1001 Nights, 1001 Works!

From July 21 to August 26, 2018
Alice Mogabgab – Beirut presents at Faqra Club, La Boîte
1001 Nights, 1001 Works !
Group exhibition
Paintings, sculptures, photos, ceramics, installations.

French version (PDF) Arabic version (PDF)

It often seems to me that the night is even more richly coloured than the day.
Vincent VAN GOGH, Letter to his sister, Arles, September 1888.

Art into the Night. The night, a major source of inspiration in the history of art, continues to fascinate artists. First apparent in the Orient towards the end of the 8th century in the folk tales of Thousand and One Nights, translated from Persian to Arabic, it becomes increasingly important in Western art in the centuries to follow. The night appears in book illuminations, notably in Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg brothers between 1412 and 1416. From the 16th century onwards the technical developments of the pictorial tradition enables artists to paint the night on a par with the day. Out of the medieval darkness emerges in the course of time artworks glorifying the light. From the torments of humanity artist seek to render the beauty of colours. But the night also suggests solitude, tranquillity, heartache, dreaming, amazement, vast starry skies … a world that our summer exhibition humbly attempts to explore.

Galerie Alice Mogabgab is pleased to present the opening exhibition Art into the Night with works from fifteen contemporary artists Saturday 21 July, at La Boîte, Faqra Club, with moodsetter Médéa Azouri. This iconic discotheque dating back to the years of the war brought together Lebanese people from all walks of life who gathered there to forget the violent fighting and to celebrate love, music, dancing, life. Closed since 1991, La Boîte is now reopening its doors to art and contemporary creative freedom.

Fifteen artists: painting, sculpture, photography, graphic art, video, installation and contemporary ceramics. The exhibition begins at the entrance to the Auberge de Faqra with Aurora by Hannibal Srouji.
It continues on the ground floor through the lounges leading to La Femme endormie by Takayoshi Sakabe, situated at the entrance to La Boîte.
The stairs take the visitor down to the hostesses’ vestibule transformed into a gallery of stars.  
A few steps further on the doors to La Boîte open up wide, and one’s body is swept along by the night. Hellish nights all the way to the dance floor lit by the glittering Discoworld, from the bar of human folly to the foot of the gigantic midnight tree, from the victorious g-strings to the curvy dreaming Venus, here everything is sensuality, intensity.
A black half-open curtain designates the entrance to the billiard room, to constellations and starry heavens.

Hannibal Srouji, born in Lebanon in 1957, works into his landscapes with acrylic colours and fire. This last element conjures up the destructive years of the civil war that took him away from his country. Upon his return to Lebanon where he teaches and regularly exhibits at the Galerie Janine Rubeiz, the artist denounces the collective amnesia, the erasure from our memory of this tragic episode of our history. If the violence is not explicit in his works, the burns are indeed evident. Aurora is a painting from 2002, representing a landscape at night, a night that goes on and on and with which the exhibition L’Art au bout de la nuit / Art Into the Night opens.

Dawn is at the heart of Zina El Edlibi’s works, mixing painting and calligraphy. Born in Syria in 1960, she was influenced by a grand-mother artist residing in Istanbul; and also by a learned father who initiated her to the beauty of Arab literature. Quite early, Zina El Edlibi mastered the techniques of calligraphy, very specifically the Diwani school; she applies this knowledge to her artistic venture. Her works encompass large graphic compositions, painted in a way where curved signals mingle with shaded tonalities, as to show the poetry of words and colors. May the Night Take Your Dreams Beyond Dawn (ليحمل اليل احلامك من بعد الفجر) is the title of the painting exposed at the commencement of this journey into the heart of the night.

Takayoshi Sakabe, born in Japan in 1953, has painted a large series of the different faces of a young sleeping woman. These variations of the reclining female body, eyes closed, blanket clasped by a hand, head resting on a pillow, as though to highlight the represented being’s deep sleep, unfolds during the day. An ambient greyness and white reflections around the hair indicate this. For Takayoshi Sakabe, who practices Butoh in his daily life and in his painting, the beings in his work reside between movement and immobility, between dance and death, between apparition and disappearance, between “the lost origin and the untraceable end”.

The ceramics by Jean Girel, born in France in 1947, do not belong to our day and age, or to any other in fact. Arising out of earth, fire, water and air, they are the result of forty years of research on Chinese ceramics from the Song Dynasty (950 – 1279). Jean Girel attempts to rediscover the lost technique of the Jian artisan potters, the makers of “yohen tenmoku” bowls. Formerly used for preparing and drinking tea, these bowls incorporated dazzling iridescent reflections, comparable to the sparkling stars across the heavens. Today, three intact examples are preserved in Japan and classed as national treasures. Jean Girel continues his research and exposes – in a humble bowl – his own stunning realisations of the night, the stars and the light.   

Invited by Galerie Alice Mogabgab, François Sargologo, multi-disciplinary artist, born in Lebanon in 1955, has been represented by Galerie Janine Rubeiz since 1994. In his recent photographs, issued from the series Beyrouth Empire, the artist creates his artistic universe from ancient photographs found in family albums. The association from these memories, inscribed in a circular black-and-white landscape, reveals a dreamlike world in which dream and reality come together under starry moonlit skies, in bright daylight.

Nicolas Tourte, video artist, sculptor, graphic designer and photographer, born in France in 1977, creates seemingly simple images, seeking through these to question notions of time and movement, codes and landmarks. In the exhibited video, Deux lunes, two moons move round in circles; one clockwise, the other anticlockwise. They rotate at the same pace, like two turntables on a mixer. An arresting movement, a temporality of circular cycles. Two holes through which one may look – as through binoculars – into another world, the world of art.

From the Syrian graphic artist Azza Abo Rebieh, born in 1980, Galerie Alice Mogabgab presents a series of ten prints produced in Beirut in 2018 upon her release from Syrian prison. For the young woman, who spent four months in a prison cell, her 120 nights are synonymous with a very long wait. “At night I transmitted my thoughts to people who knew me but who were unaware of where I was; every night seemed like an eternity. And with every new day the hope of getting out would fill me.” The artist’s first solo exhibition took place in March 2018 at Galerie 392 Rmeil 393.

Andrée Hochar Fattal, born in Lebanon in 1942, has been working with clay for fifty years, kneading, forming, smoothing and refining it. She sculpts curvy, voluptuous female bodies. Torsos, thighs and legs are shaped into generous rounded forms, cast in bronze and given a patina the colour of the night. These female figures present themselves as forbidden fruit, ripe, generous and sensual. Fattal’s sculptures are entitled Le sommeil, Rêve d’Orient.

For Samuel Coisne, born in Belgium in 1980, the night is first of all an artist’s privileged “moment-place” where points of references from the daytime disappear and give way to another spatial dimension, to another freedom of perception. From his window in his Brussels studio Coisne explores the starry skies, the constellations, the brightness of the stars, the infinite depth of space – this space that fascinates and inspires him. According to Adèle Santocono: “Discoworld is made of fragile and glittering mosaics. With sections of its tiny mirrors having been removed the facetted disco-ball preserves the outline of the continents. Illuminated, the world soars up as glitter, dissolving into a starry sky on the walls of the exhibition.” This sensitive and optimist vision of the world converges with the series Constellations in which violence and fragility come together. In Make Your Own Universe, Samuel Coisne recreates a piece of the universe with shards of glass and thus constructs a window onto the night.

In the series of photographs Strings, produced immediately after the war of 2006, Gilbert Hage, born in Lebanon in 1966, continues to sharpen – with his lens – his focus on Lebanese society. Sitting in a bar in the capital, young women seen from the rear, their low-rise trousers negligently/deliberately revealing their g-strings. This accessory for women, symbol of sexual emancipation, has according to the artist been used in a significant manner in the city’s various public spaces, as though to defy a certain authority, the one establishing itself in the wake of the “Divine Victory”. Hage’s photographs are exhibited by Galerie Tanit.

Charles Belle, born in France in 1956, has been enthralled by painting and by the night since childhood. Tous les reliefs d’une nuit is the recollection of his meeting with a tree during a nocturnal walk, of the tree’s awesome presence. The night is also tranquillity, serenity, time to breathe, to feel and listen to oneself. It is a moment of possibilities, in which the artist’s sensibility liberates itself to be closer to the mysterious beauty of nature. Belle has for some years kept two nocturnal birds in his studio: From atop their perch a pair of owls keeps the painter company when working at night.

There are plenty of nocturnal aspects in the work by the painter Gilles Marrey, born in France in 1963. In his landscapes as well as his interiors the night is evoked not only through the presence of electric light sources, street lights, lamps, chandeliers, lanterns, torches illuminating the scene, but also through a nocturnal colour scheme ranging from hues of ultramarine to the brightest whites. Le bruit de la nuit is the title of a series of paintings representing an unspoilt deserted beach where the continuously undulating waves contrast with the glittering lights of the distant city. 

The early paintings in the series Cœur de nuit by Malgorzata Paszko, born in Poland in 1956, appeared in 2010, at the same time as another series of landscapes entitled Clair de jour, both of which were exhibited at Galerie Alice Mogabgab in 2013. These nocturnal landscapes represented avenues, large streets, apartment blocks, and were entitled La ville, la nuit, il y a vingt ans. Like a remembrance from one’s youth, pent-up, buried for years, these images of the night have re-emerged and become an essential subject matter for the artist. Urban landscapes of yesterday with vast starry skies brought back today from China, with no geography of space, everything being light, waves and quivers.

With her camera lens, Nancy Debs Hadad, born in Lebanon in 1966, gazes at microscopic circuits, scrutinises their inextricable networks and examines these memory safes, witnesses of a bygone yet recent time, conjuring up nocturnal landscapes – starry skies, far away constellations and wonderful, brightly lit cities.

Back to books. Etel Adnan, born in Lebanon in 1925, paints enigmatic and colourful landscapes. She is also a philosopher and a poet. In 2017 she published Nuit with Editions de l’Attente. Here it states: “My memories form a forest of unstable contours. This forest can be entered in northern California, in Lebanon, in Brittany … It is a ground with tall trees and strange spirits. The dead no longer frightens us, that is wrong – we have shaken off the power of fear. Streams are flowing, yes, but who can tell me how to find a way across the land I am talking about, and if I do not find it, what will be my reason for living?
Reason and memory move together.
And night and memory arbitrate between themselves. We drift through them, disoriented, for they often refuse to confirm our vision.
Mean and capricious, they release things little by little.”