After the end of the long and bloody Civil War (1990), the wish to catch up with the lost years was prominent in Lebanese society. Many Lebanese who had left the country during the war years returned and brought with them new experiences and ideas, a situation that led to a particular dynamic. Beirut turned into a sort of “laboratory” of this new artistic “movement” that combined new ideas of young artists who had studied internationally and whose work was influenced by contemporary artistic discourse of the global centres of art with the historical specificities of Beirut, Lebanon and the wider region. The city of Beirut became a leading centre of art in the region.
Particularly after the year 2000, international interest focused on a group of young artists whose conceptual works addressed issues of the recent past of the country and thus undertook the work of coming to terms with the violent past, a task the political class in Lebanon was (and is) reluctant to tackle. Their favourite media were installation, video, performance as well as archive- and text-based work. More “traditional” media such as painting and sculpture were hardly used and were even often regarded as passé. However, a small group of young artists started incorporating painting in their conceptual work. Trained in painting, they searched for new ways to use this medium by cultivating a link with local art history (also reflected in the collecting practices of some of these young artists), while remaining firmly grounded in contemporary discourse and concerns. Thus, their painting practice cannot be separated from their work in “contemporary” media.
The exhibition “Re-touch” presents the rich world of this group of artists. It offers for the first time in Berlin a concentrated view of this new practice and explores the different ways through which these artists have succeeded in renewing their chosen medium. The works critically address current issues of Lebanese society such as exile, alienation, the obsession with beauty, violence and destruction and manifest a colour-hungry rawness that is very far from the aesthetic exercises of former generations of Lebanese painters.