Lot 5, Aref El Rayess - Untitled - Blurring the Lines, Waves of Figuration and Abstraction in Paintings from the MENA - Auctions



Executed in: 1971

Medium: Felt pen (coloured markers) on cardboard

Size: 38 x 63.2 cm (unframed)

Signed and dated in Arabic on the front lower left.


Private Collection, Lebanon. Acquired by the present owner from Joe Tarrab Collection.


Beirut, Lebanon

Estimate €4,000 - €6,000


Born in Beirut in 1928, Ares el Rayess was a self-taught artist at the beginning of  his career. Living between Senegal and Paris, he finally enrolled at La Grande Chaumière Academy in Paris, and went on to study in Florence on an Italian government scholarship. In the early ‘60s, he lived and exhibited in Rome, then spent two years in the US, until his return to Lebanon to teach at the Lebanese University. During the Lebanese Civil War, he relocated to Saudi Arabia where he was employed as an art consultant for the city of Jeddah, and often worked on commissions by the Saudi government. Mainly a painter, the artist was also known for tapestry work, sculpture and etching. 

El Rayess tackled mostly political and social issues in his works, exploring subjects such as war, tyranny, the downfall of nations, the fight for freedom, and even going on to depicting the lives of prostitutes in a series entitled The Flowers of Rue Al Moutanabbi (1971-1973). 

The artist’s works are housed in collections worldwide such as the ones of the Musée National, Algeria; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE and the Musée Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock, Beirut, Lebanon, to name a few. He has consistently exhibited since the late ‘40s until today, with an upcoming exhibition at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencià, Spain entitled Works 1957 – 1978, his most recent exhibition being Works 1960 – 1988, at the Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Germany and at Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE. 

This stunning work by Aref El Rayess features geometric abstraction with a touch of figuration that blends into the abstract architectural landscape created by the artist. A translucent fish-like nude poses in her dome, overlaying more domes that contain different spaces and structures. In this piece, El Rayess has unprecedentedly left a completely blank background, choosing to focus on the vibrancy of colorful lines. 

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