Caline Aoun: Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2018

Deutsche Bank 2018 nominates Lebanese artist Caline Aoun as Artist of the Year.

The artist will show her first large-scale exhibition at the Prinzessinnenpalais, Berlin’s new venue for art, culture and sports. 

Caline Aoun, 'Beirut', 2016. Photo: © Cherine Karam. Image courtesy KunstHalle by Deutsche Bank.

Portrait of Caline Aoun, Beirut, 2016. Photo: © Cherine Karam. Image courtesy KunstHalle by Deutsche Bank.

Caline Aoun, born in Beirut in 1983, is part of a generation of young Lebanese artists who grew up abroad after the civil war in 1975, completing their training outside of Beirut. As Deutsche Bank describe, her work combines “strategies of minimalism and conceptual art with the question of how the evolution of digital technologies alters our perception of images and information”. Ideas of urbanism impact her practice as she invites the audience to consider ideas surrounding consumerism, excess and saturation.

On her selection as 2018’s artist of the year, Hou Hanru, a member of Deutsche Bank’s art advisory council and Artistic Director of the Roman MAXXI Museum, commented as follows:

I am impressed by Caline Aoun’s fascination with printing and her efforts to capture all the things that are fading away. She transforms the attention for her intimate surroundings into a gaze at the globalising world. Her work echoes so beautifully, in silence, the way in which the world turns around today, with everything being packed in shipping containers carried away on a boat merging with the sunset over the horizon. But, with her touch, the containers are wide open, and everything is gone… only the human breath remains.

Starting in 2010, the “Artist of the Year” award by the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council is presented to a contemporary artist who “has created an oeuvre that is artistically and socially relevant integrating the media of paper and photography, the two main areas of focus of the Deutsche Bank Collection”. Past recipients include Koki Tanaka, Basim Magdy and Kemang Wa Lehulere.

Having studied at Central Saint Martins in London and the Royal Academy Schools, Auon completed her doctorate in fine arts at the University of East London in 2012. After completing her degree, Auon abandoned painting in favour of digital printing techniques and photography. Recent exhibitions include “Fields of Space”, Marfa’, Beirut (2016), “Remote Local”Art Basel Statements, Basel (2015) and “The Future of Smart Technology in Your Hands”, Noshowspace, London (2013). She has also been featured in group shows internationally, including “Spy with my Little Eye…”, Casa Árabe, Madrid and Mosaic Room, London (2015). Her work will also be on show as part of “Home Beirut: Sounding the Neighbors”, which opens at MAXXI in Rome on 15 November 2017.

Her 2016 exhibition “Fields of Space”part of Beirut’s Marfa’ project, saw her bring together data with ordinary objects that make up Beirut’s port – from ledgers, shipping palettes and shipping containers. In this sense, her practice engages the viewer with objects that make up the urban landscape, which we would usually overlook. As the press release from Deutsche Bank explains, “Aoun manipulates information and disrupts the common constructed reading of familiar objects, assigning new values to what otherwise would simply fade in the urban panorama,” thus allowing us to rethink the ways we interact with the spaces we live in.

© Caline Aoun. Image coursety KunstHalle, Deutsche Bank

Caline Auon, exhibition poster ‘The Future of Smart Technology in Your Hands’ (detail), from the ongoing series “Solar Fade”, 2013, inkjet print on paper. Photo: © Caline Aoun. Image courtesy KunstHalle, Deutsche Bank.

Often, Auon turns these visual ideas into concrete reality. Her exhibition “Datascape” (2016)also part of Marfa’, saw her visualise the total weight per month of imported and exported goods during a ten year period, creating dream-like, landscape-like forms to occupy the gallery walls. As Marfa’ commented on Auon’s work, “information that bears heaviness becomes an intangible and airy topographical representation of commercial exchanges and consumption.”

Her source material, therefore, lives within public life and our relationship with digital technology, such as urban planning, logistics or advertising. Her work explores how the digital world has led to a total over saturation and excessive production of images, so much so that the “processes of image making pushed to a point of these images’ self-erasure through excess.” One particular example is her work with inkjet printers, whereby she “overfeeds” the print with collected data and images, which create wrinkled, monochromatic pieces, the virtual process briefly becoming tangible.

Anna Jamieson


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