Rami is a Lebanese visual artist, who recently moved to Milan. He deals with the distorted memory of Lebanon, of two main cities Tripoli-nature, and Beirut-nurture.
His work focuses on translating the common perception of Lebanon as a chaotic, still navigate-able, place to live.
The technique applied leaves no room for clarity. Chaos takes hold. People still can identify the character of the cities through the density of his lines, the density of the buildings, and the layering of endless electricity wires that cover his compositions.
In an attempt to recover and preserve his memories, Rami went around the streets of Athens, Barcelona, Warsaw, finally to settle in Milan, fearlessly exposing his work and his nationality in the streets of these metropolitan cities.
What are your fondest memories of being a young artist in Tripoli and Beirut?
I would say my fondest memories of being a young "artist" belong exclusively to Tripoli. I grew up in the northern capital of Lebanon, Tripoli. I have scenes and memories of my younger self painting discreetly on the walls of our garage, and on random papers, would find around the house, drawing silly portraits for my friends, and sometimes I painted on what I thought were expensive canvases for special friends on their birthdays to hang in their rooms. Another sweet memory that I remember vividly is always getting in trouble for skipping school physical education classes to join art classes: my school ran a normal middle school and a high school, and just one gate further would lead you to the hall of the technical school, where other students were studying interior design and graphic design, I would sneak to the technical school and secretly attend the graphic design art classes instead of joining the gym classes.
Tripoli rarely hosts what is known as art exhibitions; the whole city is a historical exhibit. I recall one place that empowered artists from the city of Tripoli: a beautiful space named "Warché 13". Beirut fostered and captivated the attention of most artists looking to grow in their art careers, and I always wondered how this path was uncovered. I would take the public I took the bus when I was still 16 to visit some of the interesting art events happening in Beirut and dreaming that one day I will have my own exhibit in Beirut.
How are the two historic cities distinct?
As you roam the streets of Tripoli, there is a heavy sense of belonging and longing to an era of slow-paced life, where people lived in the beauty of the ottoman architecture all around. Beirut is much more heavily influenced by the succession of architectural movements that shaped the city, and this is what gives the city the feeling of belonging to tourists, they could find motifs that are similar to their European homelands.
How significant was art in your upbringing in Tripoli and Beirut?
It was crucial. It was a form of expression of my mindset that did not fit the society’s norms. It was definitely not a hobby. I saw it as my destiny; I wanted to be an artist, least for some part of my life. And this feeling inside of me is what pushed me to experience both cities through the lens of art experimentation. I used to go to the port of El Mina in Tripoli, draw on the sand, use seashells to make land art—anything that would Help me pass the time and nourish my thirst for creation. I was only 10 years old when I won the #UNESCO 1st prize for the competition "My Right in Colors" in 2008.
You moved to Europe and settled recently in Milan to live and pursue your art career, how old were you, and what draws you to Italy’s art scene?
I was 21 when I had a dream to move the world with my work, which has been maturing into the current style I adopt. The dream had to be put on hold since I was still studying architecture at the Lebanese American University in Byblos, Lebanon. One day, the instructor came to class with a book called "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino. I was assigned to Imagine one of his invisible cities "Zenobia". To my surprise, the text that Italo wrote about "Zenobia" was as if he were describing "Tripoli", my hometown. He says:
"Placed at different heights on slats that climb over each other, connected by ladders and hanging sidewalks, surmounted by belvederes covered by conical canopies, barrels of water tanks, wind markers, and pulleys, shingle lines, and cranes protrude from them those that continue through the years and mutations to give shape to desires, and those in which desires either manage to erase the city or are erased by it."
And so I jumped in, on an A3 piece of canson paper, with my black ink pen, not knowing that this drawing will lay the foundation stone for my career for the following 3 years. My style was born out of the words of Italo and the similarities I drew to my hometown, Tripoli.
This messy and chaotic style of mine became my trademark, with absurd lines that shape the character of the city rather than the actual cityscape. A year later, I decided to pursue my master's in architecture at Politecnico di Milano. I did not steal twice, I was drawn naturally to Italy’s richness in arts, architecture, food, and people. I came to Milan on August 12 with a heart full of hope that one day my work will be recognized here, then elevated to the whole world!
How does an artist best conduct himself in Europe in order to adjust to a new life, and away from the Middle East that is so familiar to you?
Go out. Go out. Go out. Visit the parks, talk to strangers on the metro, and say hi to people. On the next table at the café, be confident and believe that anyone can be a friend, a connection, a lover, or just a sweet encounter. The world is full of good people if you are one yourself. However, a lot of solitude comes along with the search for recognition and artists should be aware and ready to face some heavy, emotional, dark days. On those days, stay at home, create, draw, sing, and paint, but don’t keep it to yourself. Share whatever you create, someone will appreciate it. Also, unlike Lebanon, there are a lot of public spaces where artists can express themselves, take your work outside, get a new perspective, take pictures, just enjoy this new lifestyle, and eat a lot of food!
Rami Lazkani (@ramilaz) • Instagram
Rami Lazkani Art | Tripoli | Facebook
This series is an effort to remember and preserve the memory of my time spent in Lebanon as an observer. It captures the character, the essence and the collective observation translated to monochromatic contemporary paintings describing the general feel of two cities in specific, #Tripoli and
#Beirut. An abstract series that disregards photographing the cityscape as is. It frames the ambiance, energy & typologies. Working with my personal visual memories allowed me to puzzle different scenes and experiences from different timeframes swinging between safety and tranquility, civil wars and
bombings. At glances it captures intense urban density and contrasts it with the practices of freedom that the wrecked political system unintentionally offers in a wrecked political system, you are never safe, but, always free.
- Rami Lazkani