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Riad Nehme.. Biography of the counter-departure

Under the title “And I am the constant going to the country”, adapted from a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, it was recently held at the “Art Sen” hall in Beirut. Exhibition The Iraqi artist, Riyad Nehme, presented it in the exhibition card, the Iraqi artist Dia Al-Azzawi. The title will not be superfluous or arbitrary, as it is likely that the exhibition (which concluded on the fifth of this month) almost followed and narrated it, in many of his paintings.

It is as if the entire exhibition is based around this PhraseWhich means to the Iraqi living in Lebanese exile, what it meant to the Palestinian who spent his time as a Palestinian in exile and diaspora, without that making him farther.

We do not doubt that Nima means Iraq, which will not be in the country the opposite Only paradoxically back to him. We can therefore look at the exhibition as expressing, painting by picture, this return, through and through exile, this opposite dimension that bears the paradox of proximity and return. It is the counter-return, which the exhibition advances to narrate. The exhibition is his narration in a manner that tracks his steps, one by one, accompanies him from one location to another, and creates metaphors and symbols for him. Rather, it is a narrative, a story, and a theater. When we see the pictures of the sons turning their backs and running on the way, we are here in front of the separate going that the son carries (why the son?), with a red stamp on his back. More than one son, and they all turn their backs with that red stamp on their departure bag.

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This red stamp will only be a counter-return. We will not see faces, but bodies built and stacked, bodies of a family in its departure. It is built ready to return, which is not so much in front of it as on its shoulders, so much as a red stamp. Sons thus carry their hearts on their backs, inasmuch as they return from behind and against themselves.

Faces that do not look down on us, and if they do look down, they are made out of darkness

We will also see those standing in what looks like polka dots. They are close to the soldiers without being soldiers. They do not turn their backs, but, turning forward, they have neither heads nor faces. Their heads and faces, this time, are redundant, mixed with them. This time it’s absent, not even a mask, it’s just a piece of a garment, or just a lump and a molten head of paste. We are still, however, in the paradoxical departure and return, the homeland will have no face, it will not have eyes, it will only be this bloody absence, if we remember the red stamp.

He will be like those who departed to the extremities and exiles, as they will be stamped with this paradox. Like them would also be this counter-departure. The country will be nothing but this red stamp on the back, that bloody stamp that we carry on our shoulders. She is only that lost son, as much as she is that drooping, self-pitying soldier, the soldier lost in his skin and everywhere.

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(from exhibition)

There would be neither a face nor a head, there was only this muddy existence of a near soldier. It will only be a forearm and a torso, but hey, we’ll finally see the face and the head peeking out from under the hood. The face here, and this time, looks out of the darkness, rather it is, in a way, made to look like darkness. Now there is a face, and there is a look ahead, but the front is missing, the front is absent with the hood. The front is of the same material the back is made of. There is a face but of the same substance, of the same expression, which they hide and conceal. We found the face, we found the head, but which face and which head? It is a face that only looks at itself, rather it is almost swallowed up in front. He looks, but his gaze is almost from within, and from his wrinkles.

How much effort does an artist take to say that? Riad Nehmeh can tell. The power of expression and the power of drawing are added to the story, in these countries that we see in the decorative mud that spills on the body, these countries are not now to give a face or a head. Here it emerges from under the hood as a mask, and as an image of what is no longer continuous, only counter-return.

* A poet and novelist from Lebanon