Artist Layal Khawly may now live in Beirut and exhibit abroad, but she has never forgotten her childhood in her hometown of Chadra in Akkar.
“Love, peace, nature, beauty and simplicity; this is what I remember about the first few years of my life in Akkar,” Khawly gushes. “They still have all their traditions, such as making tannour bread and farming organically.”
Khawly’s connection to Akkar and Lebanon is evident in her contemporary art, with much of her work being influenced by memories or events connected to her homeland.
“Lebanese villages as well as the city both influence my art,” Khawly explains. “I’m lucky to have both backgrounds since I’m from a village where nature beauty and simplicity coexist and where each stone tells a story. However, the city inspires me with its modernity, colors and the dynamic life within it.”
In 2014 she created a nostalgic series called “The Lebanese Abandoned Villages,” which paid homage to Chadra and other towns around the area. Khawly still visits Chadra when she can, taking the time to pass by her favorite spots and breathe in the nature around her.
“I love going near the river than runs through Chadra. There’s a tree nursery there which is part of an environmental project and it’s a wonderful place to be,” she says. “It’s also possibly one of the last Christian villages in the North so it’s unique. It’s a place where you can mediate and reconnect with art and nature.”
Khawly started painting as a young girl and her thirst for the world of art allowed her to see new perspectives when there were none. Growing up with this passion fueled her ambition to make her mark and represent her country abroad.
Khawly’s work is characteristically colorful, although her favorite color is grey. “It’s the color of dust that is caused by time, time that reveals everything,” she explains. “Moreover it is the color of compromise – being neither black nor white; it is the transition between two non-colors.”
Khawly graduated with a BA in Interior Architecture from Notre Dame University and an MA in Visual Arts from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA) in Beirut. When she’s not painting, she enjoys reading, listening to music and finding interesting architecture.
“I love walking the streets of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael,” she says. “These neighborhoods have old buildings and architecture that we rarely see now. I feel they have souls and looking at them gives me a sense of serenity.”
In May 2016, she was selected by the Chinese Ministry of Culture to represent Lebanon at the National Museum of Art in Shanghai.
“I couldn’t be prouder to represent my country Lebanon abroad,” she says. “I think people can understand more about my country through my art. They can see the sadness but also the beauty that is calling us back to Lebanon.”