieces. “Couple” – a 120x97cm acrylic-on-canvas – depicts an assemblage of discarded items heaped on what looks like a pile of rubble. Bundled together on a single canvas, half-buried, are Minnie Mouse, a cuddly toy in the shape of a horse, a dismantled fan, three cats (two of them engaged in humping each other), a sandal and what seems to be a broken bottle of perfume.

However – and this evinces Saad’s technique at its best – the more viewers scrutinize the painting, the more they will notice additional elements, which seem to spring into sight all of a sudden. The gray mass at the center of the canvas actually consists of the bodies of a man and a woman. They are both lying lifeless, sprawled in the dirt with their mouths open. These dead bodies do not immediately catch the eye of the viewer due to Saad’s subtle incorporation of them into the mountain of junk, as though just another part of the decor.

Those looking for something easier to digest might find their holy grail in Hanibal Srouji’s work, entitled “Circle.” This 32cm round acrylic-and-fire work seems to represent the moon stuck between two glass frames. On the left and right parts of the circle, blotches of paint can be seen. There is no certainty concerning what they represent, but they give the piece an astronomical aspect.

Some of the other works on show may leave viewers doubtful of the merits of such art. Laure Ghorayeb’s “Untitled” (19x10x6cm) is a messy collage of glued-on pearls, colorful beads and threads, which seem to be representing human figures. This type of art may be considered childish by some, as a consequence failing to hold the onlooker’s attention.

Rim El Jundi’s “Family Trip to Gaza Border” (mixed media-on-canvas, 100x120cm) depicts a man and two women sitting on the trunk of a yellow vintage Mercedes-Benz, suitcases piled up on its roof. The scene is surrounded by black-and-gray embroidery. The choice of these dark colors suggests the family’s harsh conditions of living and their difficult trip to the border. The dark colors are a stark contrast to the colorful center scene, creating an effect similar to the chiaroscuro technique used during the Renaissance period.

Leila Jabre Jureidini’s bronze sculptures are reminiscent of French artist Jean-Louis Toutain. Jureidini’s works are smaller than those of Toutain but they bear some similarities – both favor rotund figures with exaggerated body parts.

The sculptures on show at the Lebanese gallery capture a single character in different states, either “Overcoming,” “Breathing” or seeking “Balance.” Although their sizes are quite minimal there is a great deal of dynamism and movement in Jureidini’s works, which immediately attract the onlooker’s attention.

“Recent Works” are now up at Raouche’s Janine Rubeiz Gallery until Aug. 23. For more information, please call 01-868-290.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2013, on page 16.




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