BEIRUT: “Rainbow is my favorite color,” said the petite woman with the wine-red bob of curls and gentle smile. With her bright pink dress, yellow earrings, and red lipstick, Ilat Knayzeh looked like one of her paintings had come to life.
That’s how much of her is evident in her pieces.
Art of Change Studio, a newly opened space in Hamra St., held the opening night of Arcadia, Knayzeh’s third solo exhibition. The collection revolves around moments of her personal life, starting from when her husband, Hasan Salame, literally dropped from the sky, and proposed.
“Coming down paragliding with a 'Will you marry me?' banner and my rainbow colored ring,” wrote Knayzeh under her opening painting "The Proposal."
“All art should be personal, or else it won't be noticed,” said Knayzeh. “In my artwork, because it’s abstract, you don’t have to see what I see. Even though it’s personal to me, it can be personal to someone else for another reason, this is why I love it.”
Although different perspectives are imminent, she wanted to set a specific direction and theme that revolved around love and share specific moments with her audience. With that in mind, she used written descriptions of her paintings instead of leaving it completely up for interpretation.
Arcadia is the Greek word for utopia— a space of absolute harmony and inner peace. According to Ilat, that’s the state of mind she hopes to show through her paintings. It’s also fitting because Greece was where the couple went for their first honeymoon.
The exhibition consists of 31 paintings, each accompanied by a short text describing what inspired the piece, and what was happening at the moment it was created. From the proposal, to house-hunting, to the wedding and honeymoon, to the challenges newlyweds face, their story begins and continues with colors.
“These beautiful works they’re fantastic, they bring joy, they bring happiness,” said Hala Nasreddine Najjar, director of Marketing, Media, and Communications for Art of Change. “I see them great for schools, for kids, for hospitals, for any area that wants to bring positive vibes and lift the people’s moods.”
Much like her person, the mixed media paintings are defined by their strong and vivid colours, and abstract nature. The collection told a story of love, of artists making it in the real world, and of partnership. Deeply personal, Knayzeh said she wanted to spread positivity in a world where negativity is prevalent.
“What I was thinking while I was preparing, was we share a lot of negative things with each other, it’s very rare to share a love story, to share happiness. I don’t know why people are sometimes ashamed to say they feel good,” said Knayzeh.
When it came to choosing the venue, Knayzeh and Art of Change felt like a meant-to-be match— Knayzeh was already involved with Ahla Fawda, the NGO responsible for creating Art of Change. Her personal purpose with her paintings fit right in with the objective of the new studio. According to Najjar, the initiative is about “using art as a transformation force to create change.”
“We believe art is the best way to create positive change and to elevate mindsets, and change behavioral patterns to make a better society,” she added.
Najjar also noted that in a world where most of what’s seen is pain and darkness, seeing colors portrayed Knayzeh’s way feels like a necessary breath of clean air. Trust and faith in love is the recurring theme throughout the exhibition, with a steady consistency exonerated through the couple’s portrayal.
“It's so wonderful that after 10 years she’s still inspired by the same man she fell in love with,” Najjar laughed. “I’m glad to see that there’s still hope in love, and faith in love, and faith in romance.”
The exhibition will continue until Oct. 31, open on weekdays from 10:30 a.m. till 9:30 p.m. at Art of Change, on the third floor of Assaf building, Hamra main street.
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