Untitled | Ayman Baalbaki

Untitled 2009 | Painting 50,7 x 76,6 Inch

Discover the biography and all work of the artist

Ayman Baalbaki, a Lebanese artist, grew up with war. When just three, he went into exile with his family in Beirut, finding himself in a multi-ethnic city in which various religions and colours intermingled under the constant fear of fighting.

As a result, war is automatically part of his life. He paints life, and so war is the main subject of his art.

Here, in this monumental or indeed sculptural self-portrait, Ayman Baalbaki plays with contrasts, and with denunciation: the red and white scarf surrounding this face alludes to the scarves used by peasants working the land to protect themselves from dust; it makes no reference to Palestinian scarves, as one might have thought. On the other hand, the violence with which this fabric was painted with a knife, in a thick, rough layer, like splashes of blood, contrasts with the background which, in almost pastel hues, is so delicate and harmonious. Ayman Baalbaki paints on fabric not canvas. He uses a colourful fabric with a flower motif made in China and which makes reference to the works of Matisse.

Indeed, the artist, a former pupil of the Ecole nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs in Paris, shows in this work his interest in the art of Henri Matisse, with its arabesque motifs in carpets and wall-hangings.

In a certain way, this is the history of art, revised and applied to today's world, to daily life. It should be noted that this fabric was used in all houses for curtains or tablecloths.

Thus, this portrait of a man, whose eyes alone are visible, scrutinises the spectator from above. It is an intense but not hard look, filled with dogged determination. It captures our attention and forces us to look beyond the flower meadows of southern Lebanon where the artist was born, beyond the memory of his grandmother's dresses, taking us into the modern era in which Lebanon's bright colours are stained with blood.

Lebanon, China, France: Ayman Baalbaki has created a powerful work with a diversity of references. An appealing work which aims to denounce war and hostility. He believes strongly in the power of art to act as a witness, as a tool for making people aware of ideas.