With a strong sense that Lebanon’s heritage is continuously being destroyed through reconstruction efforts that often raze over old buildings in favor of slick, new properties, Beirut-based UK artist Tom Young came upon an abandoned mansion in the Achrafieh neighborhood of Gemmayzeh with an idea: he could try to save the history and memories that surrounded this forgotten home through art and inspiration.

“I hate to complain about stuff; I’d rather act instead, and I see this as my contribution,” Young told Beirut.com. With that in mind, the artist spent the last five months sifting through old photographs and other remnants left behind by Madiros Baloumian, the home's former owner, who was forced to abandon it during Lebanon's 15-year civil war.

Drawing on inspiration from the memories left behind by the Baloumian family as well as his own, Young produced more than 50 paintings which are currently on display at the newly renovated and renamed mansion, Villa Paradiso. The title of the exhibit, Carousel, is a reference to Baloumian's old Sanayeh shop by the same name, which no longer exists.

The artist explains why he chose this old deteriorated building - now under renovation by a man named Remy Feghali and his family - to display his work, saying “The Carousel is about the idea of memory and loss and rebirth; the cycle of joy and pain and construction and destruction is linked to Beirut more than any place on earth."

Young was first introduced to Lebanon in April 2006, when he was commissioned to do a series of paintings featuring Lebanon's beautiful landscapes for his mechanic at the time, a Lebanese emigrant he met in London.

“As soon as I landed I felt this strong affection like I’ve been here before,” enthused Young. Soon after he finished his work and returned to the UK, the July 2006 war broke out. The artist explains his emotional link between Lebanon's own tragedies (the civil war and ongong conflicts) to the loss of his mother at the age of 10, remarking “I don’t know why, but I made this connection between the country’s suffering and my own... I’ve always been aware of the Lebanese civil war; I practically grew up watching that day and night on TV."

The 2006 war didn't stop the artist from coming back another time: “I felt very upset at the time since the place I’d fallen for was being attacked. But I wanted to come back to do what I could do to help.”

That feeling has consummated in the opening of Villa Paradiso. For future projects, Young is thinking about starting a series in which he transfers the foundations for the Villa to other old beautiful buildings in Beirut in an effort to bring new life to Lebanon's heritage while still honoring the places’ memory and spirit.

“I know that there’s a lot of selective amnesia in Lebanon and we choose what we want to remember as part of our defense mechanism. And for that I don’t judge people, I just appreciate their sense of optimism and this is what I portray in the Carousel itself—this meaning of amnesia and chaos, yet the amazing idea to keep [everything] working. The painting is also about the double edged nature of amnesia and resilience," Young says.

"Art is not about dictating your feelings to people, it’s about imagination.”

The Carousel exhibit continues until June 19. In addition, a special event is taking place Thursday, June 13 with a performance by Raffi Wartanian, the great-grandson of Madiros Baloumian, in addition to a lecture by Christopher Young, Tom's father, about his research into the extraordinary life of the home's former owner.

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