Saturday, October 15, 2005
Abdallah Ko mounts an exhibition that subverts the gallery system from within
By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Daily Star staff
Saturday, October 15, 2005
BEIRUT: More than 30 works fill the latest exhibition at Espace SD and they could have been done by at least 20 different artists. Spare paintings set on clean grids hang near rambunctious collages covered with photocopied papers, old pictures, cluttered maps and sexually explicit graffiti. An abstract photograph is mounted among a suite of figurative drawings. Three-dimensional readymades jostle for space between flat digital images printed on canvas. Yet each piece is stamped in the lower right corner with a box around a red letter A. For anarchy? Definitely. The stamp also marks the signature of an artist going by the name of Abdallah Ko, who in fact produced every work in this wildly varied and disparate exhibition.
"Abdallah Ko: Peintures" represents a decades' worth of artistic production and experimentation. The two readymades - one with a petrified gold leaf and what looks like an air conditioning hose, the other with heavy metal piping and a plastic Virgin Mary figurine, both arranged in wooden desk drawers - date back to the early 1990s. The work entitled "Two Brothers," a digital image transposed onto canvas and lightly painted over, was finished just a few hours before the opening of the show.
Yet none of the works are for sale, he explains, because "many of them are too new. I didn't use them yet. I haven't finished playing with them or enjoying them."
Of his multi-disciplinary (even anti-disciplinary) approach, he adds: "I play with different things, whatever is around. The materials are not the most important thing to me. [The work] is related to many things, I guess. It's like a diary."
One piece features a retro-glamour snapshot of two unknown girls sunbathing on a grassy hill surrounded by trees. Abdallah tweaked the image digitally, multiplying into an accordion pattern that stretches up the right and down the left side of the frame. When he transferred the picture onto canvas, he brightened the colors with paint. "Then I felt it needed something else so I emptied two bottles of glitter on it," he explains, deadpan.
Spinning around to face another piece, arguably the strongest and most enigmatic in the show, he explains how he collected over 200 empty containers of Bonjus, the classic kitsch orange juice that comes in a triangular container punctured by a stiff plastic straw, and mounted them all on a wood board. "I started in 2002," he says. "By the last row I really had to force other people to drink them." Over this ordered grid of juice-box pyramids, Abdallah added the colors of the Lebanese flag and drizzled black paint onto the entire construction. The title? "Heroes."
Abdallah Ko not only paints but creates music and writes fiction and poetry as well. He has a pile of as-yet-unpublished manuscripts and is part of a loose collective of musicians - including Mazen Kerbaj and Charbel Haber among others - who are pushing the boundaries of free improvisation. Abdallah studied architecture in Montreal and fine art and literature in Paris, he is a working web developer and co-founder of ZWYX (http://www.zwyx.org/). "It's not easy to do many things and do them well," he explains.
His name is also indicative of the difficulty artists in Beirut sometimes have in dealing with the weight of names. Cutting off one's family name can effectively free an artist up to create work as an individual, not as a member of a clan, a tribe, a sect or a community (in a similar vein, consider the work produced by the fictional artistic persona of Ali Hussein Badr or the anonymous artists' group known as Heartland.)
Abdallah says he doesn't want to support the tight associations that are often made between an artist and his or her family. Personal issues aside, this plus his refusal to sell his work adds up to a curious, and perhaps unintentional, critique of the Lebanese art market as a whole. For what drives the local exchange rate for contemporary art if not the mothers and fathers and aunts and cousins (and occasionally close friends) who buy up the work of their progeny?
"Painting is not done to decorate apartments," Pablo Picasso remarked in 1945. "It is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy." Yet with the exception of critical art practices that are, by and large, supported by outside funding and exhibited abroad, the art scene here in Beirut in 2005 remains stubbornly bourgeois and provincial, precisely about painting done to decorate apartments. The practical discourse about art remains virtually indistinguishable from that of buying furniture.
Very few living painters can establish anything but a wholly artificial market for their work when their sell-through rate depends on predetermined circles. Rarely do those circles overlap or include serious, non-nepotistic collectors. Galerie Sfeir-Semler, which opened in Karantina this past April, is posing a fine challenge to the system. In the meantime, Abdallah's show pulls off its own acts of subversion.
To hold an exhibition like this at a gallery that asks its artists to contribute to the cost of showing their work from the sales of that same work would seem to be a huge indulgence. In money terms, it is a lose-lose proposition for artist and gallery alike. And it's not an especially coherent show to begin with. But then again, the exhibition forces people to simply engage the work and leave empty handed.
Abdallah says visitors have so far expressed curiosity, annoyance, even aggression upon discovering his no sales policy. "They want to possess," he says, laughing as he clutches his hands together in a gesture of mock consumption. Abdallah, by contrast, wants them to look and respond. It's a bit of critical entrapment, if you will.
And there is something subtle and consistent to be found in the mess of styles, subjects and materials on view. A few years ago Abdallah tried to teach himself Chinese calligraphy. He was taken with the idea that every character resides in a small square, a little box. But each logogram represents a word or a meaningful unit of language that is connected only phonetically, not meaningfully, to older such forms. "The meaning of the characters floats with time," he explains. "There's no semantic meaning that's fixed."
That idea of a box - as a cage, a container or a trap - filters into all the works on view. It's as if to say that Lebanon - too small a country and squeezed geographically, politically and psychologically - is its own kind of box. But like the characters it too lacks fixity, and therein lays the potential to make what's inside of it mean something, anything new.
"Abdallah Ko: Peintures" closes Saturday at Espace SD. For more information, check out
Source: The Daily Star - www.dailystar.com.lb
Date: Oct. 15 2005
Place: Beirut, Lebanon
Author: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Friday, October 7, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Peintures de Abdallah Ko à l’Espace SD
Abdallah Ko est né en 1972 à Beyrouth. Il a grandi et a étudié à Paris, un peu au Canada (des études d’architecture inachevées), est retourné à Paris faire sa maîtrise en lettres à la Sorbonne, avant de voyager : Asie, Afrique, New York où il s’installe à la fin des années quatre-vingt-dix, jusqu’en 2002. Depuis, il bouge d’une ville à une autre. Mais aussi d’une discipline à une autre. Ou, plutôt, il fait des allers-retours constants entre trois modes d’expression artistique : l’écriture de nouvelles sur le Web (sur le site abdallahko.com), la musique improvisée (seul ou avec une bande de copains) et la peinture.
Peintre autodidacte, si l’on exclut une courte formation aux Beaux-Arts de Paris, Abdallah Ko n’en a pas moins le pinceau prometteur. Pour sa première exposition, qui se tient actuellement à l’Espace SD (immeuble S. Dagher, avenue Charles Hélou), le jeune artiste a choisi de montrer (sans aucune intention de vendre) une quinzaine de toiles de format carré (120 x 120 cm) ainsi que deux tableaux-tiroirs et quelques dessins.
Par un mélange de techniques mixtes, dont l’acrylique, le fusain, l’encre et l’impression photographique sur toile, Abdallak Ko explore un univers dense, qui semble, de prime abord, tiré du quotidien, mais qui ne l’est absolument pas.
Dérision ou désespoir, les personnages de ce peintre ne sont jamais là où on les attend. Hors de leur contexte, ils semblent parfois emprisonnés dans un espace de vacuité, ou alors révèlent, par un détail, leur origine chimérique, laissant le spectateur désarçonné, comme devant un carrefour d’interrogations.
À l’instar du portrait d’un homme en masque-scaphandrier lisant étendu et dont on n’arrive pas à discerner s’il s’agit d’un malade dans un hôpital ou d’un cosmonaute, ou de la représentation d’un crâne de mort, qui ressemble à s’y méprendre à celui d’un être humain, ou encore dans la fascinante virée au supermarché d’un vieil homme en « serwal », suivi d’une femme en tchador et d’un enfant poussant un chariot. Cette dernière pièce, toute en perspective, suggère une dynamique de mouvement très expressive.
Il y a aussi une vue « grisonnante » de la Baie de Rio, un tableau composé à partir de pyramides de Bonjus recouvertes de peintures rouge et noir. Une œuvre conceptuelle et agressive, construite à partir du symbole même de la fraîcheur et de l’enfance au Liban, et qui peut donner lieu à de multiples interprétations, dont, entre autres, celle de l’enfance saccagée par la guerre.
Dans la même veine, deux tableaux, composés à partir d’objets et de peintures dans des tiroirs, expriment un même rejet envers ce que Abdallah K. appelle « les machines d’éternité » que sont le Sarcophage et la Cathédrale.
Mais tout n’est pas sombre chez cet artiste. La preuve, sur un mur, un peu plus loin, « scintille » une scène bucolique – rehaussée de paillettes – de jeunes filles dans un pré et un ensoleillé diptyque montrant des soucoupes volantes dans un ciel printanier. Toujours le sens des contrastes et des paradoxes !
Un accrochage intéressant. À voir, jusqu’au 15 octobre (de 15h à 20h).
Source: L'Orient-Le-Jour - www.lorientlejour.com
Date: Sep. 27 2005
Place: Beirut, Lebanon
Thursday, September 1, 2005
from september 22 until october 15, 2005
@Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon
First solo show.
"Although the show covers a large time span, there is a strong correlation between the artworks, highlighted by the formats and themes. Many of the paintings are on square canvases, an original format that was inspired by the Chinese format for calligraphy. Through various mixed media techniques such as collage, charcoal, spray and finger painting, Abdallah Ko focuses on forms, more or less human, shifted from their original context and as if mummified or freezed floating in a frame."
"Aussi écrivain et musicien, ceci est la première exposition de ses peintures. Bien que cette exposition couvre une large période, le lien entre les toiles est assez clair, que ce soit le carré, un format atypique inspiré de la calligraphie chinoise ou certains thèmes qui reviennent souvent. Par diverses techniques comme le collage, l'impression, le crayon, le spray, la peintures au doigt, Abdallah K se concentre sur des formes, plus ou moins humaines, détournées de leur contexte original et comme momifiées ou fixées flottantes dans leur cadres."
Online Gallery: www.abdallahko.com
Booklet of 30 postcards available to buy online: www.zwyx.org/diffusion
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"Marc Codsi, Jassem Hindi and Abdallah Ko make their way through a constantly evolving sound field invaded by guitars, microphones, golf ball, whips, K7's, forks, ventilator, amplifiers, megaphone, pans, sand paper, voices, hammer, vinyl, wood stick, mixing table, undefined metal objects, nunchaku , pick-ups and others."
[ 20min. video by Patrick Boeuf : part 1 + part 2 ]
Monday, July 11 2005 at 8:00pm
@ Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon
Price: 15 000 L.P
5th International Festival of Free Improvised Music in Lebanon
July 8-11 2005
July 11, 2005
* LUMPEN (lb) 8:00pm
Marc Codsi / guitar, electro-acoustic set
Jassem Hindi / electro-acoustic set
Abdallah Ko / electro-acoustic set
* HUMUS (lb)
Karine Bejjani / danse
Béchir Saadé / clarinet, flute, nay
Christine Sehnaoui / alto sax
* DUBOST / KERBAJ / RIVES (lb/fr) 10:30pm
Quentin Dubost / guitar
Mazen Kerbaj / trumpet
Stéphane Rives / soprano
* E-GUITAR MEETING (leb/fr/uk)
Pascal Battus / electric guitar
Mike Cooper / electric guitar
Charbel Haber / electric guitar
Sharif Sehnaoui / electric guitar
Friday, May 20, 2005
Abdallah Ko - electro acoustic set
"SOUND BOX" is a 20 minutes solo installation/performance inspired by the soundtrack of the video game Starcraft.
Quartet with: Raed Yassine - double bass / Mayaline Hage - Voice / Marc Codsi - electric guitar / Charbel Haber - electric guitar
Friday, May 27 2005 at 9:00pm
@ Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Discipline (Laptop) & Mayaline Hage (Voice)
Discipline (laptop), with Charbel Haber (laptop), Mayaline Hage (voice), Jassem Hindi (electro accoustic set) & Abdallah Ko (electro accoustic set).
Wednesday, April 4 2005 at 8:30pm
@ Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon