A Universal Alphabet



Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut is happy to present TIMO NASSERI’s solo show, after his presentations at our Beirut gallery in 2008, 2010 and 2015; the artist shows this time new works with A Universal Alphabet.

Timo Nasseri’s latest project takes as a starting point the patterns of the Razzle Dazzle, a camouflage used during World War I on boats, which was supposed to prevent the enemy from estimating their exact heading and position. The patterns consisted of geometrical shapes painted in contrasting colors, and their authorship was then claimed by three different people: the artist Norman Wilkinson, the zoologist John Graham Kerr, and Pablo Picasso.

This peculiar story leads Nasseri to deconstruct the camouflage patterns to their smallest unit, uncovering their primary shapes. The lines and colors that appear carry the echo of primitive cultures from Latin America, Africa and Asia; revealing a graphical alphabet used around the globe since the dawn of times, until it reached European warships at the turn of the 20th century.

In his work, Timo Nasseri reflects on the universality of these patterns. Experimenting with matter, he deciphers a visual code that brings these shapes to life through three-meter-high sculptures, or breaks them apart in a multitude of black folded metal signs. The ships themselves land on three-meter-high canvases and become totems or giant insects mirroring a return to origins.

The exhibition also presents drawings and sculptures inspired by the studies of Jacob Steiner (1796 – 1863), a Swiss mathematician known for his contributions to the development of modern synthetic geometry. Nasseri uses these ideas to explore quantum theory within his larger discourse on infinity. These principles ultimately lead to the belief in parallel universes, endlessly expanding across all probabilities; linking to a series of star charts which draw on Jorge Luis Borges “The Library of Babel” and reveals omnipresent elements that can only be perceived based on the viewer’s standpoint.



A Universal Alphabet, 2019, Exhibition views


Keeper, 2019, Installation view



The order of everything, 2019, Installation view


Paintings, 2018, Installation view





A Universal Alphabet, 2019, Installation views


les extrémités de notre univers



 “The plants are the primordial soup of the Earth that allows matter to become life and life to retransform itself into ‘brute matter.’ We call ‘atmosphere’ this radical mixture that makes everything coexist in a single place without sacrificing either forms or substances.” Emanuele Coccia: The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture.

Sfeir-Semler Gallery is happy to invite to Beirut internationally renowned Swiss artists GERDA STEINER & JÖRG LENZLINGER. Since 1997, Steiner & Lenzlinger have been developing site-specific installations that carry deep social and environmental concerns. Responding to the current ecological crisis in Lebanon, they present their exhibition les extrémités de notre univers at our Beirut space.

Steiner & Lenzlinger create installations that blur the lines between fantasy and reality; using both natural and artificial elements specific to their discourse. While visiting Lebanon, they collected waste, as well as plants, combined to create what feels like an enchanted forest in which visitors can get lost.

Around the gallery in the Quarantine district and on the beaches of Beirut, Steiner & Lenzlinger had no difficulty finding garbage which becomes almost poetic in the context of their installation. Plants were carefully selected, conveying the unheard voices of ecological causes in Lebanon. Additionally, a collection of seeds is presented, gathered from Terbol, Lebanon through the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Arid Areas (ICARDA), whose mission is to preserve and develop agricultural capital in Africa and Asia. The Bisri Valley in South Lebanon, and the dam project that will flood several hectares of land and plants, was also a source of inspiration for the artists.

The exhibition highlights a crude reality, which visitors encounter through the lens of the duo's ephemeral and hybrid universe. The surreal fantasy they create transports the viewer into a fabricated magical world, that cheerfully mixes organic elements and chemical fertilizer on which the installation will feed to grow and morph throughout the exhibition.



les extrémités de notre univers, 2019, Exhibition views








les extrémités de notre univers, 2019, Installation views



les extrémités de notre univers, 2019, Exhibition views


les extrémités de notre univers, 2019, Exhibition views


les extrémités de notre univers, 2019, Exhibition views