In the new century, Lebanese art finds itself once again in the process of creating its own identity from a stew pot full of varied historical traditions. Lebanon’s multi-cultural history gives artists a unique perspective from which to view the world. Artists more than ever are putting themselves into the roles of historian and journalist where new community seeks to begin, not for the first time in the country’s history, a renaissance of Lebanese art. These five artists are among the vanguard of innovative painters and multidisciplinary artists who are committed to building a unique new identity for Lebanon in the wider world of art:
Nahas was born in Beirut in 1963, and his expressionistic images of war and peace are perhaps not unexpected from a painter whose youth was spent in an era of civil war. While clearly influenced by the hard geometry of Cubist formality and the rigidity of Western medieval art, he was trained in Paris.
Jean Marc Nahas | Courtesy of Jean Marc Nahas
One can find traces of folk traditions in the work of the Damascus-born Khawam, but
more prominent is the contemporary spirit of the artist as provocateur. Unlike the
classically trained Nahas, Khawam is self-taught and unafraid to dive into the political issues that confront residents of Beirut
, where he has lived since 1988. Khawam is a true multidisciplinary artist; his visual art encompasses sculpture, painting, graffiti and film, and he is an accomplished writer and poet as well.
Semaan Khawam | Courtesy of Seeman Khawam
The vigorous energy and unrestrained color in some of Sahmarani’s painting recalls most
directly the savagery of the Fauvists and the visible action of the Abstract Expressionists,
but in Sahmarani’s work also lurks the darker spectre of Expressionism. Having studied in Paris and lived in Montreal for years, Sahmarani is the epitome of the Lebanese artist who brings his knowledge of Western traditions to bear on the cultural context of his homeland. Now living and working back in Beirut, Sahmarani approaches themes of violence and death with a critical eye.
Courtesy of Marwan Sahmarani
Like many of his contemporaries, Baalbaki was trained in Paris but his work is unmistakably coloured by his youth in Lebanon during years of civil war. His depictions of fighters and ruined buildings are alarming in their subject matter, but the painter’s loose, Impressionistic style masks images of violence and destruction in the soft cloak of aesthetic beauty, setting up an unnerving contradiction.
Ayman Baalbaki | Courtesy of Ayman Baalbaki
Another self-taught, multidisciplinary artist, elChamaa was born in Beirut in 1960 and makes art that walks the border between abstraction and figurative imagery. Some of his paintings revel in pure color and texture, while others allow figures to emerge from the fields of colour, as if the images were evolving themselves.
Fadi elChamaa | Courtesy of Fadi elChamaa