Hamra’s Agial Art Gallery has a new exhibition of work up by Lebanese artist Nadia Safieddine.
Inside the gallery, the smell of paint still drying hits you with force. Oil paint reaches out at you from the canvasses – layers of colors and textures atop the various works by Nadia Safieddine.
The pieces in “Elegy” are all abstract portraits – Safieddine says she starts with a specific face in mind and then becomes more abstract as she works through the piece. She puts herself in her work; each piece ultimately contains some of her, and some of the subject. “It’s a piece of me, a piece of them,” she said at the exhibit’s opening on June 21, clad in a summery blue top and grey slacks.
The titles instill fear and fascination, “Predateur, “Le vilain,” “Le poète maudit.” The broad canvases contain multitudes, like an enclosed universe to discover. There might be a patch of minimal texture here, multiple tubes of paint piled on over there. Shades of blue like a body decomposing, splashes of red, like blood. A pink face, a body in motion, a bright green spot in a corner, inexplicable but hopeful nonetheless.
I’ve passed by Hamra’s Agial Art Gallery nearly every day for over a year, and this was the first exhibit that stopped me in my tracks. The pieces grab you, urgently. Inside small gallery doesn’t give you quite enough space to look, it seems you would need a space the size of a movie theater to fully step back and to appreciate each work at a distance, to experience the movement of the works. And then you would want to step in close, very close, to examine the interplay of colors, the variations in texture.
And this is how Safieddine works, too, constantly stepping back from the painting then returning up-close to the work. She listens to music as she paints, but it’s not just pleasant background noise to keep her mind occupied. Rather, Safieddine, a trained pianist, listens to Wagner, to Bach, to Giacinto Scelsi, she may replay a specific movement over and over again. The music informs and inspires her work as much as the subjects she paints.
Safieddine was born in Senegal and studied painting in Beirut’s Lebanese University. Her work has been shown in Estonia, France, Germany, and Lebanon, and she currently lives and works between Beirut and Berlin. With “Elegy” she marks her status as one of the most interesting painters on the scene today. Her work has even caught the attention of the World Bank who acquired a portrait of Safieddine’s father for their Washington, DC headquarters.
tel. +9611345213. Runs through August 22.