Rechmaoui's work focuses on urban dynamics, demographics and behaviours. He uses industrial materials – concrete, rubber, tar, and glass – to create tactile works on a large scale. His previous works have largely focused on local landmarks including "A Monument for the living" or the Burj al-Murr project, "Spectre" or the Yacoubian building in Ra's Beirut, and "Beirut Caoutchouc", a giant rubber floor map of Beirut itself.
In his debut solo show at our Beirut gallery, Rechmaoui characteristically focuses on mapping urban spaces, but in this instance concentrating on the urban landscape of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and on the cluster munitions and ordnances in South Lebanon. The work can be divided into two categories - Landscapes and Found Objects. The Landscapes series stems from a project initiated by the Arab Resource Collective, an NGO working with the Palestinian camps, to create a 'virtual Palestine' by linking the various communities living in refugee camps. The collective asked camp residents from different age groups to map their local surroundings. Rechmaoui has taken these maps and reproduced them on different media – concrete, rice and sugar bags, and corrugated metal. The maps give a powerful sense of the day-to-day reality of the camp environment.
The Found Objects series exposes different cluster munitions that were collected after the 2006 war on Lebanon, as well as the crew whose efforts helped gather these clusters. This series is transcribed using print techniques as well rubber cuts.
Through this body of work, Rechmaoui explores the common motifs of life in these camps, showing his spectators the simultaneously universal, and extraordinary aspects of these urban environments.
Marwan Rechmaoui was born in Lebanon in 1964. He left Lebanon in his early years, only to return in 1993, after a 20-year absence. He currently lives and works in Beirut. He has participated in group shows such as Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2009), Homeworks II, IV, and V, Beirut (2003-2010), Art Now in Lebanon, Darat el Funun, Amman (2008), Contemporary Arab Representations, Lebanon, Umea, Rotterdam, and Barcelona (2002). He has also had a solo show at the Centre Culturel Français, Beirut (1998). His works have been acquired by the Saatchi and Tate Collection.
The UNRWA Series
In 2005, I received a file from a friend containing maps drawn by men and women of all ages, living in Palestinian camps in Lebanon. After thinking for several years, I decided to work with these individual interpretations of prohibited areas .
Children always drew their friends’ houses, flags, and their school; mothers drew pharmacies, dentists, grocery shops and hospitals; teenage girls drew social clubs and schools whilst boys of the same age drew internet cafes, and video games centers.
After the war finished in summer 2006, the South of Lebanon was scattered with cluster bombs. A UN group was charged with destroying them. The found bombs dated between 2006 and back to the 1940s, each one a reminder of Lebanon’s many conflicts. Illegal under international law, these bombs would potentially explode for decades to come.
I was struck by the aesthetic design of these weapons: the beauty of their shapes, the brightness of their colours, the cynical resemblance to domestic objects.