Born in Egypt and raised in Lebanon, Vancouver-based artist Marie Khouri relays messages of diaspora, community, and connection through her sculptures. Khouri’s latest body of work, Bronze, on until February 22, is her second solo exhibition with Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery. In the exhibit, Khouri’s recognizable curvilinear forms come together with textured, birds nest-like sculptures made from cedar and bronze. The disparate styles signal difference between ruins and growth, and Khouri invites audiences to experience the works: move through their physicality, hear their story, and participate in their dialogue.
Khouri’s narrative idea for Bronze was born from a recent trip back to Beirut, where as a young woman she once fled the Lebanese Civil War. “I wandered on my own in the area where I used to live and I noticed on the footstones of where I used to live was a new building by Herzog & de Meuron,” Khouri recalls. “And across from it is the building from where I watched the war.” Khouri explains her home was across the street from the Holiday Inn, the zone where the month’s long conflict known as the Battle of Hotels took place. “This was the prominent place for whoever was disputing of who was going to control the area. Now, it’s a completely new city, so I wanted to make the parallels between how a city mends and how my generation has mended,” she says.
Shimmering and stoic, the last pieces in the exhibition stand tall and resolute, monuments to ruin.
Bronze makes a clear and distinct designation between the rubble and the monument. Khouri’s pieces are embedded with cedar, a national symbol of Lebanon, and their bronze threads seem to be pushing and pulling apart. “With knives and brushes I create the relief, I paint them basically,” she explains of the process. “And then I torch and cut. In a way you burn, you torch, you build on… all of this allowed me to recall how all of this has remained in me.” The pieces are fragile, vulnerable, recalling the hollow ruins of wartorn structures.
Walking through the exhibition space leads viewers to Khouri’s more recognizable pieces (her work has found international homes in the likes of Paris’ esteemed Hôtel de Crillon). Yet while the artist’s style has become signature, her trip to Beirut revealed some of her latent intention with the polished and refined pieces. Khouri saw her own work and aesthetics in the shining Herzog & de Meuron building. “Coming back I realized that a lot of the pieces I had been working on for the past few years were very similar to this kind of imagery,” she says. “So, I realized how I had done my healing and my medicating.” Shimmering and stoic, the last pieces in the exhibition stand tall and resolute, monuments to ruin.
Marie Khouri’s Bronze runs at Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery January 20 to February 22, 2018.
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