Nabil Kanso with installation view of Lebanon painting, 1983

"Imagine a painting with the scale and chaos of Picasso's Guernica mixed with the superpopulated torment of the apocalypse panel of Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Delights, all painted with a dark, fiery palette and frantic, almost panicked brushstrokes, and you'll have an idea of Nabil Kanso's paintings...
Lebanon, full of the tumultuous panic of innocents caught in war. Amid the horror, two women reach out toward a tiny pearl of white light at the center of the canvas, for protection, or to protect it...
---Kanso' sparing use of white distinguishes the best of these paintings. So stunning against the black, yellow, red, and orange that flow over these works, this white seems to pierce the canvas and gives the paintings the balance and strength they need to grasp the emotions Kanso tries to portray."

Bob Wehner, The Bloomsbury Review, July / August 1998

Nabil Kanso’s Lebanon: Guernica of Our Time

"…Nabil Kanso appears calm and quiet. But the light of fire in his paintings look like nightmares which he has to work through, often spending several months on one painting. Figures after figures with their hands over their faces, fallen over, crawling in a cave like place, clambering up a sheer cliff of what seems to be a sea of blood, sometimes like cavemen, sometimes women fleeing from burning homes… Half naked people come falling from the skies to join the crowd below. ..White teeth shine horribly…people bite each other. His enormous painting "Lebanon" -measuring about 9 meters long- is one of the many hanging in his studio. Here, it is not the Knight of the Apocalypse riding toward each other, rather two women in the center, stretching out towards each other and almost reaching. To their left a horse and a Druze Sheikh seem to confront us with a desperate calling. A fallen girl appears with closed eyes between the horse and the sheikh. A large dark bird covering a half hid sun hovers over the contour of trees projecting flames amid the destruction of houses. The ruins farthest assume the shape of a slope with cave openings. The painting "Lebanon" shows the desperation of war. The women are classical abstractions and modern mothers of peace. Along with the children in the suffering mess, they wound up in an explosive dance of warm calling to humanity. The work of Kanso’s brush is an indignant expressionism. Kanso’s "Lebanon" may be our time’s version of Picasso’s protest against the war in Spain in 1937, the Guernica of our time."

Lars Bäckström, "Guernica of Our Time" Ord & Bild, January, 1986 Stockholm, Sweden
Translated from Swedish
Kanso’ exhibition at Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, Sweden

Click for full size image
Click for full size image

Nabil Kanso’s painting "Lebanon" reflects the artist’s anguish and response to the torment and suffering of the souls in Lebanon. It took him more than 3 months to paint the 28 feet wide by 10 feet tall painting in which two leaping women strive for unity. On the left a fallen maiden wrapped with the Lebanese flag is flanked by a roaring horse and a Druze sheikh staring out from the picture plane as if to confront the viewers and illicit responsibility from them.
The painting forcefully evokes the agonizing division of the country and the dreadful bitterness, isolation and helplessness of the people. "I wanted to go beyond the mere picturesque in order to reveal the hypnotic reality of the nightmarish situation." Kanso recalls with pride "The wonderful memories of the summers we used to spend in my father’s native village, Moukhtara. We learned so much about the soil, the beauty of the land, and the warmth, affection, and integrity of the people. There was a great feeling of love and harmony among the various denominations. It is very sad that the country is locked in furious combat, but harmony will return because nothing can destroy hope."
To experience Kanso’s art "depends on the viewer willingness to cross a certain bridge to journey into his visual universe." Kanso points out that "the aesthetic foundation of a work is reflected by the ideas that are transmitted through the medium of expression. Each viewer has a perceptual screen that filters and stimulates particular events and experiences. It’s the artist’s spirit and imaginative capacity that transforms those experiences into visions that form the quintessence of the emotional substance of the work."

Our World, September 1984, LA

Lebanon | lebanonpainting | works |
Lebanon , oil on canvas, 3 X 8.5 meters (10 X 28 feet), 1983