The "thawra" has broken every possible barrier, even in the arts
“Revolutionary” art has taken hold of the Janine Rubeiz’s Gallery… and will continue to do so until further notice.
To say that the art of the revolution is "exposed" at the Rawshe gallery would be an understatement. Instead, one can say that it has taken hold of the place, with vitality and expressiveness. Above all, it has done so with the full and delighted support of Nadine Begdache, the gallery’s owner.
From the first weeks of the revolution, Begdache showed her absolute support of the popular uprising that started on October 17, 2019. Following the interruption of previously planned exhibitions, she concretely demonstrated this support by opening the gallery’s space and walls to artists who have created works inspired by the revolutionary spirit and fervor.
A canvas in 72 hours
And there are many! To begin with, after outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave a speech asking for 72 hours to present a program of reforms, Ghassan Ouais gave himself 72 hours to paint a reflection of his vision of freedom. The end result shows a pregnant woman’s silhouette in ink and acrylic on cotton paper. It’s a double allegory for freedom and the role of women in the uprising, which aims to give birth to a better Lebanon.
Jamil Molaed, the gallery’s leading artist, was among the first to immortalize the revolutionary gatherings taking place across different regions of the country using the abounding touch and vivacity that characterizes his work.
A whole wall in the gallery is dedicated to his oils on canvas that depict and highlight specific moments in the national uprising in a definite picturesque style. "One last area is missing in this series: the one of Baalbek. which I am currently working on," says the famous painter, who is known for his love for beret hats.
Flag with fists and stretched out legs
In a less narrative style, another "house artist", Leila Jabre Jureidini, also immortalized "this wind of positive change" by revisiting the national flag as well as the Monument to the Lebanese Martyrs through contemporary graphic codes infused with the symbols of the “thawra”. Jureidini turned the now iconic revolutionary first (designed by Tarek Shehab) into a new national flag in an acrylic painting on canvas titled “We the (Lebanese) People”.
Faithful to his falsely naive and childlike style and using mixed techniques on paper, Alain Vassoyan spontaneously sketched caricatured visions of politicians with long noses and headless silhouettes holding weapons pointed at their challengers. He also turned the demonstrators into revolutionary angels composed of small, winged effigies made of colored resin and patina and using humor, paid tribute to the “female power” of the revolution through a series of small sculptures made of multiple legs wearing red stilettos and stretching toward the sky.
Also on the topic of female power, Laure Ghorayeb’s ink and paper drawings cannot be missed. At the age of 88, the famous "teta (grandmother) of the revolution"is pursuing her artistic journey, full of affect and reminiscences.
An egg and some masks…
Various symbols of the October revolution are represented in different ways throughout the exhibition. The Lebanese flag adorns Laine Rabbath’s life-size ball gown, made of barbed-wire, as well as the face of a protester portrayed by Frederic Husseuini. It is also ever-present on several canvases painted by Elie Bourgeily, who worked in mixed media, and Theirry Shehab, using delicate watercolors. And Samar Mogharbel, a ceramist, transformed it into a red sandstone pot carrying a cedar bud.
Other visual symbols that have become linked to this historical moment are also artistically represented in the exhibition. In a beautiful photographic composition titled “This Revolution is Ours”, Lama Chidiac captures the masks and candles that have become the main accessories of young, peaceful revolutionaries. The famous Egg in downtown, a relic of pre-war times that has been repossessed by protesters, also appears in many photos (Zeina Badran) and drawings (Marylin Mokbel) in this section of the exhibit.
There are also more abstract works, such as pieces by Hannibal Srouji that are made out of black slivers on longitudinal tracing paper, Mansour el-Habre’s colored canvas that is reminiscent of a wall with chipped paint overlays or Tania Nasr’s deliberately fractured porcelain helmet.
On a different note, there is also a very unusual “Bicycle of the Revolution”. It is a free acrylic on canvas, by Selim Moawad, that welcomes visitors at the entrance of the gallery. Moawad, a very active artist, had his bike stolen by one of the counter-revolutionaries while he was drawing on a wall in one of the protest squares in Beirut. He decided to turn the incident into an allegory for anti-corruption and placed the bicycle at the center of an immaculate canvas surrounded by goats and punctuated by revolutionary slogans. Moawad wants the work to be interactive and complemented it with several graffiti bombs so that visitors can contribute to it as they wish, as if they were using colors to sign a petition.
Between well-established artists and spontaneous artistic expression, all born in the fervor of the moment (like a Lebanese flag with the cedar replaced by the word "thawra" in Arabic drawn by a young 12 to 13 years old talent), this exhibition is a reflection of the popular uprising that identifies itself as a united movement and a breaker of barriers. Like the "thawra", this exhibit is destined to evolve according to events and to regularly enrich itself with new artworks. It is certainly a must-see!
Janine Rubeiz Gallery, Rawshe, Majdalani Building.
(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 9th of December)