Syrian Artists reveal horror of war and conflict

As the war in Syria enters its fifth year, millions of homes have been destroyed and almost half of the population has been displaced. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and injured- the war has resulted in the suffering of almost an entire population.

Many of those who fled the country try their best to remain a part of what they once called home, through photography, art or in any way that helps them feel connected to their cause.

Several Syrian artists have changed the course of their work throughout the Syrian civil war, focusing more on expressing their pain and their country’s devastation through paintings and images. Their message is clear: Syrians are in pain.

Their art has been displayed in several international exhibitions.

Al Jazeera spoke to four Syrian artists who were in Syria when the war broke out in 2011. The artists explained how the war dramatically changed their course of work and the extent to which it has affected the different level.

Wissam Al Jazairy, 24, Antalya,Turkey had just graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria, when the revolution began. Since the beginning of the Arab spring, he tried to focus his work on the revolutions taking place across the Arab world hoping to be part of the peaceful journey to freedom.

"Dancers and the dictator" by Wissam Al Jazairy. Photo: Aljazeera
“Dancers and the dictator” by Wissam Al Jazairy. Photo: Aljazeera

He was ten years old when he began studying art at the Adham Ismail Center for Fine Arts in Damascus.

Souad Al Jundi, 53, Beirut, Lebanon was in Damascus when the first wave of protests broke out in March 2011. He was living a normal life with his family. His work was mainly painting and teaching art. He also taught art to individuals with special need. He used to participate in exhibitions and volunteer sometimes in workshops. He fled Syria with my family in June 2012.

He has always been passionate about art. It all began during middle school in Homs, when teachers and fellow students admired my drawings and told me how talented I was. Since then, he really wanted to be a famous artist when he grew up.

Before March 2011, his paintings depicted love, joy, nature, old settings in Homs, old settings in Damascus, portraits of family members, anything he felt he needed to record on canvas.

But now his colors are darker, more somber. He is extremely sad and hurt because of all the lives lost and still being lost every day, dead men, women and children, buildings destroyed by barrel bombs and missiles.

All these images forced him to paint differently, with anger and sadness, occasionally he try to draw glimpses of light and hope.

Tammam, Azzam, Dubai, 35, UAE left Syria seven months after the revolution began in 2011. Before leaving he was working on a set of paintings named “The Laundry”. The project was based on clothes and pieces of cloth hanging on ropes, which intends to reflect our memories being hung the same way.

Art was his childhood dream, and it remains a dream. It does not end.

"Matisse" by Tammam Azzam. Photo: Aljazeera
“Matisse” by Tammam Azzam. Photo: Aljazeera

His work was not the only thing that changed because of the war,his opinions and perspectives on everything changed.

Amr Fahed, 33, Al-Suwaida, Syria was in Syria when the revolution began, he had just finished an art gallery about Damascus.

"'Syrian Children in the Crossfire" by Amr Fahed Photo: Aljazeera
“‘Syrian Children in the Crossfire” by Amr Fahed Photo: Aljazeera

Of course it was his dream to become an artist since he was a child. Even though he was born in Dubai and lived there for a while, it was always a dream to go back to Syria and study at the School of Fine Arts there.

So he went back in 2000, studied and graduated with a bachelors degree in Sculpture from the College of Fine Arts in 2007. Although his degree was in sculpture, he have always loved photography and art. He began working on two subjects, women and Damascus.

In fact the title of his first gallery in Syria was Damascus- with special thanks to Talal Moala who was his teacher throughout those years.

When the revolution began, it progressed in a terrifying speed. It required all of them to keep up with what was going on. The revolution taught me how to feel free as a person and feel freedom of expression through art.

The story was originally published in Al-Jazeera.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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