Zeina Assi at Galerie Tanit 

Zeina Assi at Galerie Tanit 

Between 1821 and 1822, the renowned English landscape painter John Constable became fixated on clouds and skies as a means of establishing a personal connection with the places he frequented, such as Suffolk, Brighton, or Hampstead. He would revisit these locations numerous times in order to capture their essence in his sketches. Similarly, Zena Assi, in her exploration of the urban landscape of Beirut, her hometown, follows a similar approach as seen in her previous works. In her latest piece, she juxtaposes or overlays the Beirut cityscape onto Constable’s English sky, merging the two topographies on canvas. Through “Study of a cloud after Constable,” Assi presents her relationship with the territory, bringing together the two layers of this series’ composition, which consists of 40 small and 5 large paintings. These works intimately refer to the two components of a unified, hybrid, and perhaps imagined entity: Beirut, the city that constricts and unfolds, and England, the host country with its vast, weighty, and ever-changing sky.

Zena Assi, Study of a Cloud over Beirut #3, 2022-2023, Mixed Media on Canvas 105cmx140cm, 117cmx151cm, framed

Furthermore, the exhibition “Study of a cloud” showcases Assi’s body of work spanning from 2015 to the present, connecting not only different spaces and times but also delving into ancient civilisations, their mythologies, legends, and beliefs. In a tangible manner, Assi appropriates artifacts from archaeological cultures, removing them from their original contexts as they traverse time and even countries. She restores the marks of wear and tear on these objects, infusing them with new meaning that speaks to the contemporary world. The same cities, marked by organic growth, are also depicted, reminiscent of ancient vases. Ceramic items, columns from imagined temples, totems, and gargoyles become integral elements in this fantastical world, drawn from the collections of the National Museum of Beirut, where temporalities intertwine. Within this “intermediate” space, where places and times can engage in dialogue, the artist expresses her concerns.

Zena Assi, Vessel 21 2022, Handbuilt Ceramics with Glazing and Transfers 20x8x10cm

The works presented are deeply rooted in the history of art and civilisations, drawing inspiration from ancient mythologies while also incorporating elements of contemporary visual culture and the violent events of our time. Zena Assi combines various registers, blending tragedy with satire, humour, and playfulness, employing a range of techniques from painting to graphic elements and animation. One of her creations, “Ecce Homo,” is a short film based on six etchings and aquatints on paper, inspired by the engravings and drawings of Spanish painter Francisco Goya. These works, appropriately titled “The Disasters of War” (1810-1820), subtly extract details from Goya’s original context and insert them into the chaotic modern cities, alongside symbols of warfare, depicting a global crisis of our contemporary era. The culmination of this narrative comes alive in the short film, where the dominance of a Leviathan-like figure represents the embodiment of power and evil hovering over the city. Assi’s portrayal reflects her own experience as a witness to violence, war, and historical catastrophes, ultimately leading to the evocative title “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man).

Zena Assi, The Amazon 2023, Etching and Aquatint with Chine Colle on Hahnemuhle Archiva Paper 32x33cm 53x51cm framed Ed of 20

About the Artist

Zena Assi, born in Lebanon in 1974 and currently residing in London, is an artist who explores cultural and social changes through various mediums such as etching, animation, sculpture, ceramics, and painting. Her work reflects present-day issues like migration and the relationship between memories and people on the move. Assi’s artwork can be found in public and private collections, including the Academie Libanaise des beaux Arts in Beirut, the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, and the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. She has received several awards for her work and has exhibited in solo and group shows worldwide, including prestigious venues such as the Venice Art Biennale and the Royal Academy.

Zena Assi, Study of a Cloud over Beirut #2, 2022-2023, Mixed Media on Canvas 105cm x 140cm, 117cm x 151cm, framed

“Study of a cloud”, Zena Assi 

Location: Galerie Tanit, Mar Mikhael

Duration: June 15 – August 3, 2023



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