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Postcards from Syria carry creative messages of hope and anguish
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 24 - 12 - 2012

Roberta Fedele
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — “From Syria with Love” is an exhibition featuring nine Syrian artists whose creative artworks, carrying messages of hope and samples of Syria's rich artistic tradition, are like postcards from the land of conflict.
The exhibition, which kicked off on Dec. 16 at the Ather Gallery, will continue until Jan. 10, 2013.
Artworks' of globally renowned artists Monif Ajaj, Farouk Kondakji, Mustafa Ali, Abdullah Murad, Asaad Arabi, Mohammed Tulaimat, Ismail El Helou, Fadi Yazigi, and “Malva” Omar Hamdi are on display at the exhibition.
Their artworks not only showcase variety of styles, techniques and thematic approaches but also eloquence, passion and insight of what the contemporary Syrian artists are capable of in a period of bitter political instability and struggle of freedom for Syria and its people.

The artists' 36 artworks, comprising 28 paintings and eight bronze and wooden sculptures, were developed between 1992 to 2012 and focus on universal themes such as nature, love, spirituality and the human condition reflecting on Syria's complex socio-political situation.
Particularly interesting are the artworks' of artists Kondakji and Yazigi, who presented at the exhibition some of their latest paintings after the revolution started.
Kondakji, who is originally from Homs now lives in Jeddah, where he runs a fine art institute and collaborates with various galleries playing an important role in developing the local art scene. He is mainly an impressionist artist who finds in nature his favorite and most inspiring subject. At the exhibit, Kondakji displayed four black and white paintings, moving away from his usual colourful style.
“The whole purpose of using black and white is to express my feelings of anguish for the difficult moments my country is facing while at the same time making an effort to find light within darkness, elements of hope and potential renaissance within a situation of social despair.
“Taking a closer look at my paintings you'll notice white points disseminated throughout the black landscapes and slightly outlined flowers,” Kondakji said.
He added: “Nature is like a mother to me. Since I started my artistic career, it represented the only key to access my inner emotions.
“In my past collections I tended to represent colourful, mystical and foggy landscapes influenced by the memories of my homeland.
“Even though a black atmosphere dominates my paintings today, Syria remains in my memory a multicolored society that has always welcomed people from different nationalities and different faiths forming a vivid mosaic.”
A similar attention to the current socio-political instability afflicting Syria emerges from the paintings of Yazigi, a talented artist born in 1966 in Latakia.
He has participated in a large number of exhibitions in the Middle East, Europe and United States.
Like all the other artists, Yazigi wasn't able to leave Syria to attend the exhibition but expressed his artistic thoughts in previous interviews.
He said: “ Art is the culmination of uninhibited creative freedom to visually express the social and political situation of our times. My works are nostalgic chronicles.
“I find inspiration in all the things that surround me and all the people who left an indelible mark in my life. I paint, sculpt and mould as I observe the world.”
Assad Arabi is another prominent and talented contemporary Syrian artist who explores his region's social taboos and the deep contrasts and dualities characterizing human nature using an expressionist style.
The exhibition displays three of his paintings “Migrating Away From Damascus,” “Mothers & Children” and “Sacrifices.”
Realized in 2006, these paintings are interesting for their capacity to convey a feeling of uneasiness in the years that preceded the Syrian revolution.
In “Sacrifices,” Arabi seems symbolically foreseeing Syria's upcoming social and political unrest. The painting shows an animal sacrificing another fellow animal while she is feeding her puppy and depicts a group of animals in the back observing the scene without intervening.
Although touching themes of alienation, El Helou is an expressionist artist who adopts a lighter style and whose works stand out for their simplified imagery, architectural lines and subjects drawn from the rural life.

The young lady depicted in his 2003 painting “Engagement Days” is still very young but obliged by society to marry and act as a mature woman. In “Common Fate” she is stacked in her hometown like a dead fish.
Kondakji's, Yazigi's and Arabi's dark themes related to introspection and isolation are balanced by Tlemat's cheerily colourful and fantastical modernist paintings, Murad's light abstract paintings and Ali's bronze and wooden sculptures whose motives and details narrate the history and tradition of Syria.
Director of the Mustafa Ali Art Foundation, Ali is a leading figure in the Syrian art scene. Foremost sculptor, he has inspired and supported generations of Syrian artists.
His works are housed in private and public collections including the Sharjah Museum of Art and the Arab World Institute in Paris.

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