dimanche 3 mai 2015

lundi 22 juillet 2013

Mohammad El Rawas: A Comfortable Discomfort

Since I discovered Mohammad El Rawas’ works at his Art Sawa solo show in Dubai last year, I’ve been mesmerized by his complex constructions – or I should say ‘deconstructions’. Each one of his compositions is a layered assemblage of objects and techniques, concepts and references. He borrows, modifies, alters, copies, pastes, reinterprets and decontextualizes everything he finds in the history of art from Italian renaissance to cubism, throughout haute couture and fashion, comics, architecture and photography. He even orders on Amazon the sexy figurines of Manga characters that populate his works. 

Rawas, like contemporary novelists Houellebecq and Murakami, epitomizes postmodernism in its most accessible and understandable dimensions. Indeed, all three artists excel at the art of deconstruction. For French philosopher Jacques Derrida who coined the concept, ‘deconstruction’ is not the process of ‘undoing construction’. There is a word for that, it’s ‘destruction’. ‘Deconstruction’ is the amalgam of two words i.e. destruction and construction. Therefore a process of destruction-construction or deconstruction is a process through which the artist, by inflicting destruction on something, constructs something else. That's what Rawas does in a composition like The Saga of a Reclining Model, Houellebecq in a novel like La Carte et le Territoire, and Murakami in his monumental 1Q84. 

Mohammas El Rawas
The Saga of a Reclining Model - Mohammad El Rawas - 2009 - 90/89/3cm
Oil, Acrylic, Mixed media and Assemblage on Plywood panel - Art Sawa

Rawas' juxtaposition of styles, genres and techniques, at times brutal, always surprising, mirrors the intertextuality used by French writer Michel Houellebecq in his novels. Houellebecq masters the subtle art of borrowing and decontextualizing the styles of authors that predated him. The reader can find in his texts accents suggesting Balzac in a sentence like « Et si le voyageur éphémère veut bien rappeler à sa mémoire... », Camus in the beginning of the sentence « Assisté à la mort d’un type, aujourd’hui... », Lautréamont in some of his poetic descriptions of rural France, etc. 

Evoking the influence of Georges Perec or Jorge Luis Borges, Houellebecq advocates the use of all sorts of ‘raw materials’ in literature, borrowing texts from sources as diverse as advertising, recipes, math problems or the user’s manuals of electronic devices. In his novel The Map and the Territory (La Carte et le Territoire), he even copied from French Wikipedia a description of how flies have sex. He argues that “taking passages word for word is not stealing as long as the motives are to recycle them for artistic purposes". His whole style, he points out, is based on borrowing banal and technical descriptions from everyday life and weaving them into something artistic. 
This approach, muddling real documents and fiction, has been used by many authors. I have been influenced especially by Perec and Borges... I hope that this contributes to the beauty of my books, using this kind of material. (Houellebecq in The Independent 8.9.2010) 
[Rawas]’ amalgam of styles, techniques and periods creates timeless universes, imaginary worlds that still evoke the all-too-real experience of contemporary life, with the fragmentation of identity and systematic tensions it entails. (Art from Lebanon, Nour Salamé Abillama, Marie Tomb)
If Rawas’ audacious amalgams and borrowings remind me of Houellebecq's use of intertextuality and pastiche, the peculiar atmospheres of the ‘imaginary worlds’ generated by these very amalgams evoke to me yet another writer: Japanese best selling contemporary novelist Haruki Murakami. The concomitant use by Rawas of techniques as extremely opposed as photorealism and surrealism, resonates with Murakami’s extensive use of magic realism – of which some characteristic features are the mingling and juxtaposition of the realistic and the fantastic or bizarre, skillful time shifts, convoluted and even labyrinthine narratives and plots, miscellaneous use of dreams, myths and fairy stories, expressionistic and even surrealistic description, arcane erudition, the element of surprise or abrupt shock, the horrific and the inexplicable (Wikipedia - Postmodern literature). 

1Q84 is an alternate version of year 1984 with an obvious reference to Georges Orwell. In 1Q84, two moons instead of one are hanging in the sky and the same causes don’t produce the same effects. The Sakigake cult described in the novel is a historical reference to the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was responsible for the Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995. The abrupt way of speaking of 17-year-old dyslexic high school student Fuka-Eri is compensated by the enthralling shape of her breasts. While part-time assassin Aomame, the main female character of the novel, has an unbridled sex life with older men she meets in Tokyo’s bars and hotels. And we could go on for pages listing Murakami’s ‘unrealistic’ tableaux. 

Everything in Murakami’s books, from the mysteries left unresolved, to the hentai-like sexual tension they are loaded with, and their altered – foreign yet familiar – atmospheres, produce a very Rawas-ian puzzling uneasiness doubled with a comfortable discomfort.

mardi 25 juin 2013

Freeing Angelica

"Freeing Angelica" est une œuvre du peintre libanais Mohammad El Rawas montée en 2009 et directement inspirée d’un tableau peint par Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres en 1819, soit exactement 190 ans plus tôt. Le tableau d’Ingres intitulé "Roger délivrant Angélique" est lui-même inspiré d’un chant de l’Arioste publié en 1516 : Orlando furioso.

Mohammad Rawas
Mohammad Al Rawas, Freeing Angelica,  76/69/3cm, Oil, Acrylic, Encaustic
Mixed media and Assemblage on Plywood Panel, 2009
Les assemblages de Rawas sont à mi-chemin entre peintures, sculptures et installations. Il copie, colle, emprunte, modifie, altère, réinterprète allègrement tout ce qu’il trouve, tant dans la grande que dans la petite histoire de l’art. De la renaissance italienne au cubisme, en passant par la haute couture, la bande dessinée, l’architecture et la photographie, il va jusqu'à commander, sur le site de vente en ligne Amazon, les figurines de mangas affriolantes qui peuplent ses œuvres.

L’amalgame de styles, de techniques et d’époques crée des univers atemporels, des mondes imaginaires qui évoquent l’expérience très réelle de la vie contemporaine, avec tout ce qu’elle comporte de fragmentation identitaire et de tensions systématiques. (L'Art au Liban, Nour Salamé Abillama, Marie Tomb)

Naked Woman Angelica Ingres
Ingres, Étude pour la
figure d'Angélique, Louvre
Cette juxtaposition de styles, de genres et de techniques, parfois brutale, relève d’une intertextualité presque Houellebecqienne. En effet : 

(...) lorsque par exemple Houellebecq parodie le style d’un autre écrivain. Dominique Noguez note par exemple des traits balzaciens dans une phrase comme « Et si le voyageur éphémère veut bien rappeler à sa mémoire... », camusiens dans le début de la phrase « Assisté à la mort d’un type, aujourd’hui... », ou bien des formes similaires à Lautréamont dans des descriptions poétiques du paysage. (Wikipedia)

A partir de la fin des années 1980, Rawas introduit une troisième dimension à ses œuvres en s’inspirant des boites de l’artiste surréaliste américain Joseph Cornell dont les œuvres les plus caractéristiques sont des assemblages créés à partir d’objets trouvés et d'emprunts à des oeuvres existantes. Ci-dessous, pour sa construction "Medici Boy", Cornell emprunte le célèbre "Portrait d’un garçon" de Pinturicchio, peintre italien du XVe siècle. La boite, l’assemblage d’objets, l’emprunt, tout évoque une filiation Cornell-Rawas.

Joseph Cornell Medici Boy
Untitled (Medici Boy) 1942-52
Construction, 13 15/16 x 11 3/16 x 3 7/8 in
Estate of Joseph Cornell
Pinturicchio Portrait of a Boy
Bernardino di Betto dit Pinturicchio
Portrait d'un garçon, c. 1500
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister






















Rawas s'inscrit ainsi dans la tradition des artistes postmodernes qui empruntent, pour leurs oeuvres, des images créées par d'autres. Le dadaïstes allemand Kurt Schwitters, par exemple, utilise pour ses collages des images trouvées dans les médias aux cotés de reproductions de tableaux célèbres.

Depuis 1979, Rawas a exposé individuellement à Beyrouth, Londres et Dubai et a participé à plus de 40 foires et biennales d'art.

D'autres oeuvres de Rawas sont disponibles a la Gallerie Art Sawa a Dubai.