Textile work, paintings, works on paper and films are gathered in the show to tell stories of displacement and uncertainty: Al Solh’s oeuvre focuses on the continued impact of war on people in the Middle East, particularly on the struggles of women, as well as linguistic identity and the significance of oral history as a living record of their experiences.
The focal point of the show will be a large-scale embroidered tent, created in collaboration with groups of women in Lebanon, the Netherlands and Gateshead. The piece is inspired by a royal ceremonial tent from Iran, and will feature an audio element of storytelling, as well as providing a space for accompanying performances and events.
The Lebanese artist’s portraits drawn on paper, or “time documents” created as part of the project I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous will also be included in the exhibition. Began at the start of the Syrian war, the drawings feature sketched portraits with text. Many these are drawn on yellow legal paper, serving as reminders of the inescapable bureaucracy in obtaining a citizenship. They stemmed from conversations Al Solh had with Syrian refugees, as well as other people from the Middle East displaced to Lebanon, Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world.
Each one of the drawings is a record of time spent with the sitter in an intimate, face-to-face conversation, recounting about their experience. As a result, the drawings carry the energy of those encounters, allowing the viewer to really focus on their subjects and ‘listen’ to their words scribbled alongside the sketch. Perhaps these works can become starting points for new conversations and as the socio-political situation is always in flux and responding to new challenges, these pieces are a valuable record of time spent with those whose voices we really must hear.
Mounira Al Solh: A Day Is As Long As A Year will open BALTIC’s 20th anniversary programme.