The Dreamer Knight
By Aida Nasrallah
This catalogue contains a selection of Ahmad Canaan’s works from 2005-2007. These works focus on the theme of the “Knight,” which serves as an instrument for illustrating major symbols illuminating his implied significations of the concepts of a voyage, revelation, salvation, and love exemplified in The Dreamer Knight, 2006 and The Pride 1 and 2, 2006. The “Knight” is also used to reflect the despair of people who live under siege waiting for an imagined savoir as in Jenin Behind the Screen, 2006, A Refugee, 2006, and Waiting for Salāh-ed-Din, 2006. Love and war, reality and dreams, and individual concerns are conjoined with politics in an overwhelming narrative that enables the spectators to learn and understand the deeper significance of each work.
The yearning for a “flying voyage and for salvation reminds us of Canaan’s previous sculptural works such as An Attempt to Fly, Abbas Ben Fernas, 2000, and Fantasy Al-Buraq, 1998. Al-Buraq, with his religious association with the mystical travel of the Prophet Mohammad to heaven represents a voyage for knowledge. In 1998, the sculpture of Al-Buraq was placed on the coastal road between Haifa and to Tel-Aviv. The Al-Buraq sculpture delivers the symbolic meaning of “Mohammad’s Voyage” through which the artist dreams about a solution to the complicated political situation in which Arabs and Jews are living.
The “Knight” appears in the painting called Resurrection, 2006. This work embodies the meaning of reconstruction by the technique itself, so that the “Knight” is composed of small model cuts, the same model that was used for the relief of the steel sculpture Resurrection , 2005. Canaan renders the same sculptural technique, but uses reproduction colors. The space is filled with models of the “Knight” that appear as shadows. Sharing the background with the models of the Knight emphasizes the meaning of a unified place on earth with the subject.
Following the formula of the centralized “knight,” such as Knight , 2006, Canaan shapes his subject in colorful surfaces similar to the cubistic system; the knight appears flattened, but keeps his schematic features that contribute to the mystical atmosphere.
Woman, together with the Knight, hold a respected representation in this catalogue. We can see women illustrated in various shapes: as young women who wait for their prideful dreams as in The Dream Knight, 2006, and as a regular woman, who performs her daily chores sitting on the veranda drinking coffee as in My Queen, 2006. We can also see the woman illustrated as an allegorical figure signifying the land, symbolized by fruitful sexual organs. In this case the woman refers to the artist’s works called Anat, 1990; The Altar of Anat, 1995; and Anat, 2002, but in each case, the Palestinian women are rendered in the respectful terms of the “Goddess” as in My Queen, 2006.
Style and Technique
Canaan is a Palestinian Arab artist, who draws on his Islamic and his Middle-Eastern, multi-cultural background. He builds his theme of “The Knight” as a progression through various historical periods of art by using various techniques that enriched his artistic style. Generally, he favours the purely formal proprieties in terms of his strict symmetrical compositions and arrangements of lines and colours, rhythms and tones, lights and shadows, and balance and harmony. His traditional style is called in Arabic mashrabeyah screen, as in Jenin behind the Screen, 2006, and A Refugee, 2006. Through this style he implies the ideas of visibility and invisibility which stimulate the spectator to look underneath the surface as in behind the Screen 2, 2006, Rafah -3, 2005, and the Hidden Knight, 2006.
Combining images of daily life, love, suffering, and dreams together is an effective way to match his perceptions and concerns with dreams and reality, those bothersome concerns that harass us as nations and individuals. With his special style, Canaan enables us as spectators to conclude the strong message that hopes for salvation, and for the best voyage passing the borders—whatever they are—for a better situation.
Re-edited by Ruth Cohen