Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sumayyah Samaha: Darkness Ushers Dawn

The Blues, 2007, watercolor and mixed media on paper, 22.5 x 17.5inches

From May 29th to July 5th 2008 Skoto Gallery presents "Darknes Ushers Dawn" an exhibition of recent mixed media paintings and drawings by Lebanese born artist Sumayyah Samaha.

interior shot of exhibition @ Skoto Gallery.

"Atmospheric and emotive, Sumayyah Samaha’s paintings are at once expressive and internal. Saturated color and overlying textures demonstrate a command of medium, giving a multidimensional feel to the work. Although abstract, the artist’s compositions often allude to figurative elements, particularly those found in nature. This is most visible in Samaha’s work of the late 90s in which the Catskill Mountains and the dramatic landscapes of her native Lebanon serve as inspiration. In these oil paintings, vibrant reds, rich browns and, deep blues and purples give way to imposing mountainous forms that overpower moody and tumultuous skies. Suggestive of an earth that is in constant dialogue with the cosmos, these compositions overpower the viewer with colorist interpretations of the forces of nature. In a previous series, these interpretations appeared in more evident forms such as flowers or human figures.

Also included in the exhibition are several works on paper that reveal another aspect of the artist’s oeuvre. In recent years Samaha has been creating work that communicates the catastrophic nature of current Middle Eastern political conflicts. After traveling to Lebanon in 2001 and witnessing the disintegrating state of political affairs in the region, she was overcome by an intensifying sense of urgency. Upon returning to New York, she began to explore different ways of articulating the delicate nature of lives held under siege. It is at this point that her work began to change, as she explored the affect of war and occupation on civilian life. Using a variety of media—including watercolor, ceramic, charcoal, monoprints and thread—Samaha strived to capture the adversities of violence. Fragile, solemn and pensive—although executed with bold hues and vigorous brushstrokes—this series engrosses viewers in a perpetual state of devastation, as we are unable to escape the profound nature of the work. Her most recent series—a departure from such mournful examples—speaks of a new stage, one distinguished by pulsating eruptions of color in which volcanic textures create depth and dimension. Such progression has inspired the title of her latest solo exhibition, Darkness Ushers Dawn.

This recent series of oil paintings has Samaha returning to her signature vivid palette. In these works we find the vertical division of the canvas, indicating an epicenter from which explosions of energy are expelled. An innate tension is evident—perhaps resonating from the previous political series—as brilliant blue, red and orange oceans crash into darker, earth-toned hues of black, brown and grey. Although it is a near-violent collision, the dramatic meeting of light and dark, these works are optimistic and speak of life and motion.

Sumayyah Samaha
was born in Shweir, Lebanon in 1939. She received a MFA from the University of Pittsburgh in 1965. Samaha has been exhibiting her work since the late 1970s and has held twelve solo exhibitions in New York—where she is based—in addition to being featured throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East. As co-founder of 22 Wooster Gallery in 1978 and an active member of the gallery for ten years, she was instrumental in creating an independent space for artists in the New York art scene. She is recognized as one of the leading Arab artists in the country."

This excerpt is taken from the exhibition press release written by Maymanah Farhat, art historian and writer currently based in New York City.

Randa Mirza: Parallel Universes

Randa Mirza. Untitled #2 from the series Parallel Universes, 90cm x 58cm, 2008

Look through old family photographs and there is Grandma on her honeymoon in Paris, pictures from a camping trip in Vermont, or a snapshot of kids posing with Mickey Mouse. These are standard photographs taken during countless vacations that serve as tangible reminders of the intimate past.

On any given day peruse the newspaper and there are much different images. Bombed out buildings, men with guns, mothers crying while holding their injured loved ones. These images remind us that there is suffering, violence and pain on a daily basis. The individuals who capture these moments are bearing witness to what is taking place around them.

what happens when snap shots and photojournalism photography collide?

Randa Mirza takes the term war tourism and presents it in its most literal form. The series "Parallel Universes" addresses the passive spectator and the global media’s macabre fascination with violence by playing with this collision. A beautiful blond poses with a V for victory in front of a checkpoint, two men contemplate a body at the scene of a car crash or Japanese tourists take pictures of a burning car. In each of the images in this series there is an unsettling juxtaposition between the tourist’s calm and the chaotic environment that surrounds each of them. By doing so Ms. Mirza encourages us to question the facility with which human suffering is depicted around the globe to an audience that is more often than not indifferent to its emotional significance.



With this first posting Art and Blow is going back a few years to a time and place where superheros like the Hulk and Spiderman just weren’t cutting it. It was time for a wiser, more powerful female superhero. Thanks to SuperHajja, an animation from the creative duo at GreyMog, we can all rest easy knowing that there is someone with unique powers to call on in times of need.