|Artist Nada Eido delves into an imaginary desert
|Lebanese painter's debut exhibition features 22 canvases, one mirage after another
With its broad bands of color, repetitive squares, buried scraps of fabric, and bubbled pools of oil paints mixed with tissue, the work of Lebanese painter Nada Eido, on view at Galerie Rochane in Saifi Village through the end of October, commands attention through its textures more so than its content.
The 22 canvases that comprise Eido's debut exhibition, "Mirages du Desert," are the kind of works that make you want to scan their surface like fingertips on Braille.
Eido earned a degree in studio art from the Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts (ALBA) in 1991 and has been painting more or less full time ever since. She taught at ALBA for a year and a half and has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including the Sursock Museum's Salon d'Automne in 1994. Her show at Rochane marks her first solo exhibition anywhere.
Eido spent a year working on these canvases and seems ready to extrapolate wide generalizations from the experience. "It's the first solo show," she says, chin up, "but it's not the last. This is an evolution. The more you work, the more you mix the colors - it's a matter of experience. Usually the last paintings I do for an exhibition are the best. The more you work, the more you complete the theme."
The theme Eido is seeking to complete here is, generally speaking, the desert, along with the illusions and hallucinations the desert gives rise to in the form of mirages.
From monastic writings (the idea that time spent in the desert allows for more profound prayer) and eighth- and ninth-century qasidas (lyrical poems built around a rahil, when a poet makes a desert journey to reclaim lost love or vanquish an enemy) to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and the Paris-Dakar rally, desert landscapes have a long history of inspiring artists, writers, sportsmen, and more. Hot, dry, barren, empty and seemingly endless, the desert provides an ultimate test of (and readymade metaphor for) physical and psychological endurance.
Eido, however, is more concerned with the desert as a form (in part, she explains, because she's never been to any desert and her paintings stem rather from images she's come across in books and movies).
"I always paint abstract," she says. "This time I wanted to paint landscapes so I decided to take the theme of the desert because it's a landscape and abstract at the same time."
Just as deserts create the conditions for those traversing them to experience mirages, Eido considers her paintings as catalysts for the imagination. "When you have visions, when you imagine things that are not real, you can imagine many things," she says. "You can help people to see things."
Breaking things down to the simplest of terms, she says that if someone looks at her paintings and doesn't get the abstractions or doesn't like abstract art to begin with, telling that person that they are looking at a picture of a desert helps.
"If they say, 'I'm seeing only a square,' when you put a theme, you lead them and their imagination so they understand the painting more and they like it more." The purpose of art, in her view, is that "it's nice to see. It's good for the imagination, the brain."
Worked into the surface of Eido's paintings are large squares of old fabric she took from a couch, her curtains, and the furniture of friends. What this carpetbagger aesthetic has to do with the desert is anyone's guess. But without them, her less fussy paintings bear trace similarities to the work of Mark Rothko, minus the crucially large size (meant to overwhelm and envelop viewers) and visceral emotional content (tragedy, ecstasy, melancholy) of Rothko's canvases.
While Rothko wanted to achieve "the elimination of all those obstacles which are set up between the painter and the idea, between the idea and the viewer," Eido seems willing to go only halfway in her work. She provides the canvas, the viewer provides the idea. In other words, her paintings are pleasant to a fault and somewhat emptied of meaning. A more accurate description than abstraction might be pattern and decoration.
"It's nice to imagine things, not just see things," she says about her aversion to figuration and realism. "It's nice to let the imagination go so you don't get limited, so you see different things, so you don't get bored."
Nada Eido's "Mirages du Desert" is on view at Galerie Rochane through October 29. For more information, call +961 1 972238.
Kaelen Wilson Goodie
The Daily Star