Lara Zankoul, ‘Made of Marble ’, 2016, Ayyam Gallery

As Cold as a White Stone explores what the artist describes as ‘the coldness, resistance, and numbness of human relationships nowadays.’

During a recent artist residency in Italy, where she studied the local development of art, Zankoul discovered the marble quarries of Carrara through the surrealist images of Matteo Basile. In Basile’s Pietra Santa series, this stark background creates an otherworldly environment in which dystopian nightmares unfold. Drawn to the ravaged setting of the quarries, Zankoul uses the white marble backdrop to construct sparse scenes in which withdrawn figures represent ‘the nature of human interactions in a world dominated by individualism, virtual life, and ego/selfishness.’ Her characters are anonymous, their faces mostly hidden from view as they languish in isolation or stand frozen in a state of confusion. Zankoul allows the setting to inform the mood of her characters. Sharp edges and lines that are man-made define the stone, a feature that articulates the alienation of a plugged-in society: a constructed (virtual) environment stripped of direct interaction and devoid of humanity.

Zankoul’s adaptation of the Carrara quarries also evokes the legacy of white marble in Italian art, particularly Renaissance sculpture as seen in Michelangelo’s David. With such works, idealised renderings of the human form based on recovered Roman examples served as the artistic embodiment of a dynamic era. Science, art, architecture, literature, and politics developed at a rapid pace, indicating a collective interest in cultivating culture. Although related to this historical narrative, Zankoul views the quarries as the quintessential representation of our descent into an emotionless state of being, as we have lost a sense of warmth and connectivity. Whereas Michelangelo focused on the human figure, constructing it according to a philosophical take on its proportions, Zankoul deconstructs the body as an abstracted void (demonstrated in the stark clothing of her characters), a dehumanised subject that is on the verge of disappearance, passive and numb in a world deprived of its natural form.

About Lara Zankoul

Lebanese, b. 1987, based in Lebanon