Works by Chant Avedissian, Ayman Baalbaki, Matthew Corbin Bishop, Parastou Forouhar, Shadi Ghadirian and Hassan Hajjaj.
Since last year, ‘spring’ has come to connote something spectacularly different when used in context with the Arab world. Today, many Middle Eastern countries are sprouting their own green shoots of change after a long dull winter.
In Shadi Ghadirian’s NIL NIL 10 things are not as simple as they seem: the colourful vitality of Spring’s produce sits in an uneasy, precarious balance with the grenade, suggesting the ease with which this sumptuous, tantalizing, fresh bounty can sometimes be destroyed.
With the equilibrium so delicate, Chant Avedissian’s Tutti Frutti is a perfect counterpoint to the optimism of Spring - his fruit bowl overflows with ripe decadence. Conversely, in his monumental and vibrant work, Scenes of Egypt – Rural, ripe mangoes accompany a beautiful seamstress as she weaves vibrant textiles, as a metaphor for the bounty of creativity. Avedissian’s work is a celebration, an A-Z of the triumphs of his Egypt. It points to a majestic period in Egyptian history revolving around personalities from its golden era of film and music, and symbols from its historical and social iconography.
Beneath the sophisticated digital drawings on paper of Parastou Forouhar’s Green is my Name is a sense of dread that resurfaces. The camouflaging, psychedelic nature of the pattern hides a depressing undercurrent of torture and human violation – all-too-familiar scenes from the Middle East during the recent uprisings.
In the same violent vein, Ayman Baalbaki’s bombed buildings stand in front of brooding skies. The destruction of Lebanon during the long winter of the civil war is captured in his impasto renderings. But there is a real life about his brush strokes and the impressive output of his production. In many of his works the buildings are painted on floral textiles, as if he always knew the growth of spring would allow Lebanon to flourish once again.
The works of Matthew Corbin Bishop take this theme to yet another level. Using enlarged stamps to form paintings, the works centre around the now-partitioned Ottoman Empire. Around it, new states emerge from the rumble, pointing at the ever-evolving nature of geopolitics throughout history and producing a pilot for the Arab spring, the newest episode in this long line of seasons.