Lebanese visual artist Sara Chaar exhibits "Wanderings" at CJ One Gallery in New York City. The author, Maie El-Hage, attends and reports.
Artist Sara Chaar and the author at CJ One Gallery, New York (photo by the author)

In the midst of the madness of Manhattan, I thought it would be the most unlikely thing to run into Sara Chaar, a Lebanese artist and good friend of mine from Beirut. And yet, there we both were, two Lebanese ladies far from home, exploring the art world, each on her own journey. I was immensely proud to attend the opening of “Wanderings” a solo exhibition by visual artist Sara Chaar at CJ. One Gallery in Manhattan, New York, on November 5, 2021.

The artist and her audience at CJ One Gallery, New York (photo courtesy of the gallery)

The last time I saw Sara was at her exhibition “Imagined Certainty” at Art on 56th Gallery, in Gemmayze, Beirut (read more about that show here). That encounter dates back to July 2021. Since then, Sara has embarked on a soul-searching journey “outside the walls of Lebanon” (in her own words). Her residency in France during the summer was hosted by another artist, Florent Maussion, in a space that used to be a metal factory. The “very huge and inspiring space” was shared by another artist, Antoine Bouguier, who was also invited. During this residency, Sara created the body of work that would become “Wanderings”.

“Wanderings” by Sara Chaar (photo by the author)

The main theme running through this work is “the feeling of abandoning roots, or cutting connections and ties with anything that roots me”, she shares. And yet, when I ask her if she found liberty being abroad in France, she answers:

For me, when I’m painting no matter where I’m painting, it is my space of liberty.

“For me, when I’m painting no matter where I’m painting, it is my space of liberty. So whether I am in France or in Lebanon, I would have the same liberty, because this is the kind of window where I express myself”.

Sara exhibited in London at Marie José Honein Art Gallery, previously this year. This was followed by her November exhibition at CJ. One Gallery in New York City. Sara states that she is still in the same research; working on paintings that have layers, with processes of construction and deconstruction. It is the approach that has changed; there are less lines and more floating shapes. When I saw the paintings, I felt the color palette has lightened since her previous works, and that there was a sense of freedom. The shapes and colored surfaces seem to be taking off, as if taking flight, from the layers underneath. Sara talked to me about the Tumbleweed plant, how she likens it to her work, as it is a specimen that detaches itself from its roots upon maturity.

This painting is titled ‘When Limbs Meet’ (2021) Oil and Cold Wax on Canvas. (photo by the author)
Sara and her friends at the gallery (photo by the author)

It was truly special to see the exhibition, and to visit a remarkable gallery like CJ. One Gallery, located at Union Square and Times Square. Cindy J. Choi, the owner and director of the gallery, has a long term experience in art and design, and she spoke to me about the journey of founding the gallery. The main concept is to approach the diverse audience with artworks of unique concepts; this audience includes professionals, street artists, tourists, seniors, students and protesters. The key contributor to this intention is the location, which allows the gallery to situate itself in this dialogue.

The author posing with Cindy J. Choi, the owner and director of CJ One Gallery. Next to them is ‘Strange and Absolute’ (2021) Oil and Cold Wax on Canvas (photo by the author)

Sara is still wandering: her next stop is South America where she prepares for her upcoming exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark at Tom Christoffersen Gallery. Her audience, myself included, eagerly anticipates where her journey will lead her and her art.

CJ One Gallery (photo courtesy of the gallery)

Sara Chaar’s upcoming exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark at Tom Christoffersen Gallery opens in April 2022.

CJ. One Gallery upcoming shows in Winter 2021:

December 10 – 28, 2021          S.W. Dinge “Keep the Line Moving” exhibition

January 2022                            Byeongdoo Moon exhibition

February 2022                          Lou Gabriel /Thalo Halo exhibition