From 1975 to 1990, the civil war that devastated the country of Lebanon displaced thousands of families and left them fleeing from the constant struggles of the conflict. In 1986, at the height of the Lebanese civil war, a young Gilbert Menassa was 6 years old when he moved to Beirut with his family. Amidst the chaos and constant instability, the boy found his passion and security within the comforts of artistic expression, weaving creativity into the jagged insecurity of life in a frontline nation.
Through constant support from his family, Gilbert’s artistic talent blossomed rapidly, and he held his first exhibition at the tender age of 14 in the famed markets of Beirut. He was the youngest exhibitor there and his exquisite drawings on display were readily sold out. His immense success at the marketplace encouraged him to further pursue his studies in art, architecture, and interior design, as a result of which he was able to look at the world from two separate perspectives. He understood the world of the free and unyielding artist – a world of chaos, colour and beauty, and at the same time, was able to blend into the realm of the structured architect who operates on stable and concrete foundations of organisation and logic. The meeting of these two seemingly opposite yet similar worlds greatly influenced Gilbert’s artistic development. Endowed with a love for minimalism, he found depth and power within the simplicity and elegance of the “line”.
As the fundamental element of art, a single line holds the ability to divide a space into concrete sections or doodled into complete disarray. By that, Gilbert developed his own visual language; while his lines express the freedom of the spirit, geometric shapes imposes restrain to express limitations and organisation, and what ties the composition into its entirety are the colours that sets the mood. “Minimal as I like things, a line just seemed to be the most basic and simple of elements but the most diverse in use.”
Gilbert explains that every original piece he creates by hand represents a state of mind. His works are illustrations of the lessons he learned as a victim of circumstances whilst growing up in a war zone. His safety was jeopardised by factors outside his control; this instilled into him an understanding and appreciation for “what is” rather than “what is wanted”. Using acrylic paints and ink felt-tip pens, Gilbert lays down the foundation of his artwork using grids and fine shapes with the precision of the architect in him before allowing his artistic mind to pour his sensibilities into the piece. Through the chaos of line work or the constructivism of shape and structure, Gilbert’s works will take form, each one unique and disparate in nature.
Artist aside, Gilbert doubled up as a director of visual merchandising who worked alongside like-minded creatives across the field. He enjoys the realm and vast reach of a digital exhibition rather than that of physical ones, showcasing his works primarily online or through social media platforms.
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