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Mohammad Rawas stands today at the peak of an outstanding artistic career. Those familiar with his work will welcome this volume as a much-needed permanent source of reference, while those encountering the artist for the first time can enjoy a unique introduction to his work in the 235 lavish reproductions presented here. In the accompanying text, the artist himself provides a fascinating insight into his life and work, his compositional techniques and sources of inspiration. A painting by Rawas offers a complex visual and conceptual experience – both compelling and enigmatic, charming yet vigorously challenging. Constructing our own shifting narratives around the diverse elements of his paintings, we also explore the thought processes that led the artist to assemble these particular groups of images to form his original statements.
Born in Beirut in 1951, cosmopolitan and internationalist in his thinking, Rawas frequently ‘quotes’ images from European art and photography – from Michelangelo to Peter Blake, from Vermeer to Nadar – as well as from his Middle Eastern roots. In their new contexts, figures from familiar works of art seem to remind us of the continuity of beauty and human creativity – a calm space within a complex and often calamitous world. Set against these statements of artistic continuity are fleeting moments captured in the photographic images that form a striking element of his compositions – though, paradoxically, this fleetingness is given a permanence within the total work of art.
Words and three-dimensional assemblages, too, find a place on many of the canvases, further extending a work’s expressive possibilities. Although the assembled elements cannot be fully experienced in print, superb reproductions give a strong sense of the contribution these precise and delicate structures make to the diverse creative tensions within each work. It is by these varied and original means that Rawas invites us to interrogate our experience of the world across time and cultures, through collected images that shimmer with the contingency of the moment.
About the Contributors
Mohammad Rawas was born in Beirut in 1951. He has degrees in printmaking from the Institute of Fine Arts, Beirut and The Slade School of Fine Art, London. He has exhibited throughout the Middle East and Europe and is recognized as one of Lebanon's foremost artists. He teaches at the American University in Beirut.
‘Rawas’ work is haunting, surprising, and seductive at once.’
Helena Reckitt, Director of Exhibitions, Atlanta Contemporary Art Centre
'Open to multiple perspectives, Rawas's works suggest simultaneously both a critique of institutions and linear models of progress and an equally powerful wariness of the belief in nature as an ideal uncontaminated condition.'
Fran Lloyd, Kingston University