In her latest collection of paintings, Nadia Safieddine diversifies the subject matter of her work by shifting the focus from lugubrious, distorted, and barely-visible figures to something – a landscape? – more definitely abstract. Portraits and nudes still make up half of the works on display, but the move to the non-pictorial intimates that the three categories of painting are not separate genres in the classical sense. Painted with a technique of impasto, all of Safieddine’s work is enmeshed in the dialectical relationship between abstract expressionism and figuration.
Safieddine flouts the genre conventions that define portraiture and the nude. Although she often starts painting from a live model, the figure represented is not a specific person whose “real self”, essence, or interiority is captured physiognomically.
Rather, the figure is always the projected image – each time distinct – of the artist herself. The distorted human figure, while a visually coherent image, is not at subject – the subject of the painting only emerges retroactively as an imaginary identification with the Other.
In the other half of the paintings, Safieddine drops the human body, but does not tend toward a “pure” and self-referential abstraction. Thick brushstrokes advance slowly as if soundwaves moving in frozen water.
Undetectable figures of trees and streams materialize, and the landscape emerges as a figure. Likewise, in her “portraits” and “nudes”, the human figure appears as no more than a landscape obscured under layers of paint. The separateness of the genres breaks down. In Nadia Safieddine’s work, the genre is nothing more than a boundary to work against.
Nadia Safieddine (b. 1973) is a Beirut-based artist. She received a Diploma in Painting from the Lebanese University’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1997. She has exhibited widely in Berlin, in both solo and group shows.
In Beirut, she has had several solo exhibitions including Elegy (2015), Badroom (2013), and Time (2011) in Agial Art Gallery. Group exhibitions include Thin Skin: Six Artists from Lebanon (2014) at Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York City; L’insondable Surface (2013) at Institut Français du Liban, Salon d’Automne (2011) at the Sursock Museum, and Sanayeh Art Project (1995) organized by Ashkal Alwan, in Beirut; Self-portraits Mirrors on the Wall (2010) at Athr Gallery in Jeddah; Jubiläumsaustellung (2003), Salon des Imaginären (2003), and Bi-Rout – Contemporary Art from Beirut (2002) at Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin, among others. Since 2007, she is a member of the BBK Federal Association of Visual Arts in Berlin.