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The Mantle

Acid Fields, Shawki Youssef

Installation view at Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2013

This is the body that what we find in the work of Lebanese painter Shawki Yousef, and his recent exhibition “Acid Fields” held at Green Art Gallery, Dubai, in 2013. Yousef’s paintings – completed by works on paper – are deployed as a field exploration into the internal dynamics of becoming, which is the natural state of living creatures finding joy in a saturated world fueled by terror and war as mass media spectacles, in which moral judgments are a linguistic charade rather than a position of responsibility. This world remains absconded from the internal focus and what is left on the visual field is the immediacy of how bodies experiment the shifting sands of reality without the intermediation of a code of aesthetics or an architectural silhouette.

At times, Yousef’s interventions resemble the happenings involving body painting out of which performance art was born but without the ephemeral clarity: The bodies are here inscribed rather than painted and the surfaces appear to reveal raw materials re-collected from the debris of visual memory, rather than a mapping of submerged anatomies. The shadows of skulls in motion and mutation that we find in earlier works from 2011 and 2012, recede now into almost pointillist close-ups of the collective memory of the Levant. An impressionist texture reveals flesh in the raw, tactile and sonic: The smell of wounds, warm blood, the bristling sounds of love, the freezing announcement of war; all intersected by the sterile pulsations of the everyday.

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