An air of mystery shrouds Tamara Al-Samerai’s work. Trained as a painter, her art practice encompasses painting, illustration, photography, animation, video and installation, often mixing the conventions of each medium. Photographs resemble paintings and filmstrips, and paintings illustration. While she clearly mines records and photographs from her childhood, the character of the work feels more like literary fiction than documentary.
Her early paintings revolve around a central protagonist: a tomboy heroine engaged in various physical activities associated with youth set against an empty backdrop. In later works, we encounter a series of recurring characters – a girl, a young mother, a father figure, carcasses, dark monsters, airplanes, runways and a couch. Using processes and effects such as transferring, scanning, photographing photographs and pentimento, Al-Samerai’s images are sensual, layered and deliberately unpolished. They exude an ethereality that withholds as much as it reveals. The narrative is full of opaque holes, and the boundary between what is real, invented or imagined is never quite clear.
Glimpses, traces and shadows suggest the uneasy presence of an invisible observer lurking within as well as outside the frame. Al-Samerai toys with the perspective of an adolescent struggling to reconstruct an elusive past. Her work speaks of family, friendship and loss, of primal fears and unspoken tragedies, and ultimately of a dark playfulness that diffuses melancholy.
Born in Kuwait in 1977, Tamara Al Samerraei is a painter who lives and works in Beirut. She received a BA in Fine Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut in 2002 and completed the inaugural year of the Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan (2011-2012), Beirut. Her solo exhibitions include Let Me Stay a Little Longer, Marfa’ Projects, Beirut (2015-2016), Make Room for Me, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo (2014); Fleeting Fences (2011) and Something White (2008), Agial Art Gallery, Beirut. She has participated in several group and duo exhibitions including The Clocks are Striking Thirteen, 21,39; Jeddah Home Beirut: Sounding the Neighbours, MAXXI museum, Rome (2017); Tamawuj-Sharjah Biennial13, Sharjah (2017); Play The Possum, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo (2016); Complicity, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2016); On Water, Rosemary and Mercury in Homeworks 7, Beirut (2015); 25 Ans De Creativite Arabe, Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris (2012); All About Beirut, White Box, Munich (2010); Exposure, Beirut Art Center, Beirut; Radius of Art project, Fladernbunker, Kiel (2008) and Shoe Box, Dar Al Funoon, Kuwait (2007). She lives and works in Beirut.