New exhibition of Syrian art opens in London

'Shattered Beauty' is a rare chance to see contemporary Syrian artists responding to their country's crisis

New Statesman
Amjad Wardeh, OBSERVERS, 2012, from the series FACE TO FACE, on show as part of 'Shattered Beauty'

A new exhibition of contemporary Syrian art opens 24 November in London. The show, entitled Shattered Beauty, is hosted by Syrian Relief, a UK-based charity which supports families and individuals affected by the escalating crisis.

Exhibitions of this nature are of course scarce. The low priority and logistical all-but-impossibility of creating and exporting art in a warzone means that this is one of the first opportunities for a Western audience to see new Syrian art.  

Shattered Beauty curator Nour Wali has recently spoken to the Guardian about the difficulties of organising a show like this. Conserving art works is simply not feasible in a country where lives are being lost daily, and Wali has spoken of struggling with fragile canvases which are torn, badly preserved, and need to be smuggled out of the country.

Nonetheless, the show has successfull amassed the works of fifteen contemporary artists, each reacting to the current events around them. Styles vary from Zaria Zardasht and Ahmad Salma's beautiful subversions of traditional Arabesque decoration to Amjad Wardeh's troublingly abstract portraits of refugees.

Coverage of Syrian art since the uprising has so far concentrated mostly on the phenomenon of graffiti protest art. Through several revolution-torn countries, urban art has proved a powerful satirical and political tool, it is so widespread that certain commentators have dubbed the Syrian uprising ‘War of the Walls’ for the prominence of its graffiti as a form of everyday resistance. Nonetheless, the aesthetics of the Arab springs have yet to be consolidated, and Shattered Beauty promises a first glimpse into this.

Syria Relief presents Shattered Beauty, a contemporary Syrian art fundraising exhibition curated by Nour Wali at Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BN. Open daily 10am to 6pm, 24-29 November 2012