Ghada Jamal was born in 1955 in Beirut, Lebanon. Her artwork has been exhibited in the United States, England, France, Jordan, and Lebanon. She studied fine art at the Beirut University College (now Lebanese American University) and then moved to the United States where she pursued a degree in painting from California State University. The landscape has always been central to her practice. But before she left, her work was, in the words of one critic, poetic and serene. After she left, it became brutal.
She reacted to the war torn country that she had left behind; her anger and dismay found violent expression in large canvases laden with thick, potent colors. By 1993, Jamal’s paintings began to represent a reflective rather than reactive mood. The anger drained away to be replaced with dreamlike images of an earlier time, a youthful innocent Lebanon. Her paintings became tokens of mourning and soft lament surrounding a lost dream.
Turning away from the past, Jamal started to paint on location in various areas of her surroundings and especially from her studio window. Paint once again was applied freely, capturing the density and vitality of the cityscape. The work from 1995 to 1997 actively records a momentary gaze in her daily urban surrounding.
In California, she discovered classical Arabic music and was inspired by its use of ancient instruments. Her artwork depicted musical passage materializing through color, line, and spatial relationship to a pictorial space that alluded to nature and landscape.
In 2002, Jamal returned to her native homeland. This time, she treated her landscapes more conceptually, toying with notions of country and citizenship by introducing fingertips and text as graphic elements in her compositions. The idea of citizenship that she took for granted in the States was not apparent in Lebanon.
Ghada Jamal still lives and paints in Lebanon. In her recent artwork, the landscapes are suffused with light and color, subtracted from people, politics, urbanization, and the development and destruction of contemporary life. As prosaic and sublime as that may sound, Jamal’s return hasn’t come easily, nor does it necessarily signify a reconciliation with her country.
Biography courtesy of Ghada Jamal
California State University, Long Beach, CA, USA (1989-1991)
Beirut University College, Beirut, Lebanon (1984)
Third Place, Contemporary Urban Landscape Award, Long Beach Arts, Long Beach, CA, USA (1996)
Painting Award, Sheikh Zayed Prize, Beirut University College, Beirut, Lebanon (1984)
Painting Award, Gibran Khalil Gibran Prize, Beirut University College, Beirut, Lebanon (1982)