BEIRUT: For the 13th year in a row, Hamra’s Zamaan Gallery is displaying an enormous selection of paintings by Iraqi artists.
“Palettes Irakiennes XIII” exposes Iraq’s identity to a Lebanese public through the work of prominent and younger artists, proving that despite the tense situation in the country artistic production continues.
More than 50 paintings by at least 25 painters are exhibited in the spacious venue. Work by Ali Abbas, Tahsein el Zeidy, Leila Kubba Kawash, Omran Kaissy, Riyad Nemah and many more immerse viewers into an artistic world that still has some secrets to unveil.
From abstract to figurative and expressionist, the works displayed provide a kaleidoscopic view of Iraqi art.
Born in 1968, Riyad Nemah’s paintings – which were exhibited at the Beirut Souks in March – are suffused with omnipresent blue hues. One untitled work is a close-up of a young boy’s face. The viewer cannot but be amazed by Nemah’s technique and by the emotions emanating from the portrait.
Scrutinizing Nemah’s painting reveals that the facial features were not drawn beforehand. The face has appeared step by step, throughout numerous applications of blue paint.
It is not the first time that paintings by Tahsein al Zeidy have been exhibited locally either. One of the artists included in the AFAK exhibitions, organized by curator Razan Chatti, Zeidy creates works that plunge viewers in an eerie, almost surreal artistic world.
Like Nemah, Zeidy has chosen to portray a child. His untitled work on show at Zamaan conveys a peaceful image of a boy playing violin. The blue, red and yellow hues create the impression of looking at a character straight out of a comic strip. The result isn’t disturbing, however. On the contrary, Zeidy welcomes the viewer into his realm.
Ali Abbas held a solo exhibition at Zamaan in 2008. Entitled “From Baghdad/ Beirut to Sydney,” this show proved the artist’s attachment to specific symbols and motifs, which are also present in this year’s exhibition.
One of his untitled works captures a woman wearing a necklace that holds a key, supported by a beige triangle that represents the Tower of Babel. The identity of the woman is left unknown, in order to emphasize the significance of the objects, rather than the individual.
Other characteristics of his art are the geometrical shapes, similar to those on Iraqi carpets and Arabic calligraphy.
As is always a risk in collective exhibitions, some works are not as appealing as others. Ossama Hassan’s paintings have a childlike touch that can be disconcerting. Both works on show portray women, one playing an instrument, another being kissed. Although the scenes are nothing out of the ordinary, Hassan’s technique is uneven.
The hand of the musician is disproportioned to the rest of her body, which creates the impression that someone else’s hand is playing the instrument for her. As for the other painting, it is lacking any detailed features, as though the artist painted it in a hurry.
The broad spectrum of work on show does mean that viewers are likely to find pieces of art that will suit their picky artistic tastes. “Palettes Irakiennes XIII” shows definitively the interest and benefits inherent in showcasing a specific country’s artistic production.
“Palettes Irakiennes XIII” is on show at Zamaan Gallery until Oct. 13. For more information, please call 01-745-571.