We take hands for granted as the principal means with which we (literally) grapple with the world. It goes without saying that hands play an important role in creative pursuits – applying to medical practice of treating a patient as much as the artistic practices of writing a book or creating an artwork.
Lebanese artist May Haddad highlighted some of that importance while discussing “La Revolution en Musique” (A Revolution in Music), her solo exhibition at Hamra’s Artwork Shop. This show features 29 untitled paintings which document the artist’s investigation of colors and music.
It is the artist’s hand that creates, Haddad said, “not the pencil, not the paintbrush, but the hand.”
For some years an art teacher at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), Haddad instructs her students on the importance of letting the hands go on the canvas. It is this freedom of movement that is felt when looking at her work.
Discussing her technique, she says she represents human figures by means of dots and lines. Her acrylics and watercolors are expressions of joyful human gatherings.
“I wanted to represent a mass of persons leading to happiness,” she said.
Orchestral musicians, particularly violinists and violists, often rendered in abstract terms, are omnipresent in “La Revolution en Musique.”
Haddad says that in creating these works, her hand instinctively paints dots and lines. The question of whether she represents violins, violas, cellos or what have you was spontaneous since they “bear lines and semicircles in their features ... My goal was to have oblique, straight or curvy lines.”
As they don’t aspire to naturalism, the shapes of musicians and their instruments are less central than the motion that the artist depicts.
Asked about the “revolution” in the exhibition title, Haddad said her works were painted while the Arab Spring events were unfolding, though for her a revolution has a different meaning.
“Since we heard everywhere in the media about these revolutions,” in the region, she said, “why not have a musical revolution? Why don’t the people demonstrate in the streets with music and instruments?”
The notion of motion characteristic of “revolution” (the principal meaning of the term before it came to be applied to politics) is central to Haddad’s work. The paintings exude the impression of movement on the part of the figures.
Indeed, Haddad remarked that while painting she felt as though she were playing music. Her hand was guiding the paintbrush as a conductor would guide an orchestra.
“It is similar to a graphic game,” she said, “almost like the arabesque” design technique. The lines and dots protrude from Haddad’s canvases like imprints or calligraphic scribbles found on some edifices.
The work “La Revolution en Musique” is a tour de force of color and movement. Haddad remarks that she used only five colors – magenta red, cyan blue, yellow, black and white – in these paintings.
In this respect the exhibition is also a remark upon how much variety of hue that can be pulled from a restricted – yet precise – palette.
May Haddad’s “La Revolution en Musique” is on display at Hamra’s Artwork Shop until April 27. For more information, please call 01-749-646 or 03-754-867.