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Nadine Elali

Children of Adam

Art that invokes the ancient to tell stories of today

Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines
Gres et Porcelaines

They look like artifacts, ancient sculptures from a distant past. They evoke the mystery of humankind and the many myths of our origins. They are primitive, naked, bold; they have come from afar, but to tell stories of today. “They show us that there are really no interruptions between ancient times and today,” says the artist who created them, Simone Fattal.

 

"Gres et Porcelaines,"now on exhibition at Beirut’s Galerie Tanit, features myriad pieces by the Syrian-born painter and sculptor. When asked to describe her work, Fattal told NOW that her sculptures are mythical and “abstracted; […] ideas of people more than real people.”

 

“I am not fond of details, and by that I mean I am no fan of figurative art,” says Fattal. “My work is mostly abstracted. There are some pieces which are figural but the majority are abstracted: they embody an idea, really.”

 

Her sculptures are certainly archaic. They do not belong to any specific category, nor do they give much importance to detail. It’s not easy to guess what they are or where they are from, yet although we have never seen them before, we somehow recognize them.

 

Among the exhibited pieces, there is a series of porcelain work – a limited series, says the artist – that evokes angels. The middle of the room features a collection of spherical bodies of clay with the 99 names of God engraved in them, in memory of a dear friend of the artist’s, and on the far-left side there is a set of standing figures, Fattal’s trademark.

 

“The first piece I did was of Adam from pre-historic times and I created him standing. In Islamic mysticism,” she explained, “Adam was very tall, and in order to make him tall, I made him with very long legs, and then the rest I did them the same.”

 

“I call them warriors,” says the artist. “For me, they represent our people in this region, who continue to withstand wars and struggles.” 

 

Fattal began her career as a painter, but during the Lebanese civil war, she left for California, where she later founded the Post-Apollo Press publishing house. Returning in 1989, she resumed her career as an artist, this time through the medium of ceramic sculpture. Out of clay, she says, she digs out “possibilities of life” and gives the voiceless earth a voice, a personality, a soul.

 

“I like clay very much,” she explains. “It is very tactile, it is earth, it is alive, and you can make it yourself. Also, when fired, it gives off these wonderful color pigments that don’t exist anywhere else.”

 

For Fattal, the creative process of producing such art has never been a matter of conscious deliberation. “The figures just come to be,” she says. “I don’t plan. I create as I go. I start working, and then the idea comes to me and the shape begins to take form.”

 

While living in Beirut before the war, Fattal visited many archeological sites in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq out of an abiding interest in the mythology of the region.

 

“All the epics and the old tales of the gods, Ishtar, and Babel – they all come to mind when I work,” she told NOW. “I didn’t know how completely I was immersed in them and how dear they were to me until I began seeing my final products. It is as if I was invoking them, calling them back to life, so they can come and live with us today.”

 

Although the resulting pieces feel familiar, in reality, explains Fattal, they have never existed before.

 

“They do come from very far, but, however, to tell the story of today. I am not interested in bringing them back to life as is. I would have imitated them,” she said. “I am really talking about what’s going on today. I really want them to tell us of today’s wars and struggles.”

 

"Gres et Porcelaines" is currently on exhibit at Galerie Tanit. The exhibition will run from June 25 to September 6.

"Gres et Porcelaines" will be showcased at Galerie Tanit until September 6. (NOW)

“I call them warriors. For me, they represent our people in this region, who continue to withstand wars and struggles.”