Noor Bahjat Al Masri, Syrian artist

Born in Damascus, Syria in 1991
Lives and works in Dubai, UAE

Noor Bahjat Al Masri was born and raised in Syria. Her motherland’s current political condition has entailed her and her family to depart the country almost five years ago for the glimmering desert emirate of Dubai. She graduated with honors at the University of Damascus and her last exhibition and residency was held at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai in 2015. Noor is the first recipient of Galerie Stephanie’s first-ever artist-in-residency program in Manila, the Philippines in 2016.

To mark the end of her residency at Galerie Stephanie in Manila in June 2016, artist Noor Bahjat Al Masri has prepared the solo exhibition “Which One is Your Thread?”. The show centres on the notion that although we are all virtually connected in this day and age, we have never felt more isolated. Influenced by the natural environment of the Philippines during her time in Manila, Noor Bahjat’s artworks reflect her increasing desire to live at a slower and steadier pace. Since arriving in Manila Noor has learned, with a contented surrender, to take her time. The Flora and natural forms populate the body of work she has completed here in the Philippines, and it is a small, albeit symbolically significant departure from her older work. There are shades of blush and other diluted colors that temper and work with the potency of her subject matter. It is this kind of balance that she has vigilantly labored on and painstakingly tried to earn for the past three months, to effectuate an equilibrium of sorts, not only in artistic creation but in the whole sphere of life and living as well. The gravity of her newly strengthened powers of observation has enabled her to not only position herself in this world of linked everything, but to question that very position as well. Here she questions her who’s and what’s and where’s. Privilege, duty, hopes, dreams and desires, war and peace—to Noor it is all a state of mind. You are what you make of your very existence.

Underneath all the paved structures that link nations and civilizations, there is a latticed, highly complicated, multilayered network of virtual highways and of intangible threads and strings that link everything and nothing at the same time. This paradox works because this age has laid out right before us an intricate, ever-growing system of mindless consumption and minute gratification, blanketing us in both isolation and connection. It has turned consumption into a sport, and without the necessity of careful digestion. In the history of man, never have we ever been more connected, but never have we ever felt more isolated.

Noor Bahjat’s work takes us to confront this predicament as well. One of her portraits, reveal a woman who holds up her brain almost like an offering, as if to say, “I surrender it and it is now yours”. Bereft of hair and skin and scalp, exposed is a bloody cranium in which placidly sits, as if it were a hat, a jellyfish. Its placidity is deceitful. In all the twenty thousand leagues of the sea it is one of its most infamous, quintessentially dangerous beauties. It is beautifully hypnotic and translucent—diaphanous like floating tulle—and appended to this gossamer body is a set of tentacles, undulating here and there. It preoccupies you in a trance-like haze, and all at once you are in its clutch and grasp. An electric tingling first, then a sharp, agonizing white-hot sting follows next. It is a fitting metaphor for ‘the system’, an almost mythical, and most pervasive power of man-made omnipotence that has deftly and seamlessly coiled and wrapped its tentacles around living, breathing things.

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