Its a numbers game
Hady Sy is an artist of premonitory ability. In 2017, two years before Lebanon’s devastating financial crash, he proposed Zero Dollar, a project based on the concept of SIFR/Zero, using this idea to explicate something of the complex relationship between art and value, art and the market, between the human and our many machines.
The notion of SIFR/Zero comes to rest with the Persian polymath Al Khwarizimi, known as the father of modern geometry, by way of Mayan and Indian cultures. Sy’s tracing of the roots of SIFR as originating outside of the western world, and its subsequent significance to a global financial market, is no accident. The intention to provoke thought on the pervasive nature of racism, in its many permutations, lies at the root of his work (In God We Trust, One Blood)
Today, numbers continue to ground this artist, and his current project explores a myriad of culturally significant numerals, striking a careful balance between the personal and symbolic to explore the way that form informs meaning. At the moment of the Beirut port explosion Sy looked up to see 6.09 on the clock
on the wall. Here, a personal moment of revelation is transformed into a sculptural form, providing for the viewer an explorable, almost tangible space between signifier and experience.
In his current work, Sy is again preoccupied with human experience seen through an inhuman frame. Increasingly, he argues, humans have become dehumanized through their association with numbers, and his work aims to humanize them. From everyday transactions to the unforgiving face of war, and from search engines to medicine, numbers have come to represent, even subsume, individuals. Seen from this perspective, perhaps we have become that liminal space between signifier and experience opened by Sy through his numeric concentration.
In any case, absurdity is key, and as testament to this, Sy’s huge statement sculpture of the number googol is its clearest form. Written as the digit one followed by one hundred zeros, the googol is perhaps the largest number, and was inspiration for the name of google, the infamous search engine. Taking us back to SIFR, Sy’s representation of the googol in sculptural form, is a testament to the banal absurdity of numeric order in the face of human life.
What world will this work of numeric order foretell? The countdown begins...
Its a numbers game
7 March - 6 April, 2024
What quiet places, full of possibility
It has softness, the coal, not the silky softness of a child (we will return to the child) but dense, wild, and somehow mute, a softness that refuses speech, sound.
Baalbaki’s coal structures are familiar if ambiguous. Neo-classical architecture melds with places of worship, old forms that creak and tug, slipping between the civic, philanthropic, religious. But it is the material that takes over, seizes the mind and pulls us into form, The joy of the attempt, the human in the world.
This work began in innocent instinct, the coal seen as children’s blocks for building. Through play Baalbaki works his way deep into soft blackness and out into the adult world. From there, he renders what are perhaps the most adult of edifices, temple, church, mosque, museum, bank.
It’s a work of faith, a reach for connection felt more than explained. In the softness of coal, its healing, velvet coat, and in our knowledge of its properties, its scarcity, its increasingly golden allegory, there is a contemplative moment, a reflection on what it is that drives us, what we really need.
3 August - 2 September, 2023
15 February-23 March, 2024
Lebanese landscapes, a venture of belonging
What does the painting say about our landscapes? The spatial element seems to include an affective, emotional, and patriotic appropriation. While the landscape appears sometimes as a stable observation, it can at other moments convey a dynamic element of evolving thought. The multiplicity of works presented here stands out against the homogenization of our lifestyles and raises questions about its role in contemporary production. Why do we transition from the classic panorama of the past to a single tree and, more recently, to a detail of botanical anatomy? What is the profile of the author of this artwork? The first impressionists are the pioneers of an expression that their successors developed during and after the civil war leading to the contemporary creation that we know.
The eternal dimension is carried by the brush of Georges Daoud Corm and Khalil Saleeby while the intensity of light in the watercolors of Omar Onsi, Philippe Mourani, César Gemayel, Mustafa Farroukh, and Maroun Tomb irradiates us. The landscape as a mental force line in Saliba Douaihy's work is intriguing, whereas the works of Youssef Howayek, Georges Cyr, Boris Novikoff, Jean Kober, Rachid Wehbe, Khalil Zoughaib, Sophie Yeramian, Farid Mansour, Elias Abou Rizk contribute to the awakening of
a national sentiment.
The absence of human presence in the vastness of the plain in Rafic Charaf and Jamil Molaeb's works distinguishes itself from the dazzling lights of Shafiq Abboud, Stelio Scamanga, Vera Yeramian, Michel El Mir, Amine El Bacha, Stephan Lokos, Farid Haddad, Samir Khaddaj, Abdel Hamid Baalbaki, or Theo Mansour. A sense of belonging marks the production of Etel Adnan, Samia Osseiran, Aref El Rayess, and Mohammad El Rawas.
In abstraction, the deconstructed approach to traditional landscape notions, experimentation with form, color, and texture convey conceptual ideas. Danièle Genadry focuses on the fragility of landscapes, Hala Ezzeddine explores chaos, Paul Wakim adds color, Hala Choucair captures the minimalist graphic dimension, and Mazen Rifai and Ribal Molaeb emphasize softness. Sometimes, the landscape expresses environmental concerns. Tamara Haddad crystallizes the changes affecting the earth, and Jack Dabaghian measures technological advances. In the works of Sibylle Tarazi and Oussama Baalbaki, emotion prevails over realistic representation while retaining a figurative spirit; it's all a matter of balance!
Artistic preferences evolve, new artistic movements emerge. Does the landscape remain a timeless subject for the emotion it evokes, its beauty, and its connection to humanity? The popularity of this theme raises questions about its links to cultural, social, and artistic factors. -Randa Sadaka