DUBAI (Arabnews): The Lebanese artist discusses a piece from his latest body of work ‘The Casino Series.’
My studio was very close to the explosion at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. You can imagine what happened: It was like a washing machine, turning everything upside down. Most of my paintings were destroyed.
A collector called Johnny Mokbel suggested we work on a series focusing on a scene from Lebanon in a more simplistic, minimalist style. The only scene that was close to my heart was Casino Bay. I have a childhood friend, Ralph, who lives in Ghazir, overlooking the Bay of Jounieh, and underneath is the Casino du Liban. It’s like living in a postcard. The casino is a beautiful building — it was the first casino in the region. Dignitaries, royalty and film stars from all over would visit. It represents the days when Lebanon was ‘the Paris of the Orient.’ It’s still functioning, but Lebanon is in shambles and nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future.
After the explosion, I spent a weekend at Ralph’s flat and took shots on my iPhone from the terrace during different times of the day.
The series differs from my usual pop-art style. I used oil paint, which takes time to dry. It wasn’t a meditation, exactly, but it was a way for me to gather my thoughts. It took me nine months to finish nine paintings.
In “C120S1”, ‘C’ stands for casino, ‘120’ is the size of the painting (in centimeters), and ‘S1’ stands for Sunset 1. It means a lot to me personally because I love the time between sunset and sundown. For me, it’s the most magical time of day. The colors that you see were the actual colors that I was seeing on my iPhone; I probably enhanced them a little to make them a bit more dramatic.
I am leaving Lebanon for the US soon. I don’t want to be dramatic but this is most likely one of my last paintings as a resident of Lebanon.