Domus Berytus by Gilbert Halaby
Gilbert Halaby’s solo exhibition at the Beit Beirut Museum in Lebanon is a celebration of his artistic journey and trajectory. Through a series of figurative paintings, Halaby creates a dialogue between poetry and paintings, past and present, and his former and present self. The exhibition, titled “Domus Berytus,” is a manifestation of his artistic evolution, culminating in this beautiful milestone. This is a significant occasion for Halaby, as it is his first official art exhibition in Lebanon, held in Beit Beirut Museum. The exhibition is organized and curated by Halaby’s dear friend, Muriel Asmar.
I Recall The Light
“I was born in a village on Mount Lebanon during the war – luckily and unluckily, but this is a story to be told at a later date.
I spent my tender years playing around with my friends in the fields and around the village houses. I had the good fortune of meeting many characters brimming with spellbinding stories; those stories helped shape my untamed imagination. It is one of these characters that I remember vividly, and who holds a special place in my memories. The only painter of my village. A beautiful human being, introvert and calm. His daughters were my sister’s friends and I used to come up with any excuse to join her when she visited them, just so I could have a peak at his marvellous studio and see him transforming canvases into tales of wonder.
It was there and then that I saw the light that was inside of me. Being a boy in a Lebanese village during the war wasn’t al- ways easy. Being a painter in the horizons of that boy was an absolute impossibility.
I had no alternative but to suppress that light with a very dark and heavy cloud, as I sought to create a parallel self that would offer me financial stability and the ‘manly’ future that was ex- pected of me. For being a painter, an artist, in the mountains of Lebanon in the 1980s was considered merely a hobby and never a Man’s job.
Despite this, my need to create compelled me to do so in differ- ent forms particularly writing during my school years.
I would also paint and create objects of art, but I would always downplay it to avoid being judged by friends and the society I was living in.
Yet that dark and heavy cloud could not blot out the light that had never dimmed inside of me. For it was that light which en- couraged me to leave Lebanon and set me forth on the odyssey of the search for Myself.
It took more than 20 years. Now I have finally flung open the windows to that shining light and made great peace with it. Finally I made peace with myself and became the painter that I always was.
Finally I became my own, friend, father, brother and sister, and I encouraged that light to become tales.
Finally I started to resemble the painter I met when I was a child.
Finally I became that painter I was when I was a child.” – 29 September 2022, Gilbert Halaby
“When Time becomes your friend,
when you’re not afraid of losing him anymore, when you know how to stretch him
like dough in your fingers,
when you start contemplating his immensity, you are part of him like a lover would be, Time’s on your side don’t be afraid of him. Love him and he will love you back. Time doesn’t fly.
He simply provides the wings for you to fly with. When Time becomes your friend,
you become free.” – 17 September 2020, Gilbert Halaby
Son of the Sun
“I told the Sun about you, She smiled in quietude. Content.
I kept talking without a clue,
Her smile became words so I understood her intent.
I told the sun about your morning light,
She smiled more, and said: He’s my son. You kept my heart warm with your sight, Now I know. You and her are one.
She smiled once more and said: Compose him verses and let them rhyme,
Let your ink caress the words in a golden thread, Crown his head with your poem for the rest of time.
I love you – Son of the Sun –
I love you until my days are done” – 9 June 2021, Gilbert Halaby
“What if I gave you wings,
Where would you fly to?
To your heart, to your precious Springs? That sacred voyage is overdue.
Fly in solitude my dear,
The clouds will keep you company,
They are mellifluous and crystal clear, Listen keenly to their noiseless symphony.
The embrace shall be overwhelming,
Set foot in that mesmerizing universe, Don’t fear, adventure is always daring, Return to us adorned with your life verse.
As it rivals the most iridescent star, I can behold your smile from afar.” –15 January 2021, Gilbert Halaby.
My mighty mountains
“That ruinous wind came from behind the mighty mountains, my mighty mountains.
That unlit wind came to frighten me,
from behind my mountains.
I am obscured by his dark thoughts,
and for the first time perturbed.
I trust that my mighty mountains will stand strong and tall.
I am certain that their trees will blossom again and their birds will build nests in their pines again.
But I’m terrified to watch their suffering, they will shut their eyes throughout this malign storm.
I’m breathless because I’m incapable of hugging them with my eyes, and petrified because I’m uncertain when I will be able to fly over them again.
I want to salute them and salute my people living between their soft hills, under red rooftops and in the shade of their oak trees. I want to tell them, the storm is over and the mighty moun- tains have opened their eyes once again.
My mighty mountains.” – 15 June 2020, Giblert Halaby
Gilbert Halaby: Domus Berytus
Location: Beit Beirut Museum, Beirut
Duration: March 16 – March 30 2023