The Soul Factory Faces, figures, and pop culture graphics on display

The Soul Factory
Faces, figures, and pop culture graphics on display
The exhibit ‘The Soul Factory’ at Q0DE Art Space in Jabal Amman is displaying works by Syrian-Lebanese artist Ghassan Ouais and Syrian-Armenian artist Stephany Sanossian through November 10. (Photos: Q0DE Art Space)
AMMAN — Painted jungle birds, and digital art against Syrian backdrops — these are the unique signatures of the two artists currently exhibiting their works at Q0DE Art Space in Jabal Amman.اضافة اعلان

“The Soul Factory”, on display through November 10, combines the work of Syrian-Lebanese artist Ghassan Ouais and Syrian-Armenian artist Stephany Sanossian.

According to Q0DE, the artworks by Ouais are divided between faces and fading emotions. They attempt to blend two worlds by interspersing melting faces with jungle birds — Ouais’s trademark motif — to tell personal tales, deconstructing people into human shapes formed of living cells. Under the surface, the works are a study of emotion, capturing the changes that occur to the face in moments of clarity.

Meanwhile, Sanossian’s artwork serves as a continual reminder of the richness and beauty of Syrian culture. She aims to provide a fresh perspective on daily struggles in her multidimensional digital collages, which feature celebrities, cartoon characters, and other pop culture figures as their focal points against a range of backgrounds including local Syrian businesses, historical sites, and endless skylines.

Humans or saints?
Ouais is a self-taught visual artist specializing in abstract figurative art. He also works as an art therapist, with three years of experience in life coaching through art therapy. The artist integrates various media into his therapy: photography, coloring, sketching, and collages.

For his exhibits, his current focus is on figures and natural elements.

On his personal website, Ouais explained that his works are organized around faces and their waning attitudes.

“We are constantly encountering people whose features we most often forget, but the feelings or impressions they leave with us stay — those details affect us on a number of levels,” the artist wrote.

While working in the studio, the artist draws on his own public and private life to portray the tension between desire and restraint. At times, he said, he finds himself contemplating the simple and the mediocre.  

“From portrait to human figure, from scenic to epic, in the continuous drawing process, I find myself redefining the image of ‘the one’, the man, the saint, and the lustful,” Ouais explained.

At some point, a human will be “born” on his canvas, “without the need to separate anything holy from lust”.

However, the artist does find inspiration in a “saintly” art form: byzantine iconography, which ornately depicts Christian saints. He says he “draws heavily” on this tradition, which “inlays in our memory holiness and majesty.” 

Ouais produces a broad range of canvases: from small acrylic paintings to large ink etchings, on various subject matters. However, in all of his art, he said, “humans are represented in their canonical form by the earthly traits that degrade them.”

Identity in a pop culture world
Sanossian’s background is in design and innovation research, and she works as a freelance graphic designer.

But the intersection of art and design is her true passion, as it allows her to express her thoughts, she told Jordan News. Her art tries to depict that “we can maintain our culture and identity while living in a pop culture world.”

“My work and research are all about connecting the dots between black and white, East and West, and so on,” she said.

Digital design became her medium of choice partly because it allows seemingly absurd juxtapositions to harmonize in art that makes sense of the illogical.

Currently, Sanossian is focusing on installation art, which pushes her “outside of (her) comfort zone, experimenting with new materials, combining different ideas, and shaping them into realities,” she said.

Her installations explore the positive aspects of “both the life that we build individually and live on our own and the rich traditions and cultures with which we are born and raised,” Sanossian explained.

The artist employs a variety of media. One piece features wooden skates decorated with acrylic paint.

Other works try to show “how some of us deal with society and the culture we are in as it relates to cancel culture”, incorporating an “x” to symbolize a rejection of the invisible boundaries people impose upon themselves, she explained.

A new art hub
According to the Q0DE Art Space social media page, the gallery’s purpose goes beyond art itself, to employing innovative means of displaying works created in the Middle East.

Both artists expressed appreciation for the art space, calling the gallery “professional”. Ouais noted that he met a Q0DE representative in Armenia, who later came to Beirut, where he is based, to see his art and select pieces for the Amman exhibit.

Meanwhile, Sanossian also mentioned that she has had a positive experience with the curators who are managing the exhibition.

“Amman is a new art destination, and we can see it growing in that,” said Ouais. “And hopefully, it will become a new art hub.”

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