Art on 56th is pleased to announce Against All Odds, a solo-exhibition of works by Lebanese artist Siham Ajram. The show focuses on Lebanon and its people, trapped in time, living in memory and fighting for glimmers of hope in a landscape of continual destruction and instability. The artist captures the nation’s unique flair for survival, transforming it into visual experiences that evoke joy, love and passion.
Trained as a fine artist, Ajram has shaped her artistic career in drawing and painting. Her work targets Lebanese citizens and speaks to their way of living, focusing particularly on their perseverance. The artist explores the ways in which her people are born within a religious, social and political sect. She depicts this affiliation through the scarves she wraps her sitters in. With their faces covered, they become anonymous, unknown and most importantly, a stand-in for a collective Lebanese experience. The color of the scarf symbolizes how committed the subject is to his/her beliefs. The lighter the fabric, the looser the bond.
In Against All Odds, Ajram bases her creative ethnographic studies on her surroundings and on her memories. She translates facts into artistic products that touch upon history, culture, religion and politics. She portrays figures whose faces are veiled by scarfs, unable, but also unwilling to see the destruction that surrounds them, blinded by duties and dogmas. She paints bordercrossings and interactions between the sects, despite the taboos. She depicts crumbling buildings, empty streets, abandoned homes and a deserted metropolis. All glory is replaced by loss. Hope however, lingers in the details.
Ajram’s poignant realism, documentary precision and expressive storytelling blurs the line between the real and the imaginary. Her fine lines, organic palette and smooth finishes allows for the tale of Lebanon’s adaptation to be heard. Her figures transcend tenderness amid carnage, embellishing somber scenes with the lightness of joy. War is the background in her canvases, where love and survival fuse to become one. Suspended in time, her scenes reveal moments stolen by conflict. A couple sharing a kiss, a child relishing in innocence, what they all have in common are the scarves concealing their identity, masking their individuality. This becomes the universal narrative for the people of Lebanon, whom against all odds, manage to find peace in war and hope in misery. They allow a lifeless city to be born again and they embody the timelessness of survival and the immortality of the soul.