Abdul Rahman Katanani uses barbed wire, corrugated iron, pieces of wood and oil barrels. Recycled materials one may call "domestic" for the Palestinian artist: Katanani was born and raised in the Sabra Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon among a community of stateless people.
At the age of fifteen, he begins to make a name for himself as a cartoonist, with satirical drawings in which he pinpoints the corruption and misappropriation of United Nations subsidies that are commonplace in the life of the camp. Admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Beirut, he develops a plastic vocabulary referencing his daily life, laying the foundations of a complex body of work where recycled materials and objects evoke, sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically, an individual and collective experience.
Among his most famous works: giant waves made of hand-braided barbed wire, children silhouettes in cut-out metal sheets, olive trees where barbed wire is used here again to represent twisted branches. Large-scale installations, too, such as Camp, a symbolic evocation of a refugee camp presented in 2017 at Danysz Gallery. And always a taste for a sophisticated aesthetic, which he says is first and foremost "a way of attracting the eye". An invitation to be curious.
The use of recycled materials or even the topics addressed by the artist should not be seen as the expression of some insurmountable determinism, which would make him irrevocably a refugee assigned to his condition, but rather as the starting point of an intellectual journey. Katanani's art is an emancipatory fire transforming his life experience into a framework of interpretation for seeing the world, a personal odyssey and a relational adventure involving the viewer.
The notions of path, of displacement - of movement - are central to everything the artist does. For him, everything is about dynamism. His works often take the form of spirals, whirlwinds, tornados, patterns that symbolize the politico-religious maelstrom which has struck the Middle East for many years. "For me," says the artist, "the Palestinian cause is not a closed circle but a tornado that picks up joys, dreams, energy, people, spinning towards the unknown."
The danger then would be to remain static, a prisoner of given living conditions, and above all a prisoner of one's inner walls. With Katanani, the artistic process must be understood as wholly oriented towards a liberating experience, and the barbed wire as a mental barrier. "I have been raised," he says, "in the awareness of the occupation of Palestine and the border that has been drawn. I realized later that we all have far more effective borders and occupations in each and every one of us."
Abdul Rahman Katanani was born in 1983 in the Sabra Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. He holds a Master's degree from the Beirut School of Fine Arts. In 2009, he was awarded the Young Artists Prize at the Autumn Salon organized by the Sursock Museum in Beirut. His work has been presented in many institutions around the world, such as the Abu Dhabi Biennale, the Royal College of London, the Cité Internationale des Arts and the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. His works are present in public (Mathaf, Doha) and private collections. He lives between Paris and Beirut.