Marwan Sahmarani // Marie, Marie, the devil in me has taken you for a ride.
Marwan Sahmarani is one of the most skilled and diverse contemporary artists that have come out of Lebanon in recent years. He is based in Beirut, but his work is far reaching and universal in scope and meaning. Having been educated in Europe, Sahmarani’s work explores the dark side of mankind, and quotes directly from classical sources, ranging from Islamic and Mesopotamian traditions, Classical Greek and Roman to late Gothic and the Renaissance.
War, greed, politics, sexuality, hedonism and decay, are some of the themes explored in Sahmarani’s work. Having recently become a father, in his latest work he grapples with the conflicting notions of the solitary and self-absorbed life of the artist and the all-giving, involved father-figure. Moving away from his earlier socio-political work, his current pieces show a much more palpable intimacy and sensitivity.
Born in 1970, Sahmarani left Lebanon in 1989 to study at the École Supérieur d’Art Graphique in Paris. His art, although always quoting from Western pictorial traditions, is deeply rooted in his Middle Eastern heritage, and the artist’s identity between East and West is fascinating to observe. In his own words, ‘Painting is what leads me and not the other way around. It is an expression of my background and of the context in which I grew up and formulated my ideas.’
His fluid brush and deeply expressive colours burst with motion and emotion. From his oils to his watercolours and prints, there is a vibrant energy to Sahmarani’s work which doesn’t fail to draw one in. He is a true draftsman, as attested by his beautifully executed drawings and watercolours. Nevertheless, he seeks expression in various media, which he has mastered – from watercolours to sculpture, ceramics and performance, Sahmarani is a true Renaissance artist of the modern Middle East.
Sahmarani has had solo exhibitions in Beirut, London, Montreal and Dubai, and has participated in shows in Washington and Mexico. His work has been featured in this year’s Thessaloniki Biennale, the Kunsthalle whiteBOX, Munich (2010) All About Beirut, and the exhibition Told/Untold/Retold at Mathaf, Doha (2010). In 2010, Sahmarani received the Abraaj Capital Art Prize and his work The Feast of the Damned’ was showcased at Art Dubai that year.
This is the second time that Sahmarani has shown his work with Lawrie Shabibi, and it is already a great success. The show is on until 16 February, and it is appropriately titled Marie, Marie, the devil in me has taken you for a ride.