SHEDDING LIGHT ON BEIRUT SECRETS
OUSSAMA BAALBAKI ART EXHIBITION AT AGIAL
beirut is more beautiful at night. It can be painful to look at in the brutally honest light of day — knots of unsightly electrical wires creeping along like vines, decaying sidewalks giving way to grotesque concrete structures, haunting bullet holes, and rare patches of green accidentally le unpaved. ut darkness masks the aws, and when the occasionally working street lights or setting sun meet air pollution, an almost beautiful halo surrounds the city.
“Darkness hides the city’s secrets,” says Lebanese visual artist ussama aalbaki. is eighth solo e hibition, called Pleadings of the Light and held at the gial rt allery in amra from uly - ugust , is a series of serenely dystopic Lebanese landscapes.
With a special focus on light, both natural and man-made, the pieces are beautiful and evocative — snapshots of eirut streets and scenes from nature with almost no humans, but lots of eyesores like bill- boards, cranes, antennas, scarecrows, quarries, and clashing architecture, set against a romantic sky lled with impressionistic clouds in shades of cool blue and lustrous gold. What’s especially impressive about his work is his awless technique in painting light, a notoriously di icult thing to depict. aalbaki says he loves the le over light of day and its contrast with darkness.
The artist does not own a car, and spends a lot of time walking the streets of his hometown. With his eyes in constant search of eeting moments, he captures photos on a cellphone the way many of us do, but takes them to his studio and lets his imagination continue the thought on canvas. is paintings o en recall photos. There is one particularly large painting of a dark street anked by silhouettes of a billboard, and a streetlight contrasted against the kind of vivid sunset for which you’d pull your car over and take Instagram photos. This painting garnered a lot of