Youssef Abdelké at Galerie Tanit Beirut

Galerie Tanit Beirut opens Youssef Abdelké’s solo show featuring works from 2010 to 2023. The opening takes place on the 18th of October is in the presence of the artist and in conjunction with the launch of a new publication. Written by Alain Jouffroy, the curatorial text explains the process and depth of Youssef Abdelké’s art.

Youssef Abdelke, Fish(سمكة), 249.5×145.5 cm, 2023

Abdelké, a meticulous and methodical engraver, is a profound observer of life’s nuances. His work begins by depicting human groups, their faces veiled like characters in Pirandello’s dramas, situated in profound darkness where death and monsters lurk—a tragic yet grotesque “human comedy.” Over time, people vanish, and creatures and plants emerge from this same obscurity. Abdelké’s art breathes life into these subjects, making them palpable and almost tangible. It’s not hyperrealism or conventional realism; it’s as though he recreates nature stroke by stroke, crafting a meticulously detailed encyclopedia of natural wonders.

His perceptiveness is so acute that viewing his work feels like awakening from a dream. It’s as if you’ve never truly grasped the depth and three-dimensionality of a simple fish, a woman’s shoe, or a cow’s skull. Abdelké delves into these subjects, dissecting and reassembling them, not just representing but resurrecting them. His art possesses the power to fascinate because it redeems everything from eventual decay and oblivion, preserving life as if from a flood. Each living phenomenon becomes a tangible marvel, a treasure, and a riddle.

Youssef Abdelke, Bird (عصفور), 101.5×103.7cm, 2022

Abdelké seeks to reinvent the world, safeguarding it from indifference and neglect. Confronting a cow’s skull, he yearns for all living phenomena to supersede himself. His art revolves not around Abdelké but everything beyond him, things that will outlast and transcend him.

When Abdelké achieves the result he terms “resurrection,” he smiles, content to lay down his chisel. The subject either comes to life or it doesn’t. “Art” is an insufficient term; it’s the transformation of death into living existence. Abdelké’s fish, for instance, isn’t merely a fish; it’s an arrow, a radiance, a breath—an invocation to life. Yet, it’s also simply a fish, maybe a salmon, a sardine, or a pike. But it soars like a bird in the night, plunging us back into darkness. In a large charcoal drawing on canvas, he portrays a fish’s head within a box, and this enormous head gazes at us as if, for Abdelké, the image of death is more alive than that of life.

Youssef Abdelke, Butcher’s Knife(ساطور), 249x146cm, 2019

About Youssef Abdelké

Youssef Abdelké, born in 1951 in Qamechli, Syria, moved to Damascus at 15, where he pursued studies in Fine Arts, graduating in 1976. His politically charged views led to his arrest for nearly two years during the late 1970s. Subsequently, he journeyed to France, driven by his artistic passion, obtaining degrees from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1986 and Paris XIII, where he earned a doctorate in Fine Arts in 1989. Raised in a politically active family, his art often mirrored his political convictions. After 25 years of exile and the inability to return to Syria, he finally revisited Damascus in 2005 for a significant exhibition. However, his Syrian passport was confiscated in 2010, preventing his exit or return to France, where his family resides. He was arrested once more by Syrian regime forces on July 18, 2013, and released five weeks later on August 22 of the same year. Abdelké’s works are displayed in numerous museums and institutions, including The British Museum in London, UK, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, France, The National Museum of Kuwait, and the Amman Museum of Modern Art in Jordan.

Location: Galerie Tanit, Beirut.

Dates: 18 October – 23 November 2023



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