What You Need to Know: London-based gallery Saatchi Yates, which opened in October of 2020, has relocated to a new, 10,000 square foot space in the city’s St. James’s neighborhood. Founded by Phoebe Saatchi Yates and Arthur Yates, the gallery has garnered a reputation for fostering and promoting emerging artists and innovative exhibition programs. Of the new location, Phoebe Saatchi Yates said, “St. James’s is the cultural heart of the London art world—bringing together London’s oldest and grandest traditional galleries alongside the most innovative contemporary art. We feel surrounded by the academic expertise of the neighborhood and devoted collectors and gallery-goers.” Further, the St. James’s space offers the opportunity for Saatchi Yates to expand its focus. “We will also have a masters gallery, which focuses on blue chip works from major private collections. This will be headed up by leading specialists in this market with a focus on sourcing masterpieces across Old Masters, Impressionists, and Post War for the world’s leading collections and institutions.” The inaugural exhibition is a solo show of 18 new large-scale works by Omar El Lahib, which will be on view through March 15, 2023.
About the Artist: Originally from Sidon, Lebanon, Omar El Lahib (b. 1986) studied fine art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Later, he relocated with his family to Cologne. His signature style is a unique synthesis of figuration and abstraction, and thematically his work frequently explores the nocturnal, unconscious, and internal worlds. Of his fascination with night, El Lahib said, “It is often wrongly assumed that the night and its darkness swallow much of a place. In fact, the opposite is true of night—it can expose much larger distances, including those of a star. It is only through a star that distances and dimensions can be perceived in space. The night therefore doesn’t diminish or limit things; it instead magnifies moments and renders them more intense.” His paintings are often the result of an ongoing creative investigation, wherein modest sketches are expanded and built upon until the artist reaches a compositional resolution. “Omar El Lahib hypnotized us by his unique intermingling of Lebanese landscapes with Germanic intensity. The colorful, bewitching paintings were the perfect introductory show for St James,” said Saatchi Yates.
Why We Like It: El Lahib offers a portrayal of night and the nocturnal that is contrary to conventional expectations. Where one might think of complete darkness, the artist instead uses light, color, and texture to convey a world that is as vibrant and open as day. The painterly canvases invite prolonged looking, with mesmerizing patterns of color and shape and otherworldly figures working together to create dreamscape-like vignettes that suggest larger narratives. An almost stylized form of night vision, the compositions present a glimpse into a world that is at once familiar and foreign. They also contain an element of the meditative; though the compositions are alive with color, there is a pervasive stillness. Viewers encounter the central figure of each work on their own terms, allowing them to enter the mysterious, ethereal worlds that El Lahib has meticulously crafted.
See inside the exhibition and featured works below.