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-Samerai lives and works in Beirut. She received a BA in Fine Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut in 2002 and most recently completed the inaugural year of the Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan (2011-2012), Beirut. In 2011, she had her second solo exhibition at Agial Gallery entitled Fleeting Fences. She participated in group exhibitions including, 25 Ans De Creativite Arabe, Institute Du Monde Arabe, Paris (2012); All About Beirut, White Box, Munich (2010); Exposure, Beirut Art Center, Beirut; MidEast Cut: International festival for alternative film and video, Denmark and Finland (2009); Radius of Art project Fladernbunker, Kiel, (2008); Dar Al Funoon, Kuwait (2007); His Life is Full of Miracles, Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK (2006); Kent Explora, Strange Fruit, Lebanon (2002). She has also participated in Braziers International Artists workshop, UK (2003) and AIW:A, the International Artists workshop, Aley (2005). In 2014 (February - October) She was doing a residency at the Cite Internationale Des Arts in Paris.