Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon, born 1975) Barriers II
Lot 442
Ayman Baalbaki
(Lebanon, born 1975)
Barriers II
Sold for £52,500 (US$ 89,286) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon, born 1975)
Barriers II
acrylic on canvas
initialled in Arabic and dated "12" in English (lower right), executed in 2012
140 x 210cm (55 1/8 x 82 11/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Property from a private collection, London

    Published:
    Rose Issa, Ayman Baalbaki: Beirut Again & Again, Beyond Art Publication, 2011, p. 103

    Ayman Baalbaki's art is defined by war; as both its victim and observer, Baalbaki's fixation with conflict is manifest throughout his life and work. Born in 1975, the year of the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, his family were forced to flee Rass-el Dikweneh when he was only a few months old. The sceptre of war would loom over Baalbaki's head throughout his life, with his home in Haret Hreik being obliterated during the Israeli attacks of 2006.

    When it came to approaching his work as a painter Baalbaki naturally drew from the deep reservoir of memory formed by these disturbing experiences. Concerned with the link between imagery and memory, Baalbaki uses his art as a haunting aide-memoire to the conflict that has plagued Beirut, reminding people that even in times of relative piece, they should not disregard the deep systemic divisions that gave rise to conflict in the first place. Baalbaki explains that this conceptual initiative is "based on what Neitzche called the "imposition of memory. After the war, whoever had experienced it, tried to erase its effects and impact from his/her memory and surroundings, although the causes of war and its essence [were] still present in the city".

    The present work marks a rare shift way from figurative and architectural depictions, which were usually focused either on the "mulathaam" (freedom fighter) or war torn Beirut buildings. In Barriers II Baalbaki depicts one of the many road blockades that punctuate modern day Beirut.

    However, what at first seems like a simple piece of urban furniture on closer inspection is deeply symbolic and meaning-pregnant. Barriers inscribed with "Beirut" in Arabic stand at government blockades and checkpoints, while similar concrete barriers, depicted by Baalbaki elsewhere, are marked "Waed" (the Pledge), a Hizbullah construction initiative formed in 2006. The existence of blockades bearing the insignia of separate authorities highlights that fragmentation and division in Beirut exists not only on a social and religious level but has seeped into the topography of the urban landscape.

    The barrier itself can be seen as a self-alienating object. One which represents not only physical and spatial separation, but a far deeper paradoxical form of division; one which is self imposed. In this instance, the paradox is that the inhabitants of a city are no longer free to move by decree of their own custodians, by an apparatus that bears the familiar name of their own abode.

    Baalbaki's work is striking and visually overpowering, rendered in larger than life-size, it imitates the enormity and obstructive aura of the barriers themselves. The barrier is set against a rich floral background, which Baalbaki draws from the ornate textiles worn by the women of his grandmothers generation, and which introduce a feminine, maternal element to his work. An accomplished draughtsman and a keen chronicler of the plights of his native Beirut, the present work is a fine example of the artist at his emotive best.
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