Playing with Perspectives
When it comes to cooking up some raw art, photographer Eddy Choueiry appears to have all the necessary ingredients
While three posters fixed on top of each other against a Beirut wall appeared to have little in common other than their positioning, something about the colours, composition and stratification caught the eye of photographer, Eddy Choueiry, as he wandered along the street.
He explains that while the notice on top promoting a play had the phrase ‘between them’ written in Arabic across it, a still-visible poster underneath for a concert featured the profiles of two men facing each other. Meanwhile, an older, inevitably less decipherable third announcement, added a satisfying splash of red colour to the triage that was fast becoming a project in Choueiry’s mind.
“I liked the way that the composition made the two guys look like they were in dialogue, while the combination of blue, yellow and red meant all the main colours were represented,” he explains.
These unassuming announcements that are so easy to spot when walking through Gemmayzeh or Hamra have provided the inspiration for a new show by Choueiry, which is now available to view on the Artscoops platform.
Choueiry tells me that he was fascinated by the way in which the posters evolved, layer upon layer, of their own accord, into a colourful collage, while also giving a colourful glimpse of Lebanese life in montage form.
“Someone comes along and sticks a poster on top of another, carelessly pulling off bits of paper, then another one appears and so on. After a while, I realised that you could see three or four posters in layers,” he explains. “At the beginning, it was the combination of colours that interested me, rather than the words. But then, I discovered that in a weird way, the layers were talking to each other.”
Choueiry, who teaches Art of Photography at the American University of Culture and Education in Beirut and, also, at Jamhour school, explains that the stratified poster theme is a prime example of the Raw Art genre, which he finds both fascinating and inspiring.
“One of the things that sets Raw Art apart from other genres, even related ones such as Street Art, is that it’s actually made by non-artists,” he notes. “It’s very often something that you see every, day but is creating no interest in its current state. The artist doesn’t create the art, rather they point a finger or guide an audience so that they can see things in a fresh or different way.”
To explain his philosophy, Choueiry gives the example of a previous collective project in which he photographed reflections on water. “A group of us were asked to create works depicting how we saw Lebanon,” he explains. “I took photos of the water and its reflections, but then turned the photos upside down, so that the subjects were inverted and the surface of the water offered an alternative visual.”
Another characteristic of the Raw Art genre is its temporary nature. “I was just walking along the street when the posters caught my eye, and I thought what a wonderful composition, so I took a picture,” he says. “Knowing that they might not be there tomorrow and that I could return to find a clean wall gave me a sense of urgency and also an awareness that we don’t control this art. In fact, while I’ll use my Cannon cameras when possible, I also take photos on my iPhone 6s if needed, to capture a particular moment in time.”
Choueiry’s sources of inspiration include Hans (Jean) Arp, the German/French sculptor, painter and poet who is recognized as the creator of the Raw Art (Art Brut) genre, and the French-American painter, sculptor, chess player and writer Marcel Duchamp, who challenged the very definition of art. Francis Picabia, the French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist has been another major influence.
Choueiry’s current projects include taking the photos that will illustrate two books celebrating 400 years of Lebanese residential architecture. A key theme, he explains, is the way in which décor from each era, could, at one point in time, be accurately described as modern. “I was fascinated by the philosophy that the modern of today, whether it’s iconic red tiles or a three-storey look, will be the traditional of tomorrow,” he says. “I want to get across that while the new of yesterday will soon be the old of tomorrow, it is still, in many ways, significant.”