Syrian artists canvas conflict, exile at London exhibition

Syrian artists canvas conflict, exile at London exhibition
The work of five Syrian artists living in exile detailing their experiences and emotions regarding Syria's devastating conflict was showcased during an exhibition the US Embassy in London on Friday.
3 min read
13 January, 2017
Syria's ongoing civil strife was evocatively represented in works on display [Martin Armstrong]
Around 200 people attended an exhibition held on Friday at the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square showcasing the work of five Syrian artists living in exile in the UK and Europe.

Titled Art of Resilience, a total of 25 pieces employing a mixture of traditional mediums and individual styles and techniques were on display, many taking the shape of abstract compositions reflecting each individual artist's experiences and emotional connections with Syria and the ongoing conflict racking their homeland.

Seemingly random, turbulent compositions displayed at the event reflective of feelings of distress, longing, pain, suffering and anger towards realities in Syria experienced by the artists evoked a palpable sense of uncertaintly and apprehension in the observer.

These dynamics were evident in works including:

London-based architect Ammar Azzouz's The Chaos of War — an abstract watercolour painting depicting a disfigured body, mouth open as if screaming, offset by dark red splatters of ink that dribble down the canvas in blotches like clotting blood; 

Damascus-born, former animator Amjad Wardeh's Scream — a bleak, disconcerting re-interpretation of the famed Edvard Munch painting of the same name;

London-based, former medical student Tarek Touma's Blood and Light — an abstract oil painting depicting a spot of bright light breaking through a canvas thick with crimson paint, evoking a sense of claustrophobia in the observer as if trapped under rubble guided solely by a thin shard of sunlight breaking through darkness providing a vague sense of orientation;

And Duma/Rebirth— a large-scale Guernica-esque composition replete with depictions of nuts and bolts, and machine parts interacting with abstract representations of bodily organs and quasi-human shapes.

An observer contemplates Tarek Touma's "Duma/Rebirth" [Martin Armstrong]

Speaking at the exhibition, the US Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun gave thanks to those Syrian artists displaying their work and the resilience of the Syrian people in general stating that "at a time of such great destruction and suffering" in Syria it was a privilege to be able "to be inspired by such artists and their art".

The exhibition was put on by the US Embassy in association with the Mosaic Foundation — a UK-based, education-focused charity that currently runs three schools in Syria.

In addition to the artists mentioned above, works by the Aleppo-born, France-based artist Hazar Bakbachi-Henriot, and the Qamishli-bord, Sweden-based artist Zaria Zardasht were also on display.

A total of five Syrian artists' work currently living outside their war-torn homeland was on display [Martin Armstrong]
One of three images on display from Ammar Azzouz’s "Faces of Syria" series [Martin Armstrong]
Amjad Wardeh's Scream is displayed (on the left), alongside Tarek Touma's Blood and Light (top right) [Martin Armstrong]

Follow Martin Armstrong on Twitter: @MKLArmstrong