Reem Bassous

Statement

 

I employ a mixed media approach in an attempt to translate my experience under sectarian strife into a stabilized visual form. Drawing, painting, burning, cutting, and staining on paper and canvas formulate my explorations of the socio-political tensions that condition everyday life in Lebanon. Steeped in historical references, my work is contextualized in the present through interplay between past events and contemporary situations. I weave together a seemingly unpredictable surface of heavy acrylic paint and burn marks while the underlying element – the grid – asserts itself to achieve order amongst competing religious symbols and blurred recollections.

Rooted in my own memories of the Lebanese Civil War, I investigate the haunting images of my youth in Beirut while the city was predominated by war and political uncertainty. My work offers visions of how it felt growing up in a war zone, a subject many might deem dejected. Yet, by avoiding direct illustrations of the past, my memory constructions provide viewers a point of entry into my analytical wanderings amid thick passages of paint and pockets of graphite or charcoal that read as deep voids beneath the surface.

My interpretation is based on the memories of a 12 year old combined with the research I conduct as an adult to examine poignant moments during the Lebanese Civil War that shaped my life. Public versions of these moments are accessible via extensive documentation in newspaper articles, books, and photographs, all of which feed my visual recount of the way I remember it.

In my work, Islamic patterns juxtaposed with familiar Christian icons give insight into the political situation in Lebanon. Religious symbols are often set against a hand-drawn maze system made to resemble Kufic script and also mimic a city street plan whose strict geometric lines have been ruptured by the application of exploding firecrackers lit on the paper’s surface. The seemingly disparate motifs are in fact deliberately chosen and carefully described as reiterations of the Lebanese cultural fabric, hinting at my apprehension for impending conflict. The physicality of the damaged paper laced with intricate symbols mirror the visceral experience of war on home soil.

My approach however refrains from allocating blame and instead treads the fine line between sides, adding layers of meaning and possible interpretation.