by Alain Elkann
Once again, Barbara Nahmad chooses famous, successful people as a metaphor, but this time her great works of art are not portraits of writers like Hemingway, artists like Duchamp, politicians like Churchill or singers like Maria Callas, but kisses: like those of Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind or kisses like those of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Audrey Hepburn’s kiss in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Bronzino’s kiss of Venus and Cupid or Boucher’s Hercules and Omfale, or even anonymous American kisses of the 1950s or during the Entebbe Raid in Uganda.
Nahmad therefore uses the images of people kissing in real life, in art and on fi lm that, for various reasons, have struck her. Kissing means being together yet alone, isolated from what is ugly or evil in the world. Kissing means being together and close in happy, unhappy or even dangerous moments, or in the most banal moments of our daily lives.
Two people in real life, in fi ction, in art or in mythology attract each other, seek each other out, get close and meet in a moment of intimacy that for an instant isolates them from the world that surrounds them. You grasp everything when observing Barbara Nahmad’s kisses: in some portraits, the fi gures close their eyes and abandon themselves to the moment; in other kisses, one of the two seems distant, keeping his or her eyes open, perhaps less in love… and this is most evident in the case of Cary Grant in Notorious or Yoko Ono who remains aloof and leaves her eyes open as she is kissed by a besotted John Lennon. Other kisses are too cinematic to be real, too passionate. The collection of portraits is excellent and striking because it helps us understand that a kiss can be a seal that unites or a simple rite of love, something that you cannot help but give, but that can also be almost irritating to receive.
Every artist needs to observe, reproduce and reinterpret reality in order to express himself or herself and, most of all, every artist needs a metaphor, which for a writer like Balzac was money, while for Barbara Nahmad the metaphor is the kiss. The kiss is a pretext to bring together on the same canvas two people and allow the exact moment of their kiss to reveal their feelings with unforgiving truth. After all, a kiss is a symbol of peace or love, but there is also such a thing as a ‘poisoned kiss’. Looking through the gallery of more or less famous kisses between more or less famous people as portrayed by Barbara Nahmad, one will notice the artist’s now sharp and uncompromising, now soft and loving viewpoint when capturing those fi gures that are doing the same thing -
However, since nothing is completely clear-
I deliberately did not read what the artist wrote when she presented her latest work to me, because I wanted to act as an external observer, a witness and a writer and not as an art critic.
I tried to view the entire exhibition as a whole to grasp, to understand if among all thoses kisses there were something that tied them to one theme.
I think that Barbara’s personal collection of kisses wishes to say that we have to be careful, because in our hungry world of fi nancial interests, badly placed ambitions, solitude and excessive communication, kisses are in danger: they are no longer bright or joyous, but they can be dramatic and traumatic or even indifferent.
Convention and indifference are the worst things and, in her latest work, Barbara knows how to capture the many facets of a person through their kisses.
Or perhaps we can look at it from a completely different angle and imagine that Barbara chose the theme of the kiss as a symbol of beauty and peace in contrast with a world that seems to have forgotten this…
It is worth looking at these portraits and refl ecting on ourselves too, the kisses we’ve given and the kisses we’ve received and those we’ve denied or that we’ve missed. Art should provoke, it should touch our feelings, force us to refl ect, to dream… and Barbara has succeeded in doing this very well with her work.
by Barbara Nahmad
Over the last few years, my artistic search has come to focus on historic portraits, working between the lines of what has already been seen, of what is already known, using images that we’ve flicked past many times in illustrated magazines, with the aim of re-
It is the use of painting to analyse a new media reality (Life, Paris Match, Epoca) which has consecrated myths that are still current in the media. I delight in a certain kind of omnivorous painting that incorporates new communication methods as if it were never tired of its own thousand-
For this themed exhibition, I examine what could be described as the anatomy of an emotion as expressed in kisses, as seen in fi lm, in the history of art, photography and journalism. It’s a wideranging investigation. I’m fascinated by that fi rst contact between kindred spirits, the hint of a reality about to take shape between two people who were separate beforehand and who are then united.
With all the possible doubts, hesitations and resistance -
However, a kiss doesn’t just express a romantic or passionate feeling, but a familiar, affectionate, political and narcissistic feeling as well. It’s a mixture of emotion, nature and culture.
The reason images taken from the world of fi lm predominate is due to the fact that, as an adolescent, it was in the cinema that I found meaning in my own turbulent emotions and feelings of love, as well as in books. In the paintings I have made about fi lms, I relived the history of my own personal feelings, those moments when I gasped and when my heart raced, though perhaps I think everyone has experienced these to some extent. It’s a kind of pre-
The images taken from the history of art are perhaps the most perturbing. From Bronzino to Klimt, to Hayez’s famous kiss, then running through the 1700s of Boucher, his sensual Hercules and Omphale. A comparison, or confrontation, with great artists of the past, when it comes to painting, is certainly arduous and intense, yet dazzling.
There is more nudity than kissing in the history of art.