Beirut Exhibit: Art is a Political Protest

Beirut Exhibit: Art is a Political Protest

Four years ago, Nadine Kanawati was gazing out the window at two political parties who were both burning tires as a way of expressing political protest.

“How ironic, to use the same tool despite protesting for different reasons,” she recalls thinking. “I decided I was going to join this rebellion, as an artist, in my own way.”

Tires, as a concept and as a tool, are the common thread through her solo exhibition at CUB Gallery in Badaro. “The Road Ahead” is Kanawati’s first solo show, and the first such exhibition in the gallery.

One of the artist’s paintings, “Vicious Circle,” was shown in the gallery’s debut group exhibition.

Gallery co-founder Nathalie Ackawi tells The Daily Star that CUB gave Kanawati this solo opportunity because it was impressed by her participation in the debut show and the clarity of her message.

“Nadine had a vision, a concept she wanted to develop,” she says. “She just needed a push and space.”

Kanawati works with acrylics and canvas, but her paintings also include shredded tires and tire powder. Her pieces reflect upon society and her disappointment with it.

Her color palette – black, gray and yellow – represents the tires, the asphalt and the flames, and expresses her ambivalent feelings about this means of protest.

The pieces depict a cycle of protest, surrender and hope. It looks like a roadblock but Kanawati, whose studies focused on art therapy, believes there’s a movement forward. After all, the exhibition is titled “The Road Ahead.”

Kanawati says her practice revolves around intuition and looking inward. “It has a lot to do with emotions and the present time,” she says. “At the stage I’m at, I talk about the urgent present and I believe that there is a change that has to come.”

She feels that her work has had an impact of those who have come for a tour of her show. “Most of the time I sensed that people were disturbed,” she says. “To me, that’s positive because it means I succeeded in transmitting my message. Moving the viewer, making him feel, think and react to the work – that’s what I’m looking for.”

CUB Gallery’s mission, Ackawi says, is to provide a platform for students of fine arts or fresh graduates, up to three years after graduation.

The exhibition space is an initiative of the FFA Private Bank and the Beirut Art Residency.

“We give them the chance to start exhibiting their work in a professional setting, selling their work, getting their work known. The whole idea is to fill this gap between your studies and the first few years after graduation to help young artists get into the art world.”

Ackawi believes that the CUB’s work is critical. “Lack of opportunities [means] many students decide not to be artists at the end,” she says. “We want to change this.”

To do so, the gallery works with art and other creative students at various Lebanese universities.

The gallery’s first group exhibition featured work by 16 2017 graduates from the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, the Lebanese University, the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts and Notre Dame University – Louaize.

“We’ve just started and there are lots of ways to help them,” Ackawi says. “Going to see end-of-year projects, documenting them, getting to know them, and to have them describe their work, work on their bios, portfolios. We have established artists meeting them too.”

“The Road Ahead” is up at CUB Gallery through June 29.

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