Syria from the point of view of Syrian art

New exhibition at Skol showcases Syria through a different lens

In a small white room near Place des Arts, the work of five Syrian artists portrays what they perceive as the reality of living in and being from Syria during the current civil war. The multidisciplinary exhibition, featuring photography, film and ink drawings, shows a different view of war-torn Syria than what we’ve seen in Western media.

The exhibition is called Internal Landscape, a title that references both the geographical landscape of Syria and the internal landscape of the artists’ minds and memories, according to the exhibition’s curator, Delphine Leccas.

The goal of the exhibition is to capture “the impression we have of a country that we have left and the image we have of this country in the back of our brains, the emotions we continue to hold of this country,”according to Leccas.

The main themes that come through the various art pieces are nostalgia and a will to return to a normal life, yet these seemingly clash with the courage, strength and pride that emanate from the works of art. “People continue to live in Damascus. They have dreams, and they want to have a future like [everyone] else in the world,” said Alma Salem, cultural advisor. The exasperation and defiance of the Syrian people comes across in the exhibition—both emotions blend together in the featured works.

Leccas is the co-founder of the non-profit organization AIN, which supports young Syrian artists. She lived in Syria from 1998 to 2011 and worked with many artists, showcasing them in exhibitions organized by the association. She said that, before the revolution, the artistic scene in Syria was mostly underground.

“The majority of foreign artistic directors who came to Damascus came face to face with the official art scene that didn’t interest them at all, and they would leave saying, ‘Syrian art is very academic. It’s not very interesting,’” Leccas said. “But they didn’t have access to all the workshops where artists were working in the shadows.”

She said that the revolution and war pushed many artists to different parts of the world and social media helped to propagate Syrian art and make it known. Leccas said there was “a need, a vital necessity” for the artists to produce art and share it in light of what was happening in their homeland.

“There is a real danger in creating art, and we forget that because we have a tendency in Europe and in the Western world of seeing the artist as someone who entertains themself,” Leccas said. “We forget that the artistic act can be a strong political act and that it can put lives in danger.”

The four artists featured in the exhibition are Aiham Dib, Muzaffar Salman, Randa Maddah and Monif Ajaj. All of their works were created when they still lived in Syria during the civil war and three of the artists still live and produce art in Syria.

Internal Landscape runs until Feb. 25 at the Centre des arts actuels Skol.

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