Right on the heels of his first solo exhibition in the UK dubbed Complete Freedom, Syrian artist Khaled Takreti, renowned for his innovative approach to painting, arrives in Beirut to kick off the next chapter of his two-decade creative oeuvre with LOL at Ayyam Gallery.

(220 Volts (2014), by Khaled Takreti)

Deliberately deconstructed and entrenched in a postmodern aesthetic, LOL unfolds as a satirical amalgam of fine arts and mass media. Nine paintings with layered composition and bright pops of color populate the exhibition space in a striking depiction of today’s modern, image-saturated world. The exhibit breaks apart the formal elements of painting in order to recreate a simple-yet-peculiar display of everyday scenes.

Takreti, who's been living in Paris since 2004, considers this exhibition to be the kickoff of a new phase in his artistic career, one in which he is experimenting with new elements of expression while also introducing a stark shade of sarcasm. “My last couple of exhibitions were tough and gloomy given all the turmoil in my country. The turmoil is still there today, but I found a way to make something positive out of it and I encourage everyone else to do so. A laugh can make a difference,” Takreti explained.

In a work titled Mis en Plis, a hollow figure outlined by women's clothing sits under a sleek salon hair dryer chair. In Marilyn, the iconic American sex symbol yields her white dress to the powers of the wind as seen in “The Seven Year Itch." A half-human, half stereo-speaker poses alongside outdated electronics in 220 Volts, and a self-portrait of the artist comfortably rocking a vintage armchair in A l’aise offers a dazzling representation of modern absurdity.

“The concept has both an artistic dimension and a psychological dimension,” Khaled Takreti told Beirut.com. “Technique-wise, I used Acrylics alone to create four different graffiti-like textures in my work, mainly by applying black acrylic paint directly to the white canvas which I purposely left visible in a “facile-difficile” approach. Psychologically, I used the minimum to convey the maximum, the risk was to say the least possible but still understand all,” he explained.

(J'ai Faim, by Khaled Takreti)

When asked about his favorite piece from LOL, Takreti points to 220 Volts, which he calls the "mother artwork." He also pointed to Marilyn, which he describes as “la crème” of the exhibition. It was the last artwork he completed after he flew in from Paris just to paint it on the exhibition's ground. “I’ve had the Marilyn tableau in mind for over two years, but I didn’t feel ready to get along with the idea until I came back from Paris last month. I love immortal figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. Icons are not born by accident, I would love to reach that in my career someday,” he told Beirut.com.

LOL most importantly marks Takreti’s salient detachment from the introspective family portraits for which he was best known over the last 20 years of his career. “I’ve been absorbed in the concept of family for so long until one day I decided to disconnect from my personal issues and felt totally free, which allowed me to venture into new psychological themes and laugh at the world’s problems,” he said.

Three out of the nine artworks featured in LOL are self-portraits. “I never dared paint myself until very recently," Takreti told Beirut.com. "But now I’m rather thrilled to see how my own image will come out. I moved from a single self-portrait last exhibition to three this time,” he said.

LOL remains on exhibit at Ayyam Gallery Beirut until October 24.

(Mis en plis, by Khaled Takreti)

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