Tarek Tuma, Syrian artist

Born in Douma, Syria in 1979
Lives and works in London, UK

Tarek Tuma is both an artist and an art curator currently based in London. He recently completed a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts at the City and Guilds of London Art School. Tarek holds a post-graduate diploma in Fine Arts from London’s Art Academy, where he was awarded a First-Class Honours degree. Tuma came to art with a background in medicine, which he studied at Damascus University, where he had his first solo exhibition ‘Attempt’ (2004).

He has since participated in several group exhibitions in London, including the Pop-UP Space at BetterBankside (2010); Create-Master-Inspire at the Menier Gallery (2010); and Mairmade Court Group Exhibition (2011); Withoutwords: Emerging Syrian Artists in London. Tarek is actually one of the curators of the exhibition Withoutwords: Emerging Syrian Artists, presented by Mosaic Syria and P21 Gallery in London, making it his first exhibition as a curator; Peace Festival 2015 #ART4PEACE in London (2015).

Tarek Tuma’s creative drive is shaped in reaction to the apparent destruction of his country, Syria, resulting from the current civil conflict. He is concerned with the journey of Life and what lies underneath its skin, which can be summarized by a series of dichotomies; tragedy and bearing witness; life and mortality; time ad space; desires and spirituality; reality and dream; good and evil ; love and fear; faith and reason; religion and mythology; God and Man; Man and Beast.

His canvas is a prayer pad and a surface to pain[t] literally and metaphorically. Both painting and salat (prayers) are fused to constitute an inseparable and inexplicable act of worship through which he bears witness to his inner strife, and to the outside world simultaneously.

Artist’s statement

Art is the embodiment of hope, peace and love. I think that Art can be a great force against the war. There is the destructive force represented by wars and atrocities, and there is the creative force represented by the art. In Syria, the creative people express themselves in an artistic way that is very powerful.

Regarding my art, I paint neither tanks nor ruined buildings, but my paintings are not less haunted by war. An artist does not choose, he spontaneously creates from what he sees around him, what he feels. I’m here in London, but I see that war. No Syrians in the world can ever escape it. And yet, I would dream of painting anything other than suffering.

My paintings are a carpet on which I pray. I focus on humans, on the souls of those who suffer and that one does not hear. But especially I paint nothing political. I try at all costs to keep a distance. When I say that I can’t paint anything but pain, it’s not entirely true. Actually, I started painting metaphysical flowers. They are so beautiful… It looks like they are not of this world. And yet, I do not have the courage to finish them before the return of peace.

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