Ghosts of War

post 140/365

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Life persists, among a field of death, shallow, bleeding but still with breath. A flag once soaring high, now bathed in red still lies standing, among the fallen dream. The skies are smoke, thick and hot like an inferno of battle and shells. The earth is painted in shades of brown but where splashes of red taint the ground. While innocence dies, the flag endures to war’s overtures.

While red paint drips from concrete blocks used as protective barriers in the streets of Beirut, and massive textured craters mark the earth, Omar Fakhoury calls upon the colors of the Lebanese flag and the damaged surface of the country’s skin to document his first hand account of the country’s political situation and history of conflict.

Omar Fakhoury, a visual artist living and working in Beirut, was born in Beit Chabab in 1979. Fakhoury is a multidisciplinary visual artist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Drawing from the Lebanese University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Paris I- Sorbonne. He is currently a lecturer at the Lebanese University (IBA II) and at the University of Saint-Joseph (IESAV).

There is something quiet uneasy about his paintings. Exploring the shelters and habitats of the city’s entries: The army, construction site workers and car parking security guards, we enter into a familiar world that has taken an eerie sense under the spell of his brush. Bloodshed and national identity are weaved in chromatic, fragmented canvases. Images recognized as symbols for home, are married with ghostly scenes of imminent warfare, unveiling a country struggling for a sense of existence. The iconic Lebanese cedar lies de-rooted in painted works that evoke a country in a constant state of “Self Defense.”

What Omar Fakhoury portrays as ordinary scenes from the spectacle of a country’s uncertain present times, scenes in which the visible and invisible dynamics of erecting, modifying or recycling memorials and monuments translate the power dynamics of communities over territory. The roadblocks he so famously highlights are placed strategically on what is considered key locations all over Lebanon and as entry points to different regions. Fakhoury’s work depicts the trappings of occupation or fortification with barriers, barbed wire and walls of an entity within an entity all under the fearful eye of its soldiers. His paintings are, in this context anyway, like an unshakable postwar dream of trauma, adding up to a collective portrait of a country under duress. His roadblock (known as hajeiz in Lebanon) series carry the emblem of the Lebanese national flag: a cedar tree floating between red stripes. The sense of menace builds in an image where the paintings seem to bleed out of their frame, and maybe out of their context.

This world, our world, that he builds on a bleeding canvas is mingled with blisters and scar tissue of a war that although seems far-gone, are still very much alive in our collective memory and very much still feared.

Nothing is untouched. Nothing is unwounded. As you stare into his paintings, you can almost hear the stillness of a ghostly past meandering through the drips of paint that bleed for a country that still hasn’t recovered from its past.

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