Piecing together the region’s art

Art lover and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast Camille Saade is making art more accessible and democratizing it, and offering hours of brilliant brain-teasing fun at the same time, through two new offerings from her Pazel brand, as ArtScoops discovers

While we may think of walls and shelves as the default vantage point for admiring art, there’s a lot to be said for piecing together a fantastic painting in jigsaw puzzle form.

That’s certainly the philosophy of Lebanese entrepreneur Camille Saade, creator of the Pazel jigsaw concept. A long-time art lover and jigsaw enthusiast, Camille launched a series of limited-edition puzzles in late 2021, showcasing the work of three Middle Eastern artists, with the two-fold aim of highlighting the region’s artistic talent and providing hours of fun. 

Following their success, she is now preparing to introduce a further two puzzles to the market in May featuring the work of two Lebanese contemporary female artists.

Camille explained that she first had the idea for creating art-inspired puzzles after buying a 1000-piece jigsaw in a museum gift shop on a trip to Paris in late 2019. “The puzzle, which featured a work by the Spanish artist Joan Miró, really caught my eye on the shelf and I had a great time working on it,” she said. “Then I began thinking how fantastic it would be to create puzzles showcasing Middle Eastern art.”

With interest in traditional indoor leisure activities reignited by time spent at home during lockdowns, Camille felt inspired to put her idea into practice, enlisting the advice and support of veteran art dealer and gallerist Saleh Barakat to do so. After what was an inevitably difficult selection process, three artists were chosen for the first project, namely Nabil Nahas (b. 1949) and Bibi Zogbé (1890-1973), both from Lebanon, and the Beirut-based, Syrian painter Anas Albraehe (b. 1991).

Camille explained that identifying artists and works that showcased contrasting style and themes was key when making the selection decision. “Nahas is known for drawing inspiration from the decorative patterns of Islamic art, but also his imagery referencing trees from his native Lebanon, as is the case in the work chosen here, while Zogbe’s vibrant paintings of Lebanon’s flowers have earned her the well-deserved title ‘La Pintora das Flores’,” Camille said. “Albraehe’s colourful figurative work, meanwhile, is rich in storytelling, striking a deep emotional chord with viewers.”

Neighbourhood #2 by Zeina Assi

For her second series, she settled on pieces by Zena Assi and Katya Traboulsi. Titled ‘Neighbourhood #2’, Assi’s original artwork was created in mixed media and features fragments of fragments of Beirut, cleverly brought together. “Zeina has a very interesting style of mixing things together in her interpretations of Beirut and then depicting them in a homogenous way,” Camille said. “As a result, one of the enjoyable aspects of this puzzle is that when working on it, we’re likely to spot something that we recognise from a stroll around the city, while other details will be unfamiliar – things we’ve overlooked.”  

The work by Traboulsi, meanwhile, titled ‘The Donkeys’, is an acerbic and witty piece which tackles the topical issue of sexism in a creative and thought-provoking way. “Katya depicts the power men still have in today’s modern world, which enables them to govern and means women are left out of many important processes,” Camille explained. “Puzzle fans will see this message as they work on the jigsaw but also have the opportunity to appreciate the artist’s bold use of colour – a key characteristic of her paintings and sculptures – which disrupts their expectations of the dark subject matter.” 

The jigsaws consist of 500 pieces, providing plenty of brainteasing fun time for fans and others who are trying out puzzles for the first time. They also come with a small poster listing details of the featured artwork and a biography of the artist on the back of the box. Part of the proceeds from sales is being donated to the Beirut Heritage Initiative, which is supporting the restoration of historic buildings damaged by the August 4, 2020 Beirut explosion.

Given that Camille is a longstanding jigsaw fan, it seemed only right to finish our chat by asking for her hints and tips when it comes to tackling puzzles. “There’s definitely a technique to them,” she said with a smile. “I always make it a point to find the pieces that make up the frame when I start a puzzle, then separate the others into different colours. After that, I focus on the details in the picture, such as a face or a specific flower, for example. Gradually, the entire puzzle begins to take shape, which is definitely satisfying!” 

For more information on Pazel and to place an order, go to www.pazel.me

The Donkeys by Katya Traboulsi

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