Mainly known for his strong expressive compositions and proficient use of free colours, the much-admired self-educated Lebanese artist Elie Kanaan, uses his ouevre to unleash his imagination in a beautiful intertwinement of colour and form that conveys a unique command of colour and shape.
In the present work, Kanaan implements a light-toned pastel colour palette to illustrate the sky, the sea and a nearby city – all of which have the same poetic and imaginative construction – making it seem like an open horizon of organised chaos. The limits of these three main elements gracefully interweave, forming an indefinite combination of possibilities. On the bottom right, a small boat gradually enters the picture, as if a person is embarking on a new journey into an unknown universe. The destination of that boat is unclear, to both the person sailing it and to the viewer, which adds to the piece a sense of profoundness and mystery, the shore of the city so close yet so far. The contrast in colours observed clearly exhibits Kanaan’s mastery of complex reconciliation of light and dark; whilst the use of the varying shades of blue demonstrates infinity and conveys freedom as the tone gradually becomes lighter. On the other hand, the darker hues for the sailboat denote stability, and the addition of thin yellow brushstrokes, in the middle, focuses the attention of the viewer to the centre of the painting adding a deeper element of dimensionality that transcends the two- dimensionality of the canvas. This mixture brings a sense of balance to the composition, a characteristic of the eminent artist’s works, also seen in his remarkable merging of abstraction with figuration. Through this method, Kanaan perfectly captures the inexplicable reality of the vast outer world beyond its mere physical appearances in a form of existentialism.
Executed in 1980, Kanaan’s choice of composition clearly reflects a certain feeling of solitude that was brought about due to the underlying unsteadiness caused by the civil war in Lebanon at the time, yet simultaneously echoes a feeling of nostalgia and are reminiscent of the country’s better past. The ambiguity of this masterpiece provides the viewer with two substantial realities about the illustrated scene; a physical and an implied one, which delicately co-exist in an immaculate unification of shades.