'I looked around me and painted those expressive images and faces that I encountered in my life and so dearly loved: I painted myself, my children, my wife, my neighbours, my fold and the street on which I lived.'
(The artist quoted in The Paul Guiragossian Foundation, S. Bardaouil and T. Fellrath, Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition, Beirut 2013, p. 20).
The second of Modern master Paul Guiragossian's works to be offered at Christie's this auction season, Market Place from 1987 offers a dynamic and exquisite composition from the artist's most celebrated and sought-after period.
An example of the artist's later works, Market Place celebrates Guiragossian's move away from clearly defined figurative compositions to abstract linear brushstrokes of a deep and textural quality. The work reveals a strong expressionist imagery and the warm palette of Mediterranean colours that define Guiragossian's aesthetic exploration at a period when the Middle East was in upheaval and Lebanon was witnessing the last years of a ravaging civil war. In his canvases from the 1980s, Guiragossian implemented a sense of chaos in his compositions, from which Market Place is an extraordinary example.
With the thick brushstrokes the artist manages to conjure up the hustle and bustle of the market place - there is a sense of dynamism that emanates from the lines of colour as the figures interact with each other. The thick impasto offers a sculptural quality that allows the figures to leap out of the canvas, transporting the viewer into what could only be described as a typical Middle Eastern market. The directness, luminosity and density of colour, produce a visually arresting, multi-layered and emotionally captivating work of art.
With very little space visible between the tall figures of this horizontal composition, the artist creates a tangible sense of depth in his handling of the vast crowd. These figures, interacting in a journey with each other, exude an intense feeling of exuberance marching together as they extract their strength from each other. By creating an aura of positivity, Guiragossian thus aims to add an element of positivity at a time that was grief stricken not only for his country, but also within his personal life.
The duality of Guiragossian's portrayal of both happiness and sadness within his bold, yet delicate brushstrokes have become his signature style and offers features that are rarely seen in the history of art from the region. Market Place offers a delightful example of his captivating style. Indeed so original is Guiragossian's work that The Paul Guiragossian Foundation recently organised a retrospective of the artist's works at the Beirut Exhibition centre on the 20th anniversary of the artist's death that cements Guiragossian's position as one of the most important Lebanese and Arab artists.