'We create fictional heroes because we need role models, but the face of the Mulatham is as much about defeat and disillusion as about heroism. When I drew my first Mulatham, I did not simply read it as a Palestinian fedae, the Lebanese civil war was on my mind too. There is also confusion about the word fedae and its root, derived from fadi (redeemer or saviour) which is from fada (to sacrifice oneself)...I like the confusion, the challenge, the provocation...Did Jasper Johns encourage imperialism by drawing the American flag? In the same way, I am not glorifying martyrdom.'
(The artist quoted in "Ayman Baalbaki in conversation with Rose Issa, Beirut September 2011" in R. Issa (ed.), Ayman Baalbaki: Beirut Again and Again, London 2011, p. 13).
One of the most acclaimed and sought-after Lebanese artists of today, Ayman Baalbaki grew up in Lebanon amidst the Civil War and the Israeli occupation and consequently experimented from an early age the feeling of displacement following the conflicts ravaging his homeland.
Inspired by the events surrounding him, Baalbaki depicts destroyed buildings alluding to the consecutive bombings of Beirut's southern suburbs as well as tyres that are reminiscent of the urban landscape he lived in. Later, Baalbaki started his most sought-after series of warriors bearing veils, or the Mulatham, of which the present work is an outstanding example.
The anonymous figure he portrays acts as a symbol of resistance against the endless conflicts in the region and while Baalbaki undeniably addresses the issue of war, he uses a fabric with floral print in the background - a common pattern seen in the traditional Lebanese homes - to metaphorically convey his message for hope and better times. Hence, his depictions of colourful fighters with expressive brushstrokes and scattered flowers focus on resistance in the face of destruction and seemingly impersonate a nation's desire for rebirth.
Whereas Ayman Baalbaki's images of war and destruction are a first glance a mirror of violence and brutality through history, they move beyond a mere fatalistic representation and instead, reveal the impact of the country's condition on human psyche and the natural strive for peace and harmony. His Mulatham paintings are the most sought-after today and as the artist has moved away from this acclaimed series to focus on a new series of works, such masterpieces are rare to find and Christie's is proud to offer this exceptional work.