Like newspapers, galleries too can look back on the past year’s work. That’s the substance of the exhibition “Red. Yellow. Blue,” nowadays up at the Art Circle sub-space – the Hamra gallery’s second location, situated in the Horseshoe Building, above Costa Cafe.
The show features paintings, sculptures, accessories and furniture design from Lebanese artists Mona Jabbour, Wissam Beydoun, Nawf and Nivine Matar, to name a few.
A series of 12 untitled watercolors with charcoal by 30-something Semaan Khawam provokes a state of compassion in onlookers. The subjects of this emerging artist seem to be male, but the representational detail is so sparing that matters of gender are left uncertain.
These visages are roughly drawn with little detail. Most seem to be bearded – or is it shadow? Given the artist’s background, onlookers may assume his subjects too are of Middle Eastern origin, but there is no reason to assume such.
Khawam works mainly with yellow and brown watercolors, with intriguing layers of red paint employed on some parts of the faces. Some of these reddish brushstrokes have the aspect of fluid leaking from the skull, chin or eyes. Are these thin applications of red supposed to represent blood? If so, what are the circumstances of the figures’ injuries?
If Khawam has set out to depict human injury, it has been completely abstracted from any narrative context, political or otherwise. The figures haven’t been placed before distinct background washes, the texture and hue of each figure’s context being exactly the same as his (or her?) skin tone.
Art Circle’s sub-space opened its doors in mid-November with a mandate to display mainly Lebanese artists. The space opened with Laudi Abillama’s recent works under the name of “The Great Depression.”
Also on display are 15 plaster sculptures by Mohammad Abdallah. The title, “Protesters,” suggests what the artist intends to represent, though at first it’s difficult to decipher what Abdallah has in mind.
Although thin in width, and therefore seemingly fragile, Abdallah’s works represent animals known for their strength – most of them symbolize bulls or goats, or Taurus and Aries, their astrological totems. Horns can be seen to be projecting from the sides of the works, either curled or straight depending on the species.
Though there is little that is representational for the viewer to clasp onto – nothing in the sculptures’ bases accurately represent the animals’ legs, for instance – there is an aura of the surreal that emanates from Abdallah’s ensemble. One instant, you may be facing a diminutive interpretation of the Trojan Horse. Then, the next, Abdallah’s wildlife appears to be arrayed in eerie battle formation.
Other Art Circle artists seem to focus their energies on more classical or historical subjects.
Made of bits of cardboard and newspaper, Mona Jabbour’s untitled collages of depicted figures will ring out with local familiarity. Thinly shaped, bronze-hued and marked by pointed headdresses, Jabbour’s figures resemble the small metallic statues of Phoenician lineage that can be found in numerous souvenirs shops across the country.
Though the subject seems familiar, some viewers may find Jabbour’s collages numbing, triggering little in the way of emotional response.
An assortment of ink-on-paper drawings by Wissam Beydoun, on the other hand, does provoke emotional response. Small in size, each work’s surface is covered with blotches of vivid color. The host of geometrical shapes – circles, squares and so forth – evident in each work makes it tempting to see the works as abstract. Yet the works are actually figurative, with human figures (male or female) residing at the center of each piece.
Beydoun’s drawings are not unlike puzzles for the onlooker’s eye to assemble. In one of the untitled works, brown, red, yellow and black squares enclose a vivid swirl of colors at the center. Following a pair of pink lines, then a skirt-like green patch the work resolves into a seated woman with her arms crossed, seemingly surrounded by a crowd of humanoid figures.
For those who are more interested in accessories, the show includes work by a trio of 20-something designers. Dia Batal’s work consists of cushions, tables and chairs engraved with Arabic calligraphy. Colorful handmade scarves and broaches by Nivine Matar are also on display, as are handmade cushions by Nawf Matar.
Art Circle’s last exhibition for 2011 has an omnibus quality, one that will speak to various tastes and sensibilities.
“Red. Yellow. Blue” is on display at Hamra’s Art Circle until Jan. 14. For more information please call 03-027-776.