Stepping into Art on 56th Gallery, an elegant and spacious, white, interior perched in a lovely Gemmayze corner in Beirut, a sense of change is discernible. Emerging artist Wissam Melhem’s first solo show ‘Emancipation’ has been on display for almost three weeks now, and there has been no shortage of rich conversations.
The exhibition has succeeded on many levels; Wissam has expressed his ideas and experiences as a contemporary Lebanese citizen through his practice of painting and making art; and the public has engaged directly in the conversation and debate that Wissam has established. As the curator and artist manager, it has been truly rewarding to see different people from different backgrounds not only discuss the paintings but discuss art in general and how artistic practice liberates the artist as an individual, and as an intellectual really.
Our audience members were of different backgrounds – designers, clients, collectors, artists, architects, news and media professionals, bloggers, and casual visitors, and they all made their way to the gallery’s lovely Gemmayze setting.
It was literally a breath of fresh air, as it took place a few weeks after months of lockdown in Lebanon. We were never overcrowded, and yet we were also rarely devoid of visitors. The general “open house” atmosphere of the opening carried on into the exhibition’s open days. Talking with visitors was delightful and engaging as almost every individual had a different perspective on the artwork. Viewers projected their own understanding and feelings into the canvases which was welcomed by the artist! In my understanding of Wissam’s paintings, his work is transcultural and transcends borders. And yet, he is leaving his cultural imprint in this critical moment in Lebanon’s contemporary history, both as an individual and as part of the collective. Wissam’s discourse is as important as his paintings are visually and intellectually appealing.
The exhibition will run until July 18, 2020 at Art on 56th gallery, Gemmayze, Beirut, and I urge you not to miss it!
About Wissam Melhem
Wissam Melhem is a Lebanese architect, landscape designer, and an emerging artist currently exploring different contemporary themes through the processes of sketching and painting. Wissam holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and a Master of Arts in Landscape Urbanism from Notre Dame University in Beirut. He is an experienced architect and educator, working for over 10 years as Senior Architect at Nadim Karam and Hapsitus Architects in Beirut.
He is currently a full time lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture, Arts and Design at NDU and a part time lecturer at the Landscape Architecture department at the American University of Beirut.
Written by Maie El-Hage, art historian and curator
Follow Wissam Melhem on Instagram @ouisammelhem
Follow Maie El-Hage on Instagram @maie.art