Earlier this year, Elephant editor Margherita Dessanay covered Tammam Azzam’s work Freedom Graffiti. The Syrian artist is holding his first UK solo exhibition at Ayyam Gallery in London, which will run alongside a concurrent show in Beirut. His now-iconic image of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss superimposed over the walls of a crumbling, bullet-ridden building in Damascus played on the jarring contrast between the horror of war and destruction against the sublime nature of love and empathy. This heartfelt anti-war expression is perhaps of painful, deeply personal resonance to Azzam himself – he was forced to leave Syria with his family to escape conscription into the army, and found himself without a studio to paint in. Unable to work in his chosen medium, Azzam turned to digital media instead.
Azzam states: “I used to think that artists made art for art’s sake, but now, as a Syrian, it’s different. That’s why I named the show I, The Syrian”. In the same vein as his previous show, Azzam references the grittiness of street art and graffiti in his most recent works. Bon Voyage stands out in particular: it emphasises the tenuous state of a society on the cusp of revolution by employing the powerful visual metaphor of bright balloons lifting entire buildings up into the sky and above well-known political landmarks such as the UN headquarters in Geneva. One finds an ethereal sense of hope and sanguinity within Azzam’s works, as he transports us to the streets of Syria.
I, The Syrian is on until 30 January.
Ayyam Gallery, 143 New Bond Street, London W1S 2TP
Images courtesy of the artist and the gallery.