Lebanese-Canadian artist Mouna Rebeiz is presenting “The Soothsayer,” at the 59th Venice Biennale which will take place from April 23 to November 27, 2022. A body of new works that invites the viewer to a symbolic and metaphoric journey in the St. George Anglican Church in Venice, Italy. Rebeiz started her art journey three decades ago: “30 years ago my elder sister wanted me to help her find a studio where she could learn how to paint. We have found a place called Atelier Cepiade where we met Alix de la Source who is an expert of the pictorial technique of great masters and a lecturer at the Louvre. I discovered that I had this gift and Alix de la Source took me under her wing and for 10 years I copied the great masters by relying on her know-how,” she recalls. The Lebanese creative held her first exhibition at the City Hall in the 5th District in Paris on February 1, 1999, carrying on to present her exhibition of ‘A Harmony of Different Voices’ on March 2, 2022, held in Dubai prior to the upcoming Venice Biennale showcasing “The Soothsayer.”
Holding a master’s degree in clinical psychology, the artist believes that her education helped her understand more about her craft by grasping the complexity and richness of human nature which echoes in her creations. After all, Rebeiz defines her work as “sensitive, cognitive, and experimental,” definitions that likely came about through her studies. As a woman, the artist also expresses that “art brings freedom”, a getaway of sorts. Rebeiz also acts as a representative in the Venice Biennale for the Lebanese community, which is undergoing difficult times. “Apart from the pride that any artist would have felt in representing a country, I feel as if I am a bearer of beauty here, in the spiritual sense of the term.”
Drawing inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the chosen title “The Soothsayer” derives its name from the character in the play that warns Caesar of his premeditated assassination, but was ignored and deemed a dreamer. The theme of the collection alludes to fortune telling, identity, and fate, all present in the infamous play by Shakespeare while holding true to traditions of Italy through the implementation of Tarot cards. “As one enters the narthex, an abstract Totem of 240 cm high, is an offshoot of the gods, ancestors and wise men who reign in another dimension. Over there are 22 trump cards in the Tarot deck, playing cards used in Italy since the mid-15th century. The deck is totally reinvented but shows, even reflects, the traditions as the figures are incised on polished aluminum mirrors. The viewer is then invited to a double experience: questioning both their future their identity,” explains Rebeiz on the experience of the exhibition. Through the effects of an algorithm, visitors are put in a reflection of identity and prophecy, bringing forth the question of whether of not identities can be reduced to algorithms and whether or not machines can predict the world. Exploring themes of mysticism laced with artificial intelligence, the exhibition embraces contemporary art to leave audiences questioning their fate on this Earth. “This staging is a metaphor of our contemporary society where man is all-powerful, or in the words of Protagoras, the measure of all things, and where all mystery, or mysticism is annihilated by the power of technology,” elaborates the Lebanese artist. This immersive experience is not the last for Rebeiz, as the future awaits another showcase in New York for her.
Mouna Rebeiz is represented by Leila Heller gallery. She just had her first solo show, Colour Power, in the UAE at Leila Heller Gallery Dubai. Currently she has her “Totem” sculptures on view at the Dubai International Financial Center. Her next solo show will be at Leila Heller Gallery New York in early 2023.