An exhibition of illustrations by 10 young Beirutis explored differing perceptions of the city at Park Tower Gallery in Sanayeh
Illustrator Jad Abou Zeki sees Beirut as a damsel in distress. Vulnerable and beautiful, terrorised by villains and monsters, she is perpetually waiting to be rescued by a hero and live happily ever after. Zeki captures these sentiments with black humour in a simple illustration. In the foreground are two militiamen, one sitting in a chair, smoking an argileh, with his gun propped up beside him, the other threatening him with an automatic rifle. In the background, piles of rubbish and a curl of razor wire mar the view of cranes and concrete high rises, while a huge dragon-like creature to the right of the image has crushed a car beneath its tail.
Zeki is one of 10 artists whose vision of the city was exhibited at Park Tower Gallery in Sanayeh from October 30 to November 6, as part of an exhibition entitled Beirut Is… Young illustrators were invited to share their own ending to that sentence in visual form, creating a series of diverse and entertaining postcards dreamt up over the course of four months.
Architect Antoine Soued looked at images of Beirut on Google for inspiration. “For Google, Beirut has a stunning view from the sea which I never saw,” he wrote, “awesome parties to which I never went, and beautiful women which I never encountered in my day to day life.” Instead of perpetuating this mythical virtual reality version of the city, he chose to sketch Karantina, where old factories and apartment blocks stand beside crowded car parks, a few leafy trees and the huts of the fishermen who still work from the old port.
For graphic designer Danny Khoury, Beirut is an illusion, a city of contradictions. He reimagines the latin characters that spell out Beirut as oddly shaped apartment blocks, with curving walls and roof gardens. Photographer and cameraman Filip Cicil, meanwhile, sees Beirut as a lonely soldier, ready to defend people of all sects.
Taking things in a more surreal direction, illustrator Hachem Reslan envisages Beirut as an acid trip, while designer and illustrator Imad Gebrayel explores how Beirut is exoticized, bringing together binary oppositions such as sex and religion, or nightlife and extremism to create bizarre, colourful tableaux.
With simple, wavering lines, illustration student Mohamad Kraytem shows why Beirut is weird. His work explores how new buildings are replacing the city’s historic old houses. Meanwhile, graphic design student Ohan Ohanian draws a humorous portrait of Beirut as a post-apocalyptic zombie land. He places characters inspired by eccentric people he met cycling around the city against a backdrop of Beirut’s old buildings, transforming them into undead caricatures.
One of only two artists to use colour, Shannon Kanounji imagines Beirut as fenjan kahwa — a cup of coffee. She uses the dregs of the drink in her work, capturing all the essential elements of her Beirut — buildings, cars, cranes and electric cables.
Finally, for animator Tiffany Moujaes, Beirut is a whole universe. She employs a pattern of circular fractals to show how the city appears the same from day to day but is always changing. Each carries a separate part of the city, its own island, but ultimately they are all connected, just like the illustrations in this playful exhibition.