Marie Traboulsi Marinier Figurative Portraits of Hidden Meaning

Nélida Nassar   03.13.2016

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With 9 artists on show at the Yacht Club Gallery – Zaitounay Bay there’s much to see, within a vast, raw, unfinished space. The work can be enthralling, stodgy and some of it, such as Marie Traboulsi Marinier four paintings are some the most engaging pieces within the “Art Show Beirut” curated by Joanna Saikali Art Gallery. The exhibition explores what contemporary artists in Lebanon and of Lebanese origin are up to. There are a few general themes: artists with social or political concerns, or those who eschew the digital age to make slow, hand-crafted objects but the overarching theme is materiality, which the curator say is about how artists engage with the material world. This seems to mean that it’s as much about objects and materials, as ideas.

Marie Traboulsi Marinier resident of France paints both commanding figurative portraits of majestic women and fragile ones, gloriously detailed, true to life, so close you could reach out and touch them. They do betray self portraits, except their settings aren’t what you’d expect. Confronting two realities the powerful and the powerless, there’s a hawk resting near the women’s arm, a balance of power, Queen of One Day is perched on a gaz cistern she confronts and she wins over difficulties thus is crowned with a flowers wreath. Controlling White Rabbit, an empowered woman become part of the background of a field of roses with a rabbit on her covered feet. She’s reminiscent of Matisse figures whereby through color, breaking patterns and perspectives, Traboulsi Marinier relentlessly moves towards abstraction. The two following pieces attest to human frailty Small Soldier a figure wearing a helmet seated on a box of staple food pasta and rice with a dove turning its back away. Is it turning away from war or scarcity of food or both?A diptyque Funny Numbers, July 72 with a large balloon perched high above a city and a cartoonish mickey mouse like woman in a swimsuit settled on a floating piece of wood where some clearly painted numbers and some erased ones, conjure the economical power’s fallibilityThe animals are stand-ins for something else, existing in a man-made environment with only one actual human around, and suffering the consequences of man’s environmental manipulation.

Traboulsi Marinier packs wallops of hidden meaning in her multilayered paintings. Every carefully chosen element – a pigeon, a drawn moucharabieh cutout, a painted-on balloon, the head of a dove or a rabbit, a cistern – carries significance in the painter’s well-curated artistic vocabulary. The resplendently calm and on the outside emotionless women she creates give voice to some of the artist’s potent themes: cross-culturalism, control of the masses,  social injustice. Other works convey messages of overconsumption, being other. Behind the pleasing image of a perfectly executed portrait lurks destruction and waste, disconnection and ruin.

The burden and pain of isolation is one of the paintings’ primary themes, but it is only one. In other ways, seeing from different perspective, they are both hopeful and humorous paintings, full of lush colors and exuberant brushwork. Traboulsi Marinier marks are visible and without the perfection of high finish, they almost reveal how she does it. They convince us first of all through their decorative fierceness. Among their expertly orchestrated palettes, yellows and violets are favored hues; a background may be a deep luminous aqua or soft green. Similarly, their improvisational surfaces evince an openness and sweetness that undercuts their intimations of power and control of the masses. Traboulsi Marinier succeeds in creating an artistic expression beyond narrow distorting limits.

Exhibition until May 17, 2016
Yacht Club Gallery – Zaitounay Bay
Beirut, Lebanon