CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITIONS SYRIAN ARTISTS
“Daily Myths” at Ayyam Gallery in Beirut, Lebanon showcases the newer works of Syrian artist Nihad Al Turk, with a collection of paintings that carry symbolic images that speak of the despondency of human existence.
Notable features of his works are the use of cool, dark colors and abstract, grotesque and unidentifiable figures. His recent works feature a new character, a tree whose shape may either be symbolic of life or reminiscent of a mushroom cloud that evokes an image of destruction.
The works are somewhat autobiographical and critics in Damascus often refer to certain points in the artist’s life for explanations for the philosophical standpoint and psychological energy that emanate from his works. Art historian Maymanah Farhat writes in the accompanying essay:
Exemplifying how a growing number of Arab artists are stepping outside of culturally dileanated frameworks, Al Turk’s mixed media works are devoid of any localised traits. Although his art frequently possesses autobiographical details, his subject matter is not specifically Syrian. Nor does it refer to that which is presumed to be exclusive to the Arab experience.
Furthermore, critic Rashed Issa noted that:
The characters of Al Turk are a mixture of fear, heroism and distortion. They are his visual and epistemological memory that takes him towards expressionism.
That Al Turk was raised in poverty, underwent a stint in Palmyra prison in Syria for abandoning military duties in order to paint, and has an artistic maturity that stems from experimentation and not from formal education are several points in his life that critics give credit to for the artist’s style and subject matter.
Quoting from the exhibition catalogue, the artist explains the figures in his paintings:
I believe that my task is to observe evil in life. Evil seduces me more. The mythical creature is the result of the contemporary human being. Since human being is viewed as ‘a distorted mass working hard to seek the best,’ this is the meaning of finding a clear spark of hope in this creature, which is broken and deformed, but loves life at the end of the day. For example, I love the shape of the hunch, which points to a struggling and a repressed human being.
About Nihad Al Turk
Nihad Al Turk was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1972, and despite no formal training has become an important name in Syrian contemporary art. He has staged exhibitions in Ayyam Gallery in Beirut and Damascus, Mark Hachem Gallery and Park Avenue in New York, the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, the Inaugural Exhibition of Damascus’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art as well as in other venues in Istanbul, Paris and Switzerland.
About the gallery
Ayyam Gallery was founded in 2006 and has several branches across the Middle East, including Damascus, Beirut and Dubai. It seeks to promote contemporary Arab art by highlighting the work of promising young artists from the region.
- Contemporary Art in the Middle East – a first book survey – May 2011 – Art Radar delves into a compilation of contemporary Middle Eastern art
- Arab Image Foundation use grant win to digitise Lebanese, Iranian photography – April 2011 – Arab Image Foundation wins a grant from Bank of America Merill Lynch
- Walid Raad’s Lebanon shows in Sweden for first time – picture post – February 2011 – “Walid Raad: New Beginnings” on exhibit at Sweden
- Syria stifles homegrown artists – New York Times – December 2010 – Amidst optimism on its steady progres, censorship among other things may hamper the full blossoming of Syrian art
- Beirut finally has a permanent, non-commercial arts centre – March 2009 – The Beirut Art Centre opens in Lebanon
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on gallery shows in the West Asian region