JASMINE, ANOTHER SYRIA
Jasmine, Another Syria
During those troubled times, it seemed to us essential to offer another vision of Syria through its culture and the artistic creation of its artists.
Jasmine, Another Syria was born from the meeting of people from different horizons and cultures: French, Franco-Syrians and Syrians wishing to show their solidarity with Syria and its people.
The focus will be given on the artistic works of Syrian artists, the history of Syria (and its links with France), its literature and poetry, its cultural diversity and wealth.
Jasmine, Another Syria is meant to build a bridge between two languages, two cultures, two worlds.
This magazine with independent and non-profit funding will be published on a quarterly basis online on our Website syriaartasso.com, and annually as a print edition. It will be edited partially in French and in English languages.
Artist Houmam Al Sayed lightens the burden of silence
The work of visual artist Houmam Al Sayed, an artist much appreciated by the art world, denounces the burden of a deafening silence that tears humanity, thus placing his work at the heart of today’s preoccupations.
At first glance, it is the width of the heads, or even their disproportions that strike the viewer. On closer look, the central character haunting the work of the artist, Citizen Zero, looks like Houmam Al Sayed himself. His recurring character looks like Gavroche: beret screwed to the top of the skull, gangly silhouette, worn out clunkers and sad expression. A Misérable of modern times, in short!
Citizen Zero is Al Sayed’s alter ego, a form of allegory of his suffering. Like him, the Syrian artist left his country of origin and took the road to exile.
But behind Citizen Zero, a colorful sky leaves him immovable, silent and yet crisp. In most of Al Sayed’s work and even when the subject is accompanied by others, a palpable aloneness surrounds Citizen Zero. And if he were to come to life, explains Al Sayed, his brain would be anatomically compressed to the eighth of the size of an actual human brain.
It is in times of straining social contradictions when promises of liberation confront mechanisms of social repression that artists tend to resort to the expressive gesture registering a psychic disturbance on the body.
There is a worry in the eyes of those who cross his paintings. But there are also paper boats, like dreams of better days. Even surrounded by his fellows, solitude permeates the work of Al Sayed. Nevertheless, his work is not desperate. In the eyes of his characters remains a glimmer of hope that springs from their eyes.
Like Egon Schiele, Houmam Al Sayed chooses expressionism to illustrate the neuroses of men, exacerbated by the flaws of a contemporary world fed by injustice. The deformed characters express both oppression and tyranny. Al Sayed combines satire with social misery and malaise emanating from injustice to incisively illustrate his bizarre figures.
A great admirer of the Syrian poet Al-Maghout, Houmam Al Sayed pays tribute to him by borrowing his distinctive mark, his beret. The two artists do not only share this common point. Both fight for freedom and justice through a militant work.
Houmam Al Sayed (Born 1981 in Damascus, Syria) graduated from the Sculpture Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 2003. He began exhibiting his work at a young age. In 1998 he participated in an exhibition of painting at Teshrin University in Lattakia while seventeen years old. Since then he has exhibited throughout Syria and has participated in group shows and symposiums in the Arab world and Europe.
Editing and English translation: Danii Kessjan
“Gagged – No Dialog”
Bahram Hajou – An artist with Syrian roots
He exhibits his pictures worldwide. Bahram Hajou is one of Münster’s in Germany high rated painters. Hajou has Syrian roots.
His paintings do not leave anyone listless. When painter Bahram Hajou resorts to brush and paint, he deals with the inability of people to peaceful relationships. Mostly it is about psychological and physical violence and its many faces. Open and hidden aggression, the violence against women, the oppression and rape of women, the war and struggle between the sexes in couple relationships, and the atrocities that people are subjected to in armed conflicts.
In 2017, Bahram Hajou opened an exhibition of his paintings in the Gulf State of Bahrain. “Gagged – No Dialog” was the title. On the catalogue cover, a man gagged by another man’s hand. The paintings show the fierce, impotent, desperate muteness of couples. “Its nudity,” says Hajou, “shows me its vulnerability.” In fact, he was surprised that in the Sunni country his provocative creations could be shown: “They have even acquired some paintings for their museum.”
Bahram Hajou has been living and working in Münster for 40 years. At Hawerkamp he has a large and light-flooded studio. There, the short and wiry man is often to be found. As a trademark, he wears a classic Fedora hat made of brown felt, whether summer or winter. He rarely takes it off, even in the studio it almost always remains screwed on his head.
He himself has long since German citizenship, as well as his four children of course – who are from two different women. His eldest son Ovid Hajou is co-coach at FC Ingolstadt. Hajou is the scion of Syrian landowners, his entire family has now emigrated, lives in Sweden, Germany and the USA.
Bahram Hajou’s path to painting was a winding one. Born in Deruna, northern Syria, in 1952, he went to Iraq in the 1970s and began to study Civil Engineering in Nauperdan und Sulemanie in 1972. Just a year later he moved to Baghdad to study Art. In 1974 he fled from the war via Prague to Berlin. From 1976 onwards he studied in Münster. Initially he enrolled for Archaeology at the University of Münster, then in 1977 he changed to the College of Education to study Sports and Art. In 1983 he completed his studies and graduated. Following a brief period of teaching at the Gesamtschule Ückendorf, a comprehensive school in Gelsenkirchen, he has devoted himself to fine arts since the early 1990s.
At the Art Academy in Münster he studied with people like Lüpertz, Immendorf, Kuhna. After obtaining his diploma he was a Master Student with Prof. Norbert Tadeusz. “Germany,” he says, “has always been the country with the best artists in the world. Giants!.”
His impressive paintings are subtle and enigmatic. Their statement is usually encrypted and often hidden under several layers of paint. Hajou is a master of overlying layers. Most of his paintings are lamentations —painful and angry at the same time, heartfelt and compassionate. The paintings build up in several strata. They are the result of a process, which course can be followed and its pain surmised, thus reconnecting with the materiality and the gestuality of the painting itself. At the same time, his work is of overwhelming aesthetics.
Yet if Hajou paints against oblivion and repression, he also paints the human in his solitude. His art operates a transliteration in a system of symbols and in a continuity of motifs: faces, body postures, blank room, inaccessible towers, dilapidated homes and landscape. Against a background characterized by subtle hues punctuated by sudden splashes of colour, the human figure stares out or turns away, the body language expressing a range of emotions, love, fear, solitude, anxiety, understanding, freedom and dependence.
Today, Bahram Hajou’s work is famous around the world and presented in many museums. Since then he has been considered one of the greatest figurative painters of our time. And there is hardly an artist in the region of Münster who has so many international contacts and whose paintings are exhibited in so many countries.
“Wherever I am, I represent Münster,” says the painter, whose exhibition list leads all over the world: Netherlands, England, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, USA, to name but a few countries. In 2004, before the war, he exhibited in Syria. 2013 last in the White Box Gallery in New York. In 2014 he received the “Henry Matisse Prize” at the Musée Grimaldi in Paris. He was also honoured with an exhibition at the “Salon d’Automne”, one of the most prestigious galleries in Paris that was held on the theme of Exile. “Actually, I’m constantly on the road,” says Hajou.
And when does he paint? When he is in Münster, always in the evening and until late at night: “I need my cognac and my cigarettes, then I am productive”.
Bahram Hajou’s style is referred to as Neo-Expressionism; his mentors are Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein, whose works are also hanging in the LWL – Museum für Kunst und Kultur on the Domplatz in Münster. But Hajou’s expression is unparalleled. His big topic, the conflicts within couples, has moved him especially since his separation from his first wife: “At that time I painted the strongest pictures of my life.”
Hajou puts out his cigarette and puts on his indispensable Fedora hat. The studio at Hawerkamp is secured for another ten years. The painter has plans: “I want to become even more expressive. I am in a quest.”
Editing and English translation: Danii Kessjan
Nidal Khaddour – Spectrums in Memory
For the first time at the Fann A Porter Gallery in Jumeriah Dubai, Nidal Khaddour has presented September – October 2018 a solo exhibition Spectrums in Memory, featuring the artist’s latest paintings. A survey of the artist’s latest works, the exhibition explored human perception, impression, and projection through a collection of large and medium sized abstract works. Khaddour paints landscapes of open fields and of equivocal mountains, night skies, city streets, and interiors. Side by side and from afar, the works evidently share the artist’s unique technique, building layer upon layer of paint yet maintaining an optically flat surface that still portrays the differing depths of the scenes painted.
Present in all his works is an element of nature. Drawing upon the nature of his city of residence, Al Ain, and the similar nature of his home country, Syria, Khaddour merges geometric abstraction with a colour palette that he describes as very much his own. His colour choice stands at a stark comparison to the geometric forms used to portray the different scenery in each work, and even though lighter and softer than the strict lines, the colours of each painting are what take charge, giving the works their overall hopeful quality.
Khaddour’s earlier work saw him paint more freely, with more visible brushstrokes, and a more realistic portrayal of scenery – seemingly less structured. His newer works presented in this exhibition have the artist moving further towards abstraction with tightened control over his brushwork. This geometric abstraction however, does not come across to the viewer as a claustrophic self-limitation, but rather appears as the natural progression of the artist’s practice.
The viewer is strangely reminded of the open composition and of the light found in Impressionist paintings through their palettes and loosened brushwork, even though Khaddour’s canvases are covered in sharp-cornered shapes, straight lines, and enclosed spaces. The works give off a sense of breathability and an air of nonchalance that allows the viewer to take a step back and see the beautiful facets of what is usually a landscape or a sky. Through their work, the Impressionists attempted to capture a split second of life, an ephemeral moment in time on the canvas: the impression, and very similarly, Khaddour captures his impressions of his moments in nature, translating his feelings and state during that particular time into the light colour palette seen in his current works.
His painting ‘Lilac Mountain’ is composed of sharp edged overlapping geometric forms in different purple hues, moving towards a lighter and warmer pink as the eye travels to the top of the mountain. The artist paints the background in light lilacs and lilac-tinted greys, eliminating a blunt contrast between the mountain the sky, yet allowing the mountain to still stand proud in the forefront. The constructivist style creates an almost mechanical personality to the mountain, yet providing a unification between humane attributes and robotic characteristics.
Khaddour continues this in ‘The Countryside’. The canvas is split horizontally in almost equal parts, the bottom half painted in hues of earth tone reds and browns of a countryside scape with what looks like hills, some houses, and the land in between. Diagonal lines in the foreground move towards one another as the eye moves up the canvas to create a sense of depth. This is contrasted with vertically divided forms in the sky, giving a superimposing sense of the sky standing over the countryside.
With his newest works the artist hopes to create a space for the viewer to escape the negativity of the world around them – the wars, the natural disasters, and all that one sees on the news and is constantly being fed through different streams of modern media – and see the positivity and hope that he captures in the ephemeral moments he paints.
About the artist
Painter Nidal Khaddour uses his brush to create work that highlights beautification in its essence by drawing upon unconventional inspirations, mainly the impact of the socio-political state around him. The paintings see the unification of geometric abstraction with colours reminiscent of Impressionist paintings. This unification serves the artist’s aim to create a positive reflection of his world. Khaddour explains that ‘sadness pushes [him] to create joy. [He] has the desire to make the world see beauty, instead of ugliness.’
Khaddour is a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society and has educational experience as an art teacher in the UAE and Syria. His works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions including New Members Exhibition, Emirates Fine Arts Society, Sharjah (2017); 1001 Nights, La Parole Art Gallery, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi; Life Through Art, La Parole Art Gallery, Al Ain Rotana (2017); 12 Voices, Rotana Beach Hotel (2016); Shots of Nature and Human, The French Alliance of Abu Dhabi (2015); Future Identities, Palazzo Radetzky, Milan (2015); and Syrian Art & Culture, Ismaili Cultural Center (2015).
Khaddour was born in 1979 in Homs, Syria. He received his BFA from the College of Fine Arts, Damascus University in 2009. He lives and works in Al Ain, UAE.