Art does not always have to be an expression of truth in order to convey to us our social dilemmas. Sometimes, the artist’s role is to create a fictional narrative in order to communicate the essence of such dilemmas. Such a narrative is what Lebanese artist Sara Chaar presents to us in her (2020 – 2021) series ‘Imagined Certainty’, on display currently at Art on 56th Gallery in Gemmayze, Beirut. Sara has created an art-making process in which she makes, destroys and reconstructs her canvases. The result is a collection that is bold, captivating and, at the same time, telling of all the dilemmas and chaos Beirut is currently facing.
“So there is destruction followed by reconstruction, and I find there is something poetic about that. Because it is very much how we are as people.”
The paintings of the collection are abstract; they are also a reflection of the gestural work of the artist. Sara describes her art process as the follows: “My art process begins with many layers. I use different materials like wall plaster and I use pastels to draw. So I build them up, instinctually building the canvas up so that it is well textured with different layers.” Once she feels the canvas has reached a certain point, she takes a step back and reflects on how to direct the piece. “What I already have at hand most of the time on the canvas is stone-like textures”. Indeed, one can see the gestures and the marks. “Through this process I destroy the piece then I rebuild the piece. So there is destruction followed by reconstruction, and I find there is something poetic about that. Because it is very much how we are as people.”
What I found striking about the pieces was the color choice. Each individual piece carries with it certain themes that seem to be centered on color choices. The artist explains that in her previous work, she had avoided color or just used it subtly. In this series, Sara deliberately uses color very boldly, because she is stating something with each piece. The colors here reflect sentiments, which is part of the ‘fictional reality’ she is creating.
This fictional narrative is also reflected in the naming of the pieces: names such as ‘Like Fire in My Mouth’, ‘To Be Yellow Bug’, and ‘I Once Wore Your Skin’ captivate the attention of the viewer. In my opinion, these are references to experiences of discomfort. After all, in ‘building, destroying and rebuilding’ the canvases, the artist is engaging in activities of destruction of her own choice. This process must be cathartic, but also healing, since the third stage of the process is to create anew. A viewer can reflect endlessly on the end result of this, as the canvases are captivating both up close and at a distance.
The ‘Disappearing’ series abstains from color. These works of mixed media on paper are a more sensitive approach to the general themes of the exhibition. I wondered about the title of this series, and the artist shared with me her thoughts: “‘Disappear’ or ‘disappearing’ are words or concepts that often reappear in the thought process of my work”, she states. “The word interests me as it makes sense in the nature of almost everything that exists. Colors can disappear as can we.”
Colors can disappear as can we.
These haunting thoughts are part of the ideas that Sara explores in her art. In my view, her work offers an escapism that is much needed in our daily lives. Her work falls into the category of existential art: art that constantly questions the nature and meaning of our existence. The ‘Imagined Certainty’ canvases capture the ongoing questioning in the artist’s head, and invite us into this internal dialogue.
Sara is a self-taught artist who studied audio visual and graphic design. Her work is represented by Art on 56th Gallery, and she has exhibited in Lebanon, Copenhagen, Berlin and Canada. More recently, she will be exhibiting at the Arab World Institute in Paris. You can view her work in Beirut at Art on 56th Gallery, Gemmayze.
Art on 56th Gallery upcoming show in Summer 2021:
July 28, 2021 Collective Exhibition