Guilty as charged - I probably allocate most Bananapook features to street art. I think it's the most courageous form of the visual arts. On that note, I present to you Ali Rafei, a street artist from our one and only Tripoli.
Ali's works are distributed between Tripoli and Beirut, the former which he calls home, the latter the capital which he frequents with a spray can and a purpose.
Ali worked with Aramex for the past few years. He now lives in Leeds, where he attends graduate school for a degree in advertising.
His street work ranges from portraiture to stencils to calligraphy, with the occasional wheat-paste.
|Text reads "Lebanon"|
|"I love corruption"|
Government officials painted over the corruption soldier right after Ali executed it. I can only imagine how much would get done if they were this immediate with other concerns..
"Doesn't it bother you when your works are painted over?" I asked Ali. It was beyond my comprehension why one would put so much time into something so short-lived, something that could last mere minutes before being wiped out.
In response, he told me that after he executes his work - he's totally detached; he no longer owns his pieces. If a work was painted over, it was because the viewer was offended - they got the message. Ultimately, censorship is a compliment.
Naturally, I was surprised. It was the first time I heard an artist boldly say that they can become 'detached' from their works. I suppose if you're going to take risks with your work, then you can only prepare yourself for the consequences. In street art, emotional attachment is a barrier - and those who cling to their art with an umbilical cord should probably stick to the shelter of their private studios.
|Quote from a Rumi poem|
Notice how he uses his environment as a tool - adapting his works to his surroundings rather than the other way around. It's a feature I really enjoy in his work, and is a characteristic of the best of street artists.
The stark shift between portraiture and calligraphy is admirable. The designs don't overwhelm the text message.
|Joint work between Ali and fellow street artists Yazan and Zepha|
|"Cheyef 7alak" is a Lebanese colloquial phrase that roughly translates to "got a big ego?"|
We can only hope for Ali's return from Leeds. Needless to say, this city is lacking purposeful street artists.
To see more of Ali's works, check out his Facebook Page
Related: If Found, Please Contact Reem Saleh