Since its launch in 2009, Ayyam Gallery Beirut has become a staple of the local art scene and a hub for new talent. Today, the Marina district outpost is widely recognised for charting the regional development of contemporary art through bimonthly exhibitions and concurrent programs that spotlight a selection of the Middle East’s foremost painters, sculptors, and photographers. Karam and Dahoul will be brought together as a nod to the gallery’s inaugural event, which highlighted the acclaimed artists through a joint exhibition.
Nadim Karam will debut a series of new steel works exploring his ongoing Hap-situs (Happening + Situation) concept, an interventionist project that utilises whimsical urban sculptures, what the artist refers to as ‘toys,’ to punctuate the existing social stagnation of cities seized by political precarity or rigid structures. Karam’s latest sculptures are based on an extensive, recurring cast of imaginative characters, ‘organisms’ that alter the cityscape through playful and absurd imagery, providing a new sense of physical and visual dynamism to a given area. The ‘ephemeral’ nature of these sculptures, which manifests aesthetically and three-dimensionally, is essential to their potential as social intercessions. Certain sculptures, for example, are designed to move throughout urban spaces. The artist’s Diva on a Rhino (2014) depicts a shimmering four-armed protagonist whose stylised body appears as a cross between the figuration of Phoenician statues and an extraterrestrial being, merging the past with the future in the present. The corten steel rhino that serves as her figurative chariot possesses a hollow body with an outer shell of intricate cutout scenes. For Karam, this fragmented facet of the object provides the visual articulation of its transient quality, allowing for a multiplicity of interpretations.
Safwan Dahoul will be represented with new installments to his continuing Dream series, a body of work that he has produced over the course of nearly two decades. With the outbreak of the war in Syria, the painter has addressed the human toll of the conflict through the symbolism of his psychologically laden compositions. In Dahoul’s latest monochrome works, the compact interiors that surround his recognisable heroine have contracted further, as the confines of her shelter appear to be closing in on her form; she is coiled, overpowered, or cornered by the physical dimensions of her setting, and is without a refuge or exit. References to the impact of the outside world are made through imagery such as rainfall that douses her from an open window, an architectural detail that has served as a metaphoric motif for the artist in the past, as her body seems to disappear before the viewer.
In conjunction with the opening of the fifth anniversary show on 30 October, Ayyam Projects, a sister space located next to Ayyam Beirut, will be launched. This new gallery will offer a special focus on experimental practices by highlighting cutting-edge photography, conceptual art, installation, video, and new media.