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Expressive geometric patterns.

Summary: Some people find abstract art hard to understand: Shapes and colors are seemingly randomly assembled on a canvas, with no hint whatsoever of context or the artist's intentions.

FURN AL-SHUBBAK, Lebanon: Some people find abstract art hard to understand: Shapes and colors are seemingly randomly assembled on a canvas, with no hint whatsoever of context or the artist's intentions. But Lebanese viewers might be pleasantly surprised by Paul Chemaly's abstract paintings now on show at Furn al-Shubbak's Cynthia Nouhra Art Gallery. Entitled "Patterns," this exhibition gathers 33 oil-on-canvas works in a demonstration of Chemaly's diverse and interesting use of geometric designs.

There are thick layers of paint, torn canvases and bright colors, all meant to attract as many eyes as possible. Chemaly's patterns resemble an artistic kaleidoscope that is likely to immerse viewers in his eclectic realm.

"La Roue du Temps" (Time Wheel) -- a 100x80 cm work -- is made up of thick yellow, orange, gray and red brushstrokes on a dark green background. The technique Chemaly uses plunges the viewers in a spiral and his geometric patterns are painted so that the viewer is hypnotized by this artistic helix. The dark background makes it feel as though one is gazing into an abyss, a time void. Although it is an abstract painting, Chemaly succeeds in rendering to his viewers anguish, stress and a loss of control.

His 75x75 cm painting entitled "Perspective" is completely different in style. Onlookers will be impressed by the palette of colors the artist has used: Vivid layers of yellow, blue and white are mixed on the canvas, almost protruding from it. The perspective referred to in the title lies in the manner the stripes and polka dots are placed.

At first sight, it seems Chemaly first painted the reddish background and then added the white dots. The blue stripes play the role of bars enclosing the patterns, as though they are encaged animals. So as to give harmony to the painting, the artist placed blotches of yellow paint, like a frame, around the edges. Although some viewers may find this choice of color disturbing to the eye, Chemaly's painting combines cold colors -- blue and white -- with warm ones -- yellow and red -- forming a sort of equilibrium.

Particularly interesting in "Patterns" is how the titles guide viewers in understanding the paintings, but do not prevent them from forming their own interpretations and impressions.

In his 100x100 cm work "Jaune et Vert" (Yellow and Green), the artist surely leads onlookers to focus on the most important colors of the painting. However, the more one gazes at the artwork, the more one's imagination flows and creates multiple contexts and explanations. The painting represents triangular shapes (yellow, blue, green and red) assembled like a puzzle.

Some viewers may see in it a wild scenery, others a piece of tapestry. Some others might even notice a resemblance in style with the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, who was known for his precise renderings of form and colors.

Chemaly's works enable viewers to visually meander between different techniques of abstract paintings. His 25x35 cm "Untitled" depicts an explosion of color. The dark red background is used as a platform to give life and movement to the yellow bits and white stripes. It is as though the colors are jumping out of the canvas, as though they were coming directly at the viewers like a life-sized kaleidoscope.

There is a great deal of movement and rhythm to the artist's paintings. Even the pickiest onlookers will be unable to find negative downbeats to Chemaly's art.

Using pure abstraction and abstract expressionism, Chemaly represents a wide range of themes such as boats, buildings, landscapes, cities and dancers -- an extensive source of inspiration that will trigger a stunned response from anyone who sets foot in the gallery.

Paul Chemaly's "Patterns" is up at Furn al-Shubbak's Cynthia Nouhra Art Gallery until March 23. For more information, please call 01-281-755.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Mar 18, 2013
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