Arcadia | Abed AlKadiri





Arcadia is derived from the Greek province of the same name dating back to antiquity. In Greek mythology, it was the home of Pan, the god of the wild. In the arts of the European Renaissance, Arcadia was celebrated as an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness. Its inhabitants bear an obvious connection to the figure of the “Noble Savage,” being regarded as both virtuous and close to nature, uncorrupted by civilization.


After more than 10 years of working on socio-political themes, Abed Al Kadiri conceived this exhibition as a form of mitigation between himself and the reality of the contemporary world—an attempt to find peace in the midst of a war-torn region.


Al Kadiri took several steps to briefly detach himself from the harsh truth of the world. He stopped watching television, avoiding the dreadful events reported across international media. Most noticeably, he created his own physical space that supported his vision of a better surrounding. For months, the artist re-imagined the backyard of his new studio in the heart of the busy city of Beirut, planting it with shrubs, flowers and vines to breathe new life into his newfound space. The gardening ceremony was similar to that of painting. The artist revisited his latest work, especially his latest series telling the story of migrants drowned off the Greek coast. Al Kadiri wondered what his relation was to that harsh reality, trying to find a human standpoint that does not centre on the tragedy but instead opens a mystical door leading to metaphorical heaven.


Inspiration came unexpectedly from an unknown artist who portrayed a young couple in a charcoal drawing that Al Kadiri saw in their relative’s house. The couple had travelled to Greece by sea in search of a better life but were never heard from again. Struck by the poignancy of their disappearance, Al Kadiri saw in the pair his protagonists, an archetypal mortal man and woman, heading to Greece in search of a dreamland.


The impact of the artist’s burgeoning surroundings, replete with colour, was stronger and deeper than the tragic moment itself. Al Kadiri wanted to drop the couple off to their long-awaited wonderland, their peaceful shores, and their paradise. He started by painting his own rendition of the couple, whom he saw in that drawing, wearing a lifejacket trying to hold on to life. But instead of being swallowed by the sea, the couple gave birth to a new life and grew plants on their bodies that crept up on their shoulders. His botanical surroundings at the studio unexpectedly appeared on the canvas, morphing the blue hell into an exotic nature—wild, yet peaceful and harmonious.


It is the metaphorical arrival— the arrival in Arcadia.


Abed Al Kadiri was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1984. Double majored in Fine art and Arabic literature. In 2006, he fled the war in Lebanon and settled in Kuwait, returning in 2016. In addition to his art practice, Al Kadiri is a curator and worked as an art critic from 2006 till 2010. He established FA Gallery in Kuwait in 2010 and in 2012, he took on the role of Director at Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) Kuwait where, in addition to managerial responsibilities, he also headed and conceived several curatorial and educational programs. His solo shows include Abu Ghreib 2006, In the corner 2008,LAAS Beirut, Identity Turbulence 2011,FA Gallery-Kuwait, Witnesses 2011, Art Circle Gallery, Beirut, AlMaqama 2014, 2015, Dar AlFunoon Gallery, Kuwait, Ashes to the Sea, 2016, Mark Hachem Gallery, Beirut. 


Al Kadiri has participated in several group exhibitions in Lebanon, regionally and internationally such as Bahrain, Sharjah, Dubai, Qatar, France, Switzerland, Hungary and England. His work was sold in JAMM auctions Kuwait, 2011, 2012. He had shown at MENASA Art Fair (Beirut Art Fair, 2011 and 2016) Contemporary Istanbul 2011, Art Paris, Paris, 2013, Art Moments, Hungary, 2013, Basel Art Center, Basel, 2016, Sursock Museum, Beirut 2016.