Contemporary art from the Middle East
Tolon contracted polio shortly after her birth and spent her childhood in a hospital for disabled children in France, totally unaware of the world beyond its walls. The effects of polio and her ‘exile’ in hospital had a profound influence on Tolon’s life and artistic practice. 'Futur Imparfait' is her memoir of that period and consists of a series of 33 ink washes and drawings, some interspersed with texts, inspired by her childhood experiences.
‘In this work,’ she writes, ‘there are children, there are men, and there are women learning to live... It is not the misfortune of others which fascinates and astonishes but the extraordinary will of a child to live. It is a force inherent in all of us that persists, that makes us want to explore the impossible... that makes us want to dream.’ The ‘exile’ she evokes is also about being exiled from her own body. In her words ‘not belonging to it – wearing clothes that don't seem to be your own, that seem borrowed.’
In describing this work, Kassar has said that what appealed to her was the universal message of the Persian poem 'The Conference of the Birds': the idea of quest, transformation and death. Exile is also at the heart of her project on the birds, because for them ‘it was the right time to leave, in the search for something else.’ This echoes her own situation, having left Lebanon to live in France. By entitling these drawings 'Homage to Giotto', she is in addition evoking paintings of the suffering of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata by the Italian artist Giotto (died 1337).
This exhibit is based on a previous exhibition at the British Museum, curated by Venetia Porter, which ran from 1 October–1 March 2015.
The acquisition of these works has been supported by CaMMEA, a fund set up to support acquisitions of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art. Canan Tolon’s 'Futur Imparfait' is additionally supported by SAHA.
All artworks have been reproduced by kind permission of the artists.