Born in 1975,
2002 - 2003: D.E.A. in “Art of Images and Contemporary art” at Paris
2001 - 2002: Diploma of superior studies in Art-Space at the ENSAD,
1994 - 1998: Diploma of superior studies in Painting and Sculpting
at the Institute of Fine Art, Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon.
- France Embassy, Beirut
- Art is the answer!, Villa Empain (Boghossian Foundation),
- Beirut again and again, Rose issa projects, Londres.
- Contemporary Lebanese art exhibition, Royal College of Art, Londres.
- Traits d'Union - Paris et l'art contemporain arabe, Villa Emerige,
- The Future of a Promise, 54ème biennale de Venise.
- Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, Christie's,
- ArtDubai, Dubai.
- Menasart-Fair 2011, Beyrouth.
- “Ciel chargé de fleurs”, Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy. (solo)
- “Ciel chargé de fleurs”, Monica de Cardenas Galleria, Milano,
- Nujoom: Constellations of Arab Art from The Farjam Collection,
- Contemporary Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey.
- Zoom Contemporary Art Fair, Miami, USA.
- “Convergence: New Art From Lebanon”, Washington, USA.
- “Connecting Heavens”, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE.
- “Arabicity: Such A Near East”, Liverpool, UK.
- “Arabicity”, Beirut exhibition center, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Beirut City Center, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Including Arab & Iranian Art, London,
- Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern & South Asian Art,
- “Kasa 10.yil”, Sabanci University’s “Kasa Art Gallery”, Istanbul,
- “Ceci n’est pas la Suisse”, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK. (solo)
- “In the Middle of the Middle”, Sfeir-Semler, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Rafia Gallery, Damascus, Syria.
- International Modern & Contemporary Art, Christie’s, Dubai,
- Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Including Arab & Iranian Art, London,
- ArtDubai, Dubai, UAE.
- “Apocalyptic Transfiguration”, Agial Art Gallery, Lebanon.(solo)
- “Bos laf”, Sabanci University’s “Kasa Art Gallery”, Istanbul,
- Sotheby’s Contemporary Art, Doha, Qatar.
- ArtDubai, Dubai, UAE.
- International Modern & Contemporary Art, Christie’s, Dubai.
- AIW:A workshop, Aley, Lebanon.
- T-Marbouta, Beirut, Lebanon.(solo)
- Shatana workshop, Shatana, Jordan.
- «Ici est ailleurs», Agial Art Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Homage to Léopold-Sédar Senghor, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Arteclassica, 3era. Feria de Arte, Buenos Ayres, Argentina.
- XXIII biennial of Alexandria of the countries of the Mediterranean,
- National Museum of Niger, Niamey, Niger.
- « Studio 4-11», Belfast – UK.
2004: - “EL BAB”, Shams - Theatre of Beirut, Lebanon.
- “« Cm³ », CIUP, France.
- « Cerfs-volants d’artistes », Maison du Liban, CIUP,
- “Presence Absence” Maison du Liban, CIUP, France. (solo)
- “Imagining the Book”, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt.
- Manufacture des Oeillets (ENSAD), Paris - France.
- “Mulhouse 002” Acadamy of art in France, Mulhouse, France.
- CIUP, France.
- “ZARA GALLERY”, Amman, Jordan.
- “Darat Al - Founoun”, Amman, Jordan.
- CIUP, France.
- Association of the Lebanese Artists, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Cultural centre of Southern Lebanon, Beirut, Lebanon.
- “JABAL 98”, Tripoli, Lebanon.
1997: - Lebanese cultural Movement, Tyr, Lebanon.
1996: - «EMPREINTES», Maraya Gallery,
2005: - «Jeux
de la francophonie 2005» Silver Medal (painting), Niamey,
2003: - “Cm ³” (first prize), CIUP, France.
1996: - "EMPREINTES" (first prize), organized by Maraya
Gallery and Lebanese Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, Beirut,
An Exploration of Self through the Experience of War
by Sulaf Zakharia September, 2008
'I am part of
a generation of artists and writers who lived 20 years of it and
don't have anything to say but about war.'
Ayman Baalbaki was born in 1975, the year the Lebanese Civil War
started. It is therefore no surprise that he draws his inspiration
from war and the related themes of destruction and loss, emptiness,
both emotional and physical, retribution and the identity of the
victim. Intensely personal and highly cohesive, his latest exhibition
at Beirut's Agial Gallery is marked by the same candor and vulnerability
that has defined his previous shows.
In a 2006 interview, Baalbaki stated, 'The Lebanese don't want to
address the issue of the war.' It is this denial that he challenges
and confronts in this exhibition, in much the same way that Anselm
Keifer, who clearly inspires his style, controversially challenged
Germany's collective silence on the issues of the Second World War
and the Third Reich.
The exhibition is neatly, almost clinically, separated into two
distinct bodies of work, the portraits of dead buildings and those
of masked men. Wake Up Sisyphus symbolizes the process of transition
from one part of the exhibition to the other.
This brightly coloured installation constitutes a gentle visual
bridge between the two parts of the show. Against the backdrop of
a building in downtown Beirut, colourful family belongings are packed,
and along with rural pets, seem to be ready for the start of a trip.
The bright blue sky filled with red flowers is reminiscent of summer
holidays in the village.
However, the gaiety of the work belies its poignant autobiographical
content, its darkness almost immediately betrayed by its title.
Just as the ancient Corinthian king was condemned to perpetually
push a rock up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down each time
it reached the top, so too has Baalbaki been condemned to continual
displacement every time he settles.
Baalbaki's family was forced to flee Rass-el-Dikweneh by the outbreak
of civil war in 1975. He was only a few months old. They moved to
Wadi Abu-Jmil in downtown Beirut, a neighbourhood which became a
refuge for those displaced by the war. In 1995 the Baalbakis moved
out of Wadi Abu-Jmil to make way for the post-war wave of urban
development and the artist experienced a sense of displacement for
the first time. This time they moved to Haret Hreik. Five years
later, Baalbaki moved to Paris where he lived till 2004 and continued
to travel between Beirut and Paris till 2007. In 2006, the Israeli
attack on Beirut destroyed Baalbaki's home in Haret Hreik along
with all his belongings. It is this event that has inspired much
of Baalbaki's recent art.
Abbas al Mousawi Street, Yassine Building and Untitled capture not
only the physical but also the psychological devastation of the
2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. Bold, almost violent neo expressionist
brush strokes form dark, featureless buildings, partially or completely
destroyed, devoid of life and bleeding, looming against grey skies
and dominating the canvas. The plurality and the diminutive size
of the paintings that make up Untitled undermine the significance
of the destruction of any individual building and in so doing, underscore
the true magnitude of the devastation and exacerbate the sense of
loneliness and alienation. Equally devastated and devastating is
the comparatively monolithic Abbas al Al Mousawi Street, Yassine
Building, the subject of which was once the artist's home and studio.
Baalbaki's buildings are conspicuously devoid of human life which
appears to have fled, taking up residence in the second half of
his exhibition. But the humanity that emerges after the devastation
has been altered by the war. The young men are either wholly or
partially masked and women, children and old men are totally absent.
In Eye for an Eye, the viewer is confronted by 15 portraits of masked
young men, (perhaps self portraits), whose faces are hidden behind
a variety of masks, all associated with war: the traditional kaffiyeh,
the war helmet, the gas mask and the ominous hood.
Baalbaki's use of masks is a complex, multifaceted one. Unlike the
classical masks of Rome and Greece, his masks obliterate facial
features and thereby hide any visible indication of emotion. Instead,
it is his choice of mask that conveys the emotions hidden behind
it. One does not need to see the face under the hood to know it
hides unimaginable terror.
In his constant working and reworking of this motif, Baalbaki's
masks have ceased to be mere devices for protection or the maintenance
of anonymity. They have taken on a more fundamental function. He
now uses his mask in the same was as primitive cultures used theirs,
to mark a shift in a group's equilibrium, particularly in terms
of its relationship to death . In this case, his masks have only
emerged in the aftermath of the death and devastation of war.
The kaffiyeh figures prominently in Baalbaki's portraits. When he
first started painting his kaffiyeh portraits, viewers misread the
subject as Palestinians although he was painting faces that were
also very much a part of the Lebanese Civil War. With the Intifada
and the war in Iraq, his kaffiyeh-covered faces took on a broader
Middle Eastern rather than a Lebanese or Palestinian identity. In
Eye for an Eye, he presents the dichotomy of the kaffiyeh by positioning
it alongside portraits of soldiers in gas masks and war helmets
and war victims in hoods. Like Tarek Al-Ghoussein in his Self-Portrait
Series , Baalbaki's use of the kaffiyeh is a direct challenge to
the contradictory interpretations that have become attached to what
was once a humble headdress used to protect the wearer's face from
raging desert sands.
The portraits in this installation are mounted below a half open
shutter, as if hung in a shop window. The words Eye for an Eye in
Arabic script hang above the portraits, a clear demand for retribution.
Part of an ongoing experiment with surfaces that have 'a local uniqueness'
, Baalbaki paints the shutter a bright gold, like the backdrop of
a Byzantine icon, bestowing a certain beatification upon the young
men with the silently defiant eyes. Perhaps he has finally answered
Reem El-Jindi's question, 'Victim or terrorist?'
In God, Baalbaki once again draws inspiration from Byzantine iconography
for the installation's gold background and its curved top that the
he used because of its resemblance to the icon retable and the shape
of a tombstone . His canvas, this time, is the top of a traditional
vegetable cart. His lone figure looks up at the sky in resignation.
Above him, the Big Dipper recalls a story from Arabic mythology
of a funeral procession. The father, lying dead in the coffin (the
pan of the Big Dipper), is followed by his sons represented by the
three stars of the handle as they head in the direction of the North
Star, their father's killer, to seek vengeance.
While images of images of war dominate the exhibition, to say that
Ayman Baalbaki's theme is war would be a gross oversimplification.
It is not the war that fascinates him, but rather its impact on
the human psyche, and more specifically, his own. Despite his exploration
of broad themes, Baalbaki's work remains to a large degree introspective
in nature. His work poses the question, 'How has the war shaped
who I am?' with as much emphasis as makes a statement of the impact
on Lebanon and its people.
Article: The art of war - Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Article in French: Article
la série Tammouz, acrylique sur toile, 250 x 180 cm, 2012
Good morning Wadi Abu-jmil!,
multiple objects, approx. 100 x 100 x 160 cm, 2006
Some of the artist's artwork