Syrian artist Khaled Takreti abandons colour in first London exhibition – Ayyam video interview

A video interview produced by Ayyam Gallery reveals why Takreti’s striking graphic style attracted attention in London.

France-based Syrian artist Khaled Takreti presented a satirical view of freedom and identity in contemporary society in his exhibition “Complete Freedom”, at Ayyam Gallery in London from 5 September to 5 October 2013. In a video interview with Hisham Samawi, Co-founder of Ayyam Gallery, Takreti explains why he abandoned the use of colour in favour of a monochromatic graphic style.

Click here to view Khaled Takreti video interview with Ayyam Gallery on youtube.com

For Takreti, “Complete Freedom” at Ayyam Gallery represents an opportunity to engage with audiences on a personal level. As he explains in the video interview, “After years and years of painting, I feel like I have to be more direct in my idea, so in this, for this case, I use the line, the outside line, without a lot of shadows and lot of painting.” The artist’s preoccupation with the concept of freedom and individualism in contemporary society is evident in works like Photocopies (2013) and Chaos (2013). In these works, animal heads replace human heads and, as stated in the exhibition catalogue essay, “the sense of pain and hopelessness is still prevalent in both colour palette and content.”

Khaled Takreti, ‘Photocopies’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 196 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (2013) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘Photocopies’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 196 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (2013) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘Chaos’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 196 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (2013) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘Chaos’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 196 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (2013) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

In Les Enfants de la Syrie (2013) a group of children sit in hanging chairs on a fairground ride. The sky and the ground are not visible and as such the children appear to be “lost between sky and earth,” Takreti says in the exhibition press release. As noted in the same release, the work is a metaphor for the displacement of refugees in war-torn Syria. “[In] this collection, I want to be very direct in my work, so I use one or two colours,” Takreti explains. “[I am influenced by] the difficult period [in] Syria […]; I think the colours escaped from my palette.”

Khaled Takreti, ‘Les Enfants de la Syrie’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 196 cm, in “Complete Freedom”, at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘Les Enfants de la Syrie’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 196 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (20130) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

“Complete Freedom” is, the gallery notes, a natural progression from his previous exhibitions, most notably the exhibition “Silence”, which was held at the Ayyam Gallery Dubai in November 2012. “Silence” reflected the artist’s anxiety about the growing conflict in Syria, which began with civil unrest in March 2011. It was in this exhibition that the artist began using a muted palette to create his signature portraiture style. As Takreti says in an article by Arab newspaper The Majalla, “From the start of my career until now, I have used art as an instrument of expression. Sometimes I feel as if I cannot use words to describe how I feel, so my paintings are the tool that I use to portray my emotions and thought.”

Khaled Takreti, ‘Portrait’, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 150 cm, in “Silence” at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, UAE. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘Portrait’, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 150 cm, in “Silence” (2012) at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, UAE. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

From 1995 to 1997, Takreti lived in the United States where he was strongly influenced by Pop Art. As the writer Maymanah Farhat points out in her catalogue essay for the exhibition “I am a Teenager Again”, at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai from October to December 2010, this influence is evident in works such as La Vie en Rose (2008) and La Chasse au Dinosaure (2009). The artist explains in the same exhibition catalogue that “each set of works calls for a different energy, a different range of colour.”

Khaled Takreti, ‘La Vie en Rose’, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 195 x 130 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (2013) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘La Vie en Rose’, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 195 x 130 cm, in “Complete Freedom” (2013) at Ayyam Gallery, London, UK. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘La Chasse au Dinosaure’, 2009, acrylic and golden paper on canvas, 180 x 180 cm, in “I am a Teenager Again” at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, UAE. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Khaled Takreti, ‘La Chasse au Dinosaure’, 2009, acrylic and golden paper on canvas, 180 x 180 cm, in “I am a Teenager Again” (2010) at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, UAE. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

“Complete Freedom” is Takreti’s first exhibition in London and Ayyam Gallery Co-founder Hisham Samawi highlights the significance of this location in the video interview. “London is kind of the centre of the art world and the art market and there’s a lot of attention now going to Syria and to the Middle East,” he says. Takreti is, he explains, an important artist who has a lot to say: “Here is an artist who is kind of bringing a different kind of message from Syria to the heart of London.” Today, Takreti travels back and forth between his home in Paris and the Middle East and, as Samawi points out, he is “an artist that kind of brings […] both sides together.”

More about the artist

Khaled Takreti was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1964. He studied Architecture and Design at Damascus University before working at the National Museum of Damascus. After spending two years in New York City (from 1995 to 1997), he moved to Paris in 2006, where he currently lives and works.

His artwork is held in numerous collections including those of the Museum of Contemporary Art (Mathaf) in Doha, the Syrian National Museum and the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. He has held solo exhibitions at the Ayyam Gallery DIFC, Dubai (2012, 2010), Ayyam Gallery Beirut (2010) and Ayyam Gallery Damascus (2009). His work has also been included in group exhibitions at Mathaf, the Alexandria Biennale, Art Paris and Art Hong Kong.

This article was written by a participant in our art writing diploma programme. Do you want to write for Art Radar, too? Click here to find out more about our Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.

Camilla Cañellas

213

Related Topics: Syrian artists, conflict art, art and violence, art and trauma, painting, drawing, mixed media art, video interviews with artists, gallery shows, events in London

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on contemporary art from the Middle East


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.