Virtual Tour | Once Upon a Time in West Beirut - Virtual Exhibition by Joanna Raad

“ONCE UPON A TIME IN WEST BEIRUT”, A painting exhibition by JOANNA RAAD, (Sept 23-October 9, Zicco House)

The Story:

 1973: Born during the war, Joanna Raad spent most of her childhood in what was called ‘Beirut West’. She was the first baby born in the family. Her father, originally from the village of Chebanieh was a brilliant young architect. Due to the war, he had to be on continuous travel trips to KSA and Italy. Her mum, Samia was just 19 years old, so while waiting to settle down, they lived at the loving Teta Marie’s home in the area of Mar Elias. Her charming house quickly became Joanna’s playground. Nevertheless, Joanna was continuously longing for her father ‘papi Abdo’. Her drawings sent by post were her way to communicate with her dad. When “papi Abdo” had a holiday during summertime, the family used to stay in Chebanieh. Joanna can still feel his presence there and sense his smell. The family had beautiful moments at the beach, especially at Summerland. They also traveled often. Those short moments with “papi Abdo” like in the canaries’ islands for example contributed to developing her nostalgic personality. Nostalgia, Flashbacks, and family archives were the basis of this exhibition.

 1979: Joanna’s little sister Dalia was born, the family moved from Teta Marie’s house to a building next door. The absence of “papi Abdo” was even heavier. Joanna was suffering tremendously from his absence. At 3 years old, her sister Dalia used to sleep in “papi Abdo’s” suitcase. Unconsciously, she expressed her desire to travel with him. At the age of 7, she teared up his passport pages under the excuse of collecting stamps.

 1982: Joanna lived the war indirectly. It was more the consequences of the war that affected her than the war itself. Her mother Samia, alone in West Beirut with her two little girls used to protect them from fear by turning off the radio and TV and containing her fear. Therefore, Joanna found refuge in her bubble. Being introverted and lonely with very few friends contributed to nurturing her imagination. She has built her own world. Her way to express it was mainly through drawing on the pages of her diary. Alternatively, by transforming the house’s props and furniture into a kind of Lego her sense of space and imagination developed.

 1985: A major turning point in Joanna Raad’s life. Due to the impact of the Israeli invasion of Beirut and to family members who got kidnapped (Uncle Maurice, owner of Arlequin). The family moved from West Beirut to East Beirut. It was also a move from the College Protestant Français to which Joanna is so much attached. The red door of 6ème A will still be a landmark.

 2021: She misses her daddy as much as she was a kid. Especially since he passed away at the age of 59 as soon as he decided to settle in Lebanon for good. Joanna is obsessively nostalgic towards the 70ies and to the spaces of her childhood. Therefore, her inner child tries to translate visually the ‘emotional memory’ of the places and the spaces where she lived.

The Technique:

After 4 years of research and work on this theme, Joanna Raad dared to share her autobiography in a naive/neo-expressionist style. It all started with obsessive flashbacks doodled on recycled paper with oil pastels. It was mainly drawing from memory. Photos were rare at that time and she was more interested anyway to reconstitute mental images rather than depicting reality. The oil pastel drawings Caran d’ache) were then organized by locations: The house of Teta Marie/ Parents home/Collège Protestant Français etc. At a later stage, the drawings were “marouflés” on the canvas, so that the paper would blend into the canvas. They were organized in a storyboard feel. Close-ups,” large shots” etc. Their disposition is also inspired by editing. Throughout the process of slipping the drawings on paper into the canvas, she integrates acrylics mainly but also sometimes oil paint. The vivid colors echoed with childhood. Ochre and yellow-orange and 70ies Era. She chose Zico House because the architecture of the building and the exhibition space echoes with the houses where she lived. Reconstruction of the past and the building of archives were a trigger for her artistic research. Until today, drawing with oil pastel is her biggest passion; she also considers it an intimate gesture. Almost a diary approach, where you can quickly express yourself with the intimacy of a bedroom or in any public place or even a plane.

This virtual exhibition is powered by oVRlebanon | 360 Virtual Tours