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War & Hope: Emerging art from war-torn Syria

BAY RIDGE — Profound art has always emerged out of the ashes of devastation and despair, and the war-ravished cities in Syria serve as the inspiration for contemporary art by prominent Syrian artists in a stunning new art exhibit that debuted in Bay Ridge.

The Khawam Gallery in collaboration with the Awareness Foundation and Common Humanity presented the “Emerging Art from War-Torn Syria: War & Hope,” exhibition late last month. The event was hosted by Dr. Nidal Isber and Kinana Khouri at Isber’s office at 352 86th Street.

The exhibit showcased art that was inspired by the recent war in Syria as artists used landscape imagery to create remarkable works of art. While none of the works were political in nature, they were influenced by eight years of war and the impact it has had on the artists who lived in Syria during that time.

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The Rev. Dr. Nadim Nassar, founder and executive director of the Awareness Foundation, a charitable group that sponsors programs inside Syria and Iraq to support children and young adults by helping them deal with the aftermath of war,

Feels art provides a way to help children in war-torn countries.

“We try to help the children learn to face and deal with their fears through rediscovering their gifts,” he told this paper.

ebrooklyn media/Photos by John Alexander
Distorted human figures by artist Bassem Dahdouh.

Gallery owner and artist Tony Khawam explained that he has painted urban landscapes in New York for the past 20 years but was deeply affected by the war in Syria.

“So I switched my subject from the New York urban landscape to Aleppo’s urban landscapes. The idea behind this was just to show the beauty of the culture, the architecture, even though some are destroyed buildings or collapsed buildings. But I intentionally used joyful color palettes to make it a little more positive and bring joy to the paintings in a very contemporary way.”

Khawam next contacted a group of other Syrian artists he knew that were living in the U.S. and Syria. Like Khawam, they were also affected by the war and switched their subject matter to show some Syrian cultural, iconic and symbolic imagery in their paintings.

Khawam visited Syria last year and brought back a collection of art work and ultimately was able to curate the exhibition. And he believes that every picture tells a story of how the war has impacted the creativity of each artist. He explained that one of the artists whose work is on display, Nizar Sabour, who has a Ph.D. in art science, focuses on religious imagery and icons, whether Christian, Islamic or non-Abrahamic traditions.

Another artist Khawam highlighted was Bassem Dahdouh who was born in Damascus, Syria and whose work is influenced by Cubism and post-impressionism. Dahdouh’s paintings combine elements of post-World War II German expressionism and earth-color palettes portraying a lost and confused generation of Syrian society depicted in portraits of significantly distorted figures expressing the horrors befallen upon them by the Syrian war.

“This artist used to paint abstracts before the war but couldn’t paint abstractions anymore,” Khawam explained. “He had to express his feelings, so he took the human figure and the human psychology and how war affected the Syrians psychologically, and intentionally distorted the faces and the bodies to show the psychological effect on people.”

Other artists featured in the exhibit include Asma Fayoumi, Adnan Hamidah, Omran Younis, Reem Tarraf, Manhal Issa, Elias Ayoob, Rami Sabour, Nimat Badawi and Bachir Badawi.

ebrooklyn media/Photos by John Alexander
Gallery curator Tony Khawam

The Aleppo-born Khawam’s work is infused with scenes of fallen, collapsed and entangled buildings that were destroyed during the war. “It breaks your heart but at the same time you see the color and the expressionist methods that denote hope,” he explained.

“This artwork is all about bringing people together from different backgrounds. Whether it’s Syrians, non-Syrians, Middle Eastern, it doesn’t matter. It’s bringing people together through art because art connects people and as a result they see the rich heritage and culture of the country and the people.”

For information about upcoming art exhibitions go to khawamgallery.com.

ebrooklyn media/Photo by John Alexander
Nizar Sabour’s artwork focuses on religious imagery and icons.

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