nadim karam: urban stories

Internationally renowned Lebanese artist and architect Nadim Karam will stage his first exhibition at The Fine Art Society in London, having recently joined the gallery’s roster of artists. Entitled ‘Urban Stories’, the exhibition will present a comprehensive survey of Karam’s multidisciplinary practice over a twenty-year period.

The show will feature a selection of sculptures and paintings from Karam’s ‘Toys’ and ‘Stretching Thoughts’ series, as well as over 40 unseen works on paper from his 1993 sketchbook, which represent the inception of the iconic ‘Archaic Procession’ series. The results of Nadim’s artistic explorations and experiments, these works are indissolubly linked with the other dimension of his practice that cannot fit inside an exhibition space: his public art projects.

A sculptor, painter, urbanist and architect based in Beirut, Nadim Karam is one of the region’s strongest artistic voices. Born in Senegal, raised in Lebanon and educated in Japan, Karam’s work is informed by his unique cross-cultural perspective.

With Atelier Hapsitus, the creative and architectural practice he founded in Beirut, Karam has created large-scale urban art projects for cities as diverse as London, Prague, Melbourne and Tokyo, exploring the use of public art as an instrument of storytelling and activism. Karam refers to his iconic steel creations as “urban toys” or “dream catalysts” that are designed to inject an element of playfulness and fantasy into urban environments.

“In the city, memories of the past were shaped into cultures”, says Nadim Karam. “It is up to us to sustain the stories of the past and create new stories that fuse with the unique sounds, views, smells, tastes and textures of our cities. These stories should grow from its aura.”

 Nadim Karam’s production of work across multiple disciplines is an optimistic act of rebellion, as well as an affirmation of the power of creativity against the mundanity and terror that afflicts our lives and cities. His work focuses on re-examining perceptions of pluralism and difference within societies as a source of enrichment rather than conflict.

The genesis of Karam’s striking visual alphabet can be traced back to his paintings and drawings of the early 1990’s where a series of individual yet interconnected humanoid-animalesque forms became the basis of his ‘Archaic Procession’ works. These symbolic figures eventually took sculptural form in the city of Beirut at the Sursock Museum (1994), the Beirut National Museum (1995) and then again in downtown Beirut (1997-2000) where the sculptures periodically moved around the city, using absurdity to create a dialogue with its spaces and recent history. They became what Karam would later term “urban toys”; a way of communicating using a universal language that transcends borders, cultures and religions.

Imbued with the artist’s signature vocabulary, a focal point of the exhibition is the sculpture ‘Trou de Memoire’, composed of two circular works placed opposite each other. The first, ‘Memory’, carries 30 years of Karam’s stories and memories radiating outward from a central hollow. ‘Void’ is smooth and empty, mirroring the artist’s memories and representing the possibilities yet to come.

In addition to his upcoming exhibition at The Fine Art Society, Karam is working on a number of major public and private commissions that will be installed in various locations worldwide throughout 2017, including for the Nissan Headquarters in Tokyo, the Suzhou Mall in China and Lovers Park, Yerevan, Armenia.