Paintings from the ‘edge of the world’ in Beirut offer a glimpse into a city full of shadows

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The work of Tom Young reflects where we are thanks to coronavirus – but more besides, writes Robert Fisk

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Tom Young’s paintings often feature shadows ( Tom Young )

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Tom Young is painting what he calls “the edge of the world”. I’m still not sure whether it’s the edge of his world or mine. In one sense, the lonely figures – often mere shadows – who appear in his empty Beirut streets belong to all of us in the coronavirus world.
Those shadows belong to him, although they are clearly not cast by Young himself. They are, I think, mostly men, although there are women on the balconies of the city’s shabby night-time apartment blocks and there is a young woman’s face in a surgical mask, eyes downcast – a veil, so the painter suggests, suddenly compulsory for everyone in the world.

But Young’s latest works are not “lockdown” paintings – there are no mysterious Covid-19 virions floating around with crowns on the end of stalks, no wide-eyed, horrified victims. Indeed, Lebanon has so far suffered only 26 dead, a fact which he returns to frequently with a seriousness that prompts many questions.

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