In his first solo exhibition in Dubai, Lebanese artist Shawki Youssef will present a series of new works reflecting his ongoing exploration of body representations within painting. The bodies articulated in the works with strong visual gestures act in a manner which transcends pure illustration, depicting rather, how psychological elements torment and manifest within the body itself. Roused with tension the bodies are intertwined in an embrace that simultaneously reflects the aggressively carnal and instinctual needs of man, and the delicate nature of his utterly exposed vulnerability.
Attempting to create an uncensored stream from the unconscious to the canvas itself, Youssef tackles the physical performance of painting with an impulsiveness that is purposely never preconceived. While the resulting canvases and mutilated subjects often bring to mind Francis Bacon, the latter never altered the subjects of his work beyond recognition. Youssef’s anonymous bodies act as an illustration of the collective, of a society that has been affected by war, poverty and disease, and who the artist leaves -in a murderous mess-to put its individual pieces back together.
While the effects these factors have on the human physical condition are obvious, it is the externalization of the emotional and esoteric trauma endured that the figures depicted ultimately represent. Existing as both storytellers and archivists, Youssef’s bodies act as a diary for what it means to be a body living in the Middle East. The same body revolting today in the Arab world against the inhumane, the oppressed, and ultimately the frozen capsule of time itself.
Born in Beirut in 1973, Shawki Youssef received his BFA at the Lebanese University in Beirut in 1994, before going on to complete his MSc at St. Joseph’s University in 2007. His work extends to multiple mediums including painting, drawing, video, and installation.