BEIRUT: Enter the Art Factum Gallery and you will be visually stimulated by the quality of works on show. The first exhibition in an annual series, entitled “Potpourri 001,” gathers paintings, photographs and blueprints by such artists as Leila Alaoui, Mustapha Azeroual, Tanya Traboulsi, Dario Alvarez Basso, Caroline Tabet and Mazen Haidar, among others.
This artistic potpourri lends the gallery an extensive and varied choice of works, enabling viewers to see both those whose works have already been exhibited and those who are displaying their art for this specific occasion only. The wide space of the venue permits each artist’s work to be displayed in its own microcosm, preventing the impression that art has been crammed into every available space.
Leila Alaoui’s two photographs submerge onlookers into Moroccan culture. Two men, staring straight at the lens, are dressed in traditional outfits. One sports a long black-and-white djellaba, the other more colorful attire.
The viewer cannot help but be attracted by these photographs. Alaoui has used a black background in order to emphasize the subject. Any kind of background would have diverted the eye. This lack of special context does not reduce the impact of the photographs on the viewer. On the contrary, it brings out the traditions and culture of the region.
A selection of watercolors by Spain’s Dario Alvarez Basso reveals the artist’s vision of the local flora. Flowers and vividly colored plants create a sort of patchwork effect.
Basso’s bright color palette recalls a vibrancy characteristic of Hispanic paintings. Some of the works on show are framed, while others are left bare in order to emphasize their relationship with nature, and the rough texture of the paper.
Tanya Traboulsi is a renowned artist, one of the laureates for this year’s Boghossian Prize, that will see Traboulsi, or the shortlisted Carla Baz and Doborah Phares rewarded Oct. 1 for their creativity and involvement in the arts.
Several of Traboulsi’s photographs are now on show at Art Factum. Her vision of Lebanese society is portrayed through a set of two pictures of a young woman sitting and wearing what looks to be a dress but one so heavily layered that the veils overwhelm the subject, almost preventing the viewer from seeing her face.
These veils can be seen as the embodiment of society, which step by step takes control of us, preventing us from expressing our true nature.
Each of Traboulsi’s other photographs – part of the series “Fog” – captures a character in a room. The dimmed light gives them a gloomy impression, and the technique used by the artist results in blurred subjects.
The body and facial features can’t be deciphered, as though they are caught in movement in a motionless context. Is this fog – referred to in the title – suggestive of the subjects’ ongoing quest for identity?
Among the other works on show, viewers will probably be amazed by Mustapha Azeroual’s pieces. Those looking at some of his works will probably think they are watercolors. But herein lies Azeroual’s skill – these are not watercolors, but photographs.
Art Factum’s managing assistant Rana Zaher explains to The Daily Star that Azeroual exposes his photographs on thick grainy paper, using specific chemicals to create this watery effect.
The photographs – originally capturing landscapes – now portray abstract slices of color. The artist’s techniques will blow the viewer’s mind, displaying a metamorphosis from one art form to another.
One of Azeroual’s objectives was to show Parisian and suburban life and spaces, and one series of photographs focuses on the business area of the city’s La Defense neighborhood.
Those looking closely at three of his shots may notice he has juxtaposed several scenes into one. This accumulation of photographs results in a deep, almost surreal representation of the outdoor space.
Architectural columns, fountains and buildings form a geometrical pattern that has been minutely studied by the artist. Nothing here is random.
Another transformation can be seen in Mazen Haidar’s works. Haidar, who trained as an architect, has created blueprints of old balustrades, which he exhibits as pieces of art. Balustrades from Hamra, Al-Zarif and from an unidentified public park convey the impression of looking at mazes. Haidar shows how these architectural sketches can be seen as relics of forgotten times.
The collective exhibition also gathers high-quality works by German artist Christiane Baumgartner, who captures a revisited vision of Berlin, and two mixed-media pieces by Naiza H. Khan, portraying an abandoned Pakistani town.
“Potpourri 001” is up at Karantina’s Art Factum Gallery until Oct. 18. For more information, please call 01-443-263.