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Mohammed Rawas (Lebanese, b. 1951)
Mohammed Rawas (Lebanese, b. 1951)

Souk El-Franj, Bab Idriss (Beirut Vegetable Market)

Mohammed Rawas (Lebanese, b. 1951)
Souk El-Franj, Bab Idriss (Beirut Vegetable Market)
signed and dated 'M.RAWAS 74' (lower right)
oil on canvas
51 x 62½in.(129.5 x 159cm.)
Painted in 1974
The Art of Rawas, Saqi Books, London, 2004 (illustrated in colour, p. 44)

Lot Essay

The present lot is a rare and significant example of his work from his formative years and is almost certainly the largest. In this early painting, the subject is unique as it depicts a Beirut scene familiar with old Beiruti residents and which no longer exists (Souk Al-Franj). In fact, the date of the painting, 1974, would lead us to believe it is the last depiction of the souk before the civil war broke out and destroyed it forever. In those days this souk supplied mainly quality fruits, vegetables and flowers, most of which were imported, hence the name (Souk al -Franj). The Souk was located off the Bab Idriss (now, Weygand Street) area in the old commercial centre of Beirut, and within few hundred metres from the location of the Institute of Fine Arts of the Lebanese University (presently The Council of Development and Reconstruction) where the artist was studying. Being in the vicinity, the artist frequently visited this Souk to do sketches and drawings on which he based this work. In it, the artist managed to capture in terms of both, composition and colour, the vitality and vibrancy of the scene. We can already see here the artist's tendencies to design elaborate and complex compositions anticipating his recent and current work.
Mohammed Rawas is well-known for his complex mixed media and assemblages. In his work, "Each Surface is carefully mapped out, divided into sections and 'framed' which suggests containment whether in the form of dominant cultural hierarchies or proscribed spaces. The juxtaposition of different materials, their associated meanings, and the images work to subvert these constrictions in various ways and to introduce contradiction."
(Fran Lloyd, from the artist's exhibition catalogue of his show at Janine Rubeiz gallery in Beirut, November 2000)
"Juxtaposing words and images, and visual iconography from high art and popular cultural sources, the work of Mohammed Rawas expresses a fundamental ambivalence: demonstrating both a debt to, and an ironic distance from, modernist traditions. Rawas' complex multi-media collages speak to the contemporary experience of fragmentation that is at once universal, and, one suspects, distinctly middle eastern."
(Helena Reckitt, ibid.)

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