Lebanese-born artist Ali Chaaban is as much a sociocultural commentator as he is an artist. He’s also fast emerging as a fashion photographer, shooting for Vogue Arabia and the Fashion Prize winners’ collections. With a blend of retrospective western sensibilities and an acute passion for Arab heritage, Chaaban has taken the plunge and is set to cut the ribbon on his first solo exhibition at La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai on January 15, 2017. Vogue Arabia talks to the artist about superheroes, subversive art, and provoking change through artful shock tactics.
“My art is not furniture art that you hang in your living room. It is museum or gallery art,” says Chaaban. The Kuwaiti-raised artist––with a background in anthropology––has the confidence to blend the influences of comic strip pop art approaches with Arabic aesthetics.
“As a kid born and raised in the GCC, you have a certain security in your comfort zone. There’s everything you need; instant gratification,” he notes. “I’m a westernized kid letting the Arabic influences come back in.”
His artwork, titled The Broken Dream, features a fractured Persian rug with a bruised Superman interrupting the weaves. “The Persian rug has its own prominence from visual to felt. Whether poor or rich, we all have a mindful appreciation towards it,” Chaaban explains. “Pop culture [mixed] with traditional aesthetics felt like a broken dream; to somehow connect what I loved as a child with what I love now, as an adult.” On a mixed medium of poster sticker on carpet, Chaaban’s superhero character is browbeaten. “The bruises on him are cultural shocks,” explains the artist. This piece plays a starring role in his “Technicolor” exhibit, situated at La Cantine du Faubourg, a space that the artist refers to as “timeless.” The venue is the Middle Eastern sister to its Parisian founding location, N°105 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Having previously been a part of collective exhibits alongside Saudi artists, Chaaban name-checks his contemporaries: “Khalid Zahid, Rashed Al Shashai, Sarah Al Abdali, and Arwa Al Neami.” As the founder of Live Demo, an experimental art collective, Chaaban classes the Middle Eastern art scene as “booming, super-cultural [and] nostalgic.”
He adds, “There’s a need to set a mood in one place.” For the first time, he does so alone, with evocative, often provocative pieces on the walls of the buzzing La Cantine du Faubourg, across its 1300 sqm of space. Nestled between the Emirates Towers, the venue is awaiting its superhero instalment. Art collectors take note.
“Technicolor” by Ali Chaaban is unveiled on January 15, 2017 at La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai.