‘Does a Sunflower Turn with the Sun?’ by Ziad Antar at Gratin New York

Ziad Antar, Untitled, 2024, acrylic on photography-printed canvas, 35 1/2 x 35 1/4 in, 90.2 x 89.5 cm
Ziad Antar, Untitled, 2024, acrylic on photography-printed canvas, 35 1/2 x 35 1/4 in, 90.2 x 89.5 cm

Gratin presents a solo show by Lebanese artist Ziad Antar titled ‘Does a Sunflower Turn with the Sun?’ from June 15th until July 27th, 2024. Ziad Antar, a visual artist and filmmaker, is renowned for his experimental approach to photography and video, pushing these mediums beyond their traditional documentary roles. Utilising unconventional materials such as expired film and lensless cameras, Antar highlights the unpredictability and ephemerality of the medium, prompting viewers to reflect on the transient nature of existence. His work explores the intersection of expressive mediums and everyday iconographies, creating visual narratives that balance historical legacies, personal experiences, and collective memory.

Ziad Antar, Blue Withers, 2024, photo-paper mounted on dibond, 48 x 48 in, 122 x 122 cm, Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Ziad Antar, Blue Withers, 2024, photo-paper mounted on dibond, 48 x 48 in, 122 x 122 cm, Edition of 3 + 2 AP

In his current exhibition, Antar delves into personal and national history through the motif of the sunflower. Reflecting on his childhood in Saida, he recalls: “When I lived in Saida as a child, it wasn’t safe to roam the streets freely. Instead, I would gather with my neighbours on the stairs of our building to play. An adult would suddenly appear with a bag filled with sunflower seeds, a very common snack in Lebanon, which we would eat with great joy. Before going to bed, we were asked to collect the shells scattered on the floor. It was our playground.” As an agricultural engineer, Antar later uncovered the sunflower’s conflicted colonial and neocolonial history, mirroring Lebanon’s complex geopolitical and socio-economic landscape.

Ziad Anta, Untitled, 2024acrylic on photography-printed canvas, 31 1/4 x 31 1/2 in, 79.4 x 80 cm
Ziad Anta, Untitled, 2024, acrylic on photography-printed canvas, 31 1/4 x 31 1/2 in, 79.4 x 80 cm

During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), economic hardship led rural communities to illicitly cultivate cannabis and poppy for survival. Post-war, international organisations urged the Lebanese government to replace these crops with sunflowers. However, sunflowers required specific conditions not present in Lebanon’s mountainous regions, leading to the project’s failure. This reflects Lebanon’s economic vulnerability and dependency on exports, revealing the hidden violence and oppression in the sunflower’s symbolic image. It represents the paradox of human existence, balancing between past and future, war and peace, beauty and violence.

Antar finds a metaphor for existence in the sunflower’s heliotropic movement, which follows the sun and ultimately faces the earth at maturity. Fascinated by this, he sought to capture its essence through experimental methods. He applied paint to blurred areas of each photograph, creating images that reveal the sunflower’s movement as a nostalgic memory. The resulting porosity of the images embodies their ambivalence, suspended in a material space where the trace of the sunflower’s motion exists only as a recollection.


About Ziad Antar

Ziad Antar born in 1978 in Saida, Lebanon, lives and works in Beirut. His artistic practice explores photographic theory and material complexity, often using expired negatives and archival images to challenge digital photography’s advancements. Antar’s work, known for its theatrical humour, critically examines the nature and limitations of the photographic medium, creating dynamic interactions of places, cultures, and memories. After studying at the École Supérieure d’Études Cinématographiques in Paris, he earned a residency at the Palais de Tokyo and a post-diploma from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. His work is featured in collections like Centre Pompidou, The British Museum, and Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Location: Gratin, 76 avenue B, New york, 10009

Dates: June 15th until July 27th, 2024

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