Tabari Artspace will present in February El Beit, an art collective showing of contemporary and modernist Palestinian artists, who explore the important themes of identity through painting, photography and sculpture. The exhibition features the work of three artists – Hazem Harb, Mohammed Joha and Sliman Mansour – and it reflects on the collective experience of lost identity and displacement in Palestine. The show’s title, translated from Arabic as “feel at home“, makes reference to these themes.
El Beit highlights the ongoing impact of the Palestine-Israel conflict, facilitating a dialogue between the two different generation of artists, while providing an insight into various artistic practices and perspectives in Palestine today. Issues of modern Palestinian collective memory and its role in shaping national identity and historic legacy unite the artists, despite their distinct styles and points of reference.
The artist Hazem Harb presents a series of collage works inspired by the lake in the city of Tiberias. This lake has been considered for a long time a sacred area very important for the Palestinians. Tiberias was used as an important centre in Palestine for many years until the 1936 –1939 Arab revolt, a central theme also in Harb’s works. The collages are formed from a mixture of archive images of the lake as well as photographs the artist has taken himself.
The modernist artist Sliman Mansour’s paintings “Girl in the Village” and “Father and Mother on their Wedding Dayare” is displayed atop Harb’s photograph of the interior of a home in Tiberias. The first painting depicts a young woman standing in a thobe, a customary Palestinian dress, framed by an abstract landscape in the background, evocative of tradition and sentimentality. The second painting depicts the artist’s parents in a frame of olive trees. The olive tree is considered by many a symbol of nationality and connection to the land. This installation puts both of the artists’ works in direct dialogue within a familiar setting, rebuilding and re-imagining a homeland, now inaccessible. The immersive environment created by Harb’s and Mansour’s works communicate a particular sense of displacement and nostalgia.
Mansour is a major pioneer of modernist art in Palestine and has dedicated his career to visualising the Palestinian struggle throughout history. He is the only one of the three artists still living there. With the first Intifada in 1987, he founded the New Visions art movement. The movement’s decision has been to boycott Israeli-imported art supplies and to use natural, locally sourced materials, such as mud, henna and clay. This gave birth to Mansour’s featured series of Ten Years in Mud paintings, giving a physical dimension to the exploration of land. The abstract works use the earth itself to depict the land and its people, the cracks from the drying process illustrating the passage of time.
Mohammed Joha, instead, presents 14 collage works on paper, which explore the destruction of Palestinian homes during the conflict. Some of the houses are fictional, others are drawn from the artist’s memories. Joha considers in his works the themes of childhood, loss of innocence, freedom, identity and revolution within this context.
By showing Mansour’s work along with younger artists like Joha and Harb, this exhibition tries to accentuate the hard, long-standing challenges of the people across decades of unrest. Mansour has been working with themes relating to Palestinian identity for much of his career and El Beit also showcases the younger generation of artists who have carried on demanding recognition for the displaced peoples of Palestine.