Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Lahd Gallery is proud to present Suhair Sibai , our artist of the month.

SuhairSibai says of her own work that its focus is division and displacement of the ‘self’ within society. 

This is a complex perspective, both for an artist and for the work itself as they sits at the juncture of parallel worlds. Politically there is the residue of essentialism, otherness and absence to deal with. However, this occurs alongside the impact of a new global political order and the highly politicised gender debate which questions the very notion of female ‘self’.

Sibai’s work offers up image after image of strong women whose expressions are still somehow veiled by the invisible yet tangible continued misogyny evident across the globe. 
Each figure, the artist, suggests is a vehicle, a cipher, a conduit for her intent. 
Her philosophy is grand, some might say, impossible as through her art ‘universal truths’ which ‘transcend boundaries of place, gender and time’ will be uncovered.
Suhair Sibai was born in Syria in 1956 and confidently straddles the divide between Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Dubai and Damascus or east and west where her work is continuously being exhibited. Sibai is therefore fully conversant with the blurring of boundaries. Globalisation, multi-culturalism and the clash between secularism, tradition and religious fundamentalism all fight to be heard and are strangely present in her output.

Division and displacement are prevalent from the faces which confront the viewer in Sibai’s paintings. The colours suggest vibrancy, life, euphoria even, but the figures themselves exude otherness, melancholy and an other-worldly atmosphere which hints at suffering, loss, isolation, abuse even which is unsettling and provocative in equal measure. The viewer is involved in the narrative and each piece appears to cry ‘Look at me!’ but simultaneously, ‘Don’t look!’

Orientalism, which was such a seminal part of the West Imperialist hegemony in the 19th century, may have been exposed for the deeply colonial construction it was. But perhaps, Sibai feels discord, displacement and division of the self is actually the product of our new world order where identity is no longer ‘a given’ (sic) and we occupy simultaneous notions of self.

Therefore philosophies and beliefs are taken and ‘mashed’; metaphors are re-applied, interstices are breeding grounds for clash and extremism, distortion and alteration. Sibai demonstrates clearly the integral relationship between representation and context, meaning and audience.
As Manet’s  Olympia challenged the male gaze in the 19th century, Sibai’s young women may well be defiant and say, ‘I am here and I am not scared.’ 
But there is a hint of an underlying menace lurking somewhere beyond the frame which suggests these may be brave words. The clever contrast of uplifting tonal palettes with the intensity of the stare is profound. The viewer is tricked into expecting one thing and being presented with a different vision. ‘No Fear’  is itself enigmatic, disturbing yet rallying at the same time.
In fact, one of Sibai’s paintings has been chosen as the cover for a new novel entitled Dreams in the Medina  by Kati Woronka .Set in Syria and is a coming of age story of a group of young Syrian women whose education changes their lives. Sibai’s work is obviously a talisman for young women who are challenging expectations just as the artist does in her paintings.
Suhair Sibai’s work was exhibited at the Lahd Gallery  in an exhibition entitled Sweet Melancholy  which closed in March 2013. 

You can still see her last available works at http://shop.lahdgallery.com/product/suhair-no-fear/

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