If you happen to walk or drive in the quarter of Wadi Abu Jmeel nowadays, you may stumble upon a cluster of peculiar-looking geometrical creatures. The 16 massive (apparently unnamed) metal sculptures that have been gathered in Zeitouneh Square constitute the stuff of “Shattered Sun,” Lebanese artist Anachar Basbous’ first solo exhibition, which is being staged by the Beirut Exhibition Center.
Basbous is not the first sculptor to emerge from his family. He is the only son of Michel Basbous (1921-1981), one of the country’s most renowned modernist sculptors and the most accomplished of three artist brothers. The family hails from the north Lebanese village of Rachana – “Anachar” is Rachana spelt backward.
In his lifetime, the elder Basbous transformed the village into an open-air art space devoted to the work of himself and that of other family members, which some Lebanese prize an artistic and national monument.
“Shattered Sun” suggests the family’s artistic genes are still robust in the makeup Anachar Basbous.
“I have waited a long time before deciding to expose myself,” Basbous says in the artist’s statement he composed for this show, “to exhibit my sculptures, some 32 years since my first attempt at my father’s studio.”
The outdoor exhibition in Zeitouneh Square holds that same purpose in making art accessible to anyone and keeping the artistic inheritance told by a father to his son. “This location [Zeitouneh Square] was perfect by its simplicity,” said Anachar Basbous, “its platform and neutrality in colors.” He further explained how the best light for sculptures was the light of the sun.
For some onlookers, Basbous’ deconstructed geometrical shapes may suggest something vaguely interplanetary, whether cosmic or organic. Basbous might appreciate such reading, as he’s described his work to be “interrelated with the stars, planets ... just like an astral spirit.”
There is considerable variety in these metallic works. Made from iron, copper and stainless steel, they range in color from oxidized-looking browns to the polished sheen of chromium and gold to more painterly hues – all displayed on uniform white and grey plinths.
There is an aspect of cyclical dispersion in these works, whether it express itself in the shape of the pieces themselves or the spiralling movement that creates the impression of deconstructive movement.
Basbous was personally involved in deploying his work about Zeitouneh Square. While installing his sculptures the afternoon before the show’s opening, Basbous says he precisely analyzed the space in order to decide where to locate each sculpture. More than merely wanting the exhibition to be in harmony with the setting, it is as though Basbous were working with light and balance to transform the square into a three-dimensional canvas.
Meandering on Zeitouneh Square, onlookers will be struck by Basbous’ sculptures. Thanks to their monumental size, the work radiates a certain power, yet it is also replete in tranquility. Depending on the angle from which you gaze at them, the works are multiply allusive. Some works evoke an assemblage of metal circles. Others resemble butterflies, birds or abstract representations of human beings.
Basbous’ work is at once reminiscent of his father’s abstractions and originals. Within the fountain of Zeitouneh Square, one sculpture moves nonchalantly, buffeted by waves produced by the water jets like an abandoned child’s toy. The piece immediately attracts the eye. Painted bright yellow, the work suggests the artist is referencing the sun. The combination of splashing water and the sculpture’s movement can have a relaxing, almost hypnotizing effect.from daily star.