Beneath Latent Skies is the first part of a series of exhibitions by Lebanese contemporary artist, Chafa Ghaddar,
Working across multiple media, Chafa Ghaddar casts a contemporary gaze towards the historic fresco mural painting technique. The exploration and excavation of new potentials in materiality and process are central to her practice. Ghaddar makes palpable the tension between durability and impermanence and unpacks a non-linear journey that departs from fresco painting’s classical associations and arrives in the present.
In 2022 Ghaddar exhibited at the 16th Lyon Biennale under the ‘Manifesto of Fragility’. Site specific works such as the powerful suspended mixed media work, Collapsing hues, 2022 and Rested, 2022 a mixed media on canvas work saw Ghaddar delve into the contradictions and conflicts of her medium as something that is at once vulnerable and eternal; the works produced for this solo exhibition are a continuation of these considerations.
This new body of work, Beneath Latent Skies, will see Ghaddar tackle the notion of the body as a landscape and host of multiple agendas - a site of eroticism, violence, movement, temporality, love, despair and repair. Together these pieces summon a tension between spaces - flesh, land and sky. The artist raises questions: Can the body really be a landscape? What has happened to the promise of fresco and its suggestion of enduring stability? What does the body promise us? Does it fail us? Why is Ghaddar’s sky muted - where are the clouds?
Artworks produced in varying scale span installation, works on paper, wood and fabric and depart from the tradition and practice of fresco that remains central to Ghaddar’s oeuvre. In addition to monumental fresco works and site-specific installations, Ghaddar has produced works on paper in varying scale. Ghaddar’s process and experimentation with materiality is central to the work. Some pieces have, for example, been produced on Indian cotton paper layered with coffee and tea, and mural stucco; carved into with the gestural strokes of a knife blade. Her self-made canvas is brought to life with a palette of fleshy tones, the black of damp moss and grass and fresco’s ubiquitous blue in varying depth and density, glazed to achieve a plasticised effect. Testament to the artist’s preoccupation with the boundaries and limitations of her materials these works appear to be ceramic yet they are in fact paper. One work sees Ghaddar reveal an abstracted scene, a moment of passion between two lovers, while others afford a glimpse into skin and markers of the human body, zoomed into and celebrated at outsized proportions. In addition to these new works Ghaddar will also exhibit historic pieces: Exhausted Forms, 2022, produced for the Lyon Biennial and Corps, 2018 a delicate flesh hued fresco that foregrounds the human torso, mounted upon wood.
Through this manipulation of scale, Ghaddar’s pieces form metaphorical windows; portals that invite the viewer to gaze into an alternate realm, or repel them from it. The questions that preoccupy the artist are presented to the viewer in a manner that’s both challenging and sublime.
“In fresco the surface is perpetually in a dual state of becoming and diminishing. It’s a duality of building towards completion, ruin and trace. What ever failed to stabilise and last inherits both dimensions. We can still enjoy the vibrancy of pigment and scale but also the fall of the skin and pigment over time.”
- Chafa Ghaddar