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Syrian Voices Exhibition

Syrian Voices

What is so special in art from Syria?  How can people stand third year of terrible fate without breaking?

And how can artists produce works showing so much energy   and even brightness in times of darkness and losses?

 What can we learn from Syrian artists? How can their works show a mental attitude of survival in times of crisis!!?

We know the media images showing the total destruction of the country.

What not so many people know is the peaceful poetry of Syrian contemporary art, its deepness and wisdom, which is enigmatic, secretly.

The exhibition shows in times of crisis the brightness, confidence and often enigmatic wisdom by Syrian artists.

Since the world is full of threatening problems: overpopulation, migration, ecological problem, this brightness and wisdom of the Jasmine flowers, the symbol of Damascus is needed, its message is part of the message of the Syrian revolution.

Syrian places

What can we show on time of war and what can't we show? How can we tell our story? Shadi Alshhadeh's concept for the exhibition shows the most minimal and distanced way to tell about our values, our value in history and culture. He keeps the biggest possible distance to the war and to the media images. The distance marks our pain and our dignity.

Roza El-Hassan is conceptual artists, born 1966, and who uses drawings and objects. Her drawings are dense and simple. She is using often minimal elements of still enigmatic expression and strength. Her works were shown three times in Venice Biennial, in Drawing Center New York, and recently in a retrospective in Kunstmuseum Basel.  The exhibitions features a series of small drawings and objects, and some of her her best drawings between 1999 and 2013 on humanitarian question.

Roza El-Hassan creates careful metaphors in situation when language and documentary end. When we arrive to sensations of the unspoken. Still she is using the most simple and accessible elements: Yasmeen flowers symbolizing the cities of Syria, on a switched off computer screen. They symbolize also women's fate, love and non- violent attitudes, mourning and beauty and something what is full of secrets.  They symbolize Damascus and the martyrs. The screens of computer, a drinking glass, all our daily objects, which are so close to us, that we do often not realize them anymore, in the same way, as we do often not realize anymore, what is so important in our lives.

Heba Hroub a Syrian young artists born 1991 in Damascus, graduated from Damascus University in 2012 the faculty of fine art and she studied at Adham Ismael Academy for art. Hroub participated in several exhibitions in Damascus. The revolution in Syria have crushed Heba’s soul at some point but she quickly switched that into an interior energy that was transformed to the outside world as brilliant art work, Hroub today is volunteering in Zaytoon with other group of Syrians trying to make smile over a refuge child face.  Heba creates often gesture paintings and portraits, for this show she painted a series for Syrian City paintings using finest miniature painting tradition.

Myriam Al-obied: A young Syrian artist born 1988 in Dayer El-Zour, a city at the Euphrates river, in the eastern part of Syria. She graduated from the faculty of fine art in Damascus University 2012, Al-obied participated in several exhibitions in Syria, and she often volunteered in many activities for the Syrian children. Myriam works usually with animation.

Hanaa Al-Ukla: Born in 1990, graduated from Damascus University faculty of fine art in 2012 major of visual communication. Al-Ukla participated in several exhibitions. Al-Ukla volunteered in the Syrian Trust for Development as she volunteered in many activities for the Syrian children recently.  Her paintings and photomontages show the values and the freedom of paintings.  She is one of the young Syrian artists, who can use digital tools in a way as painters used a brush to express most personal and deepest sentiments during centuries. Young Syrian artist like Hanaa give new meaning and new value to digital art and photography. The glossy photo-paper is fresh, like a still wet piece of gouache or oil painting.  It is young generation, which is using immaterial media as well as brush and canvas, with a high level or artistic virtuosity and human deepness demanding more humanity in the world.

Sami AlRifai: Sami AlRifai’s work in this show is a painting made on a sheet of a newspaper. On the image we see the dense, strong and dark form of the famous Crack de Chevalier.  The world`s biggest crusader`s fortress, which is or was incredible well perceived.   The strength and darkness of the fortress and its image show the deep mental force of artists and people in Syria in darkest times.  Still, all the statement happens without any pathos, on a piece of daily newspaper and in most simple manner of realism. The image is part of curator Shadi Alshhadeh`s city paintings Continuity concept: The Syrian city paintings made by contemporary artist, who work  otherwise often in  abstract modernist way, show realistic images of ancient historical heritage which was damages or destroyed in Syria.

Fadi Zyada: 1989, young Syrian from the city of Idleb a city have witnessed a horrible massacres committed by the Assad’s forces during the Syrian revolution, thousands of videos and pictures came out if this city to show the world what happening in there, all these pictures have made Fadi find out his talent when he started to see pictures then imagine the same pictures in some other way so he worked on pictures to make his own design which he could imagine to upload it again on the social media to give the world the chance to see the same pictures but in different view.

Fadi is a master in combining the popular visual language of the rural parts of Northern Syria with digital art and photography. He gives a new message and content to the inherited forms of pop-art.

Wissam Al Jazairi: a young Syrian artist who was born in Damascus 1990, He began studying digital arts in 2008 at the University of New Bulgaria, and graduated in 2011. He started political drawing following the outbreak of Syrian Revolution in 2011, and participated in several exhibitions to support the peaceful movement in Syria. He is one of the very well known blogger and visual activist from Syria.

Yara Al Nagem uses also ink and gouache and digital tools for her posters and compositions, when she paints the shape of the countryof red and fresh cactus fruits.  We can read in Arabic, Like many Syrian artists she uses elements from daily life,  a cactus fruit, a bag, a key, a petrol station's tap with a heart. She deconstructs the rigid pathos of power relations.  While Shadi Alshhadeh created community space in Cairo, Yara Al Nagem creates a community space in various forms in Istanbul.Her design is just a small part of all her community projects and the smile, she is putting as a magician on other people`s face.



Mohan Dehne used to be a professor in Damascus at the art- University, when he left Syria, while most of the other artists live still in Syria and in the region; Mohan is one of the few artist in the show, who left Syria fifteen years ago. His works are showing the melancholic distance and a highly sophisticated critical view of the events.

In the work titled Time we see a couple might be related to the lost notion of normal life and bourgeois culture in Syrian middle class. The couple is placed in the floating spot of memories. It could be your parents, or an uncle and aunt. Why do they look so suspiciously normal and familiar to us?  Where did they live? And when was the photo taken?  Black and white…family albums   memories from the seventies, they could be taken in Damascus, or Amsterdam or Lausanne.  At the same time it is first at all a contemplation of time in our personal lifes.

Mohan Dehne has another work, the series Wall 1 and Wall2 in the exhibtion.  One of this main works.  Showing an enigmatic space of abstraction in blue, white and red colors.

Diala Birsly: Syrian young artist started to work with cartoon and animation early 2001; she was born in 1980, participated in many exhibitions, and worked with exhibition for the Iraqi refugees. Her works are of elementary simplicity, showing the events in Syria and all what happened to her friends and other artist without any false manner, like telling a story in the simplest way. The drawing on the hunger strike of Syrian woman in prison was broadly distributed in activist network, the spoon with the knot and the face of the woman on the drawing is one of the well-known icons of the revolution.

Amr Fahed creates strong political and structuralist images on the demonstrations in Syria.  He is using consciously elements of early conceptual art from the sixties s and seventies:  These are black and white photography, structuralism deconstruction of the image and repetitive elements.  Since the painting and sculpting department of Damascus Art academy was more under governmental control.

With many thanks to Dr. Marie Christine Gaillout- Mattheu and to Zaytoon.