In his recent solo exhibition at Ayyam Gallery, London (until 30 January 2014), Tammam Azzam experiments with a range of media to reflect on current socio-political events in his homeland Syria.
I, The Syrian
“I, The Syrian” at Ayyam Gallery presents a small selection from Syrian artist Tammam Azzam’s catalogue, showing a number of light boxes, archival prints and C-prints. Originally a painter, Azzam moves to using digital media here, creating bizarre hyper-real collage images leaving the viewer with the feeling of looking at a memory of a place rather than straight-forward documentation of the situation itself.
Azzam’s work is controversial and subversive, in the rendering as well as the subject matter; his digital media prints and light boxes refer to graffiti-style street art and art history all at once, and the message is all about the current war in Syria, yet he resists the idea that he is a political artist.
In digital collage prints, Azzam frequently refers to canons of art (such as Goya, Dali, Klimt and Warhol) to juxtapose moments of the past with what’s happening now in Syria to highlight the complicity and apathy of Western world; they look on while his country is being ruined. For him, this makes his artwork more “revolutionary” than political. “I’m an artist that’s doing artwork with a political background because of the situation,” he explains, “because I’m Syrian so I have to be involved in what’s happening in my country“.
Perhaps Azzam’s most well-known work to date is “Freedom Graffiti”, which places a giant copy of Klimt’s “The Kiss” onto an embattled building in downtown Damascus. The painting on a building does not actually exist except in Azzam’s digital rendering; by “..enlist[ing] one of the greatest kisses in art to protest against his country’s suffering in a war watched passively by the outside world…“, Azzam expresses the very real hope that love between brothers of all countries will eventually see the end to conflict in his own nation.
What stands out in each of these images, though, is the sense that the artist, while understandably angry and frustrated, at the same time, he’s saying there is still hope for peace and reconciliation.
More Links and Information
- Profile of the artist Tammam Azzam in the Huffington Post by Tam Hussein “his first solo exhibition in London, I, the Syrian, a collection of surreal digital collages, bristles with defiance, paradox and tragedy”
- “Syrian artist Tammam Azzam on Freedom Graffiti, revolutionary art and the international community” by Amelia Smith in the Middle East Monitor
- Jonathan Jones of The Guardian writes, “Tammam Azzam’s Kiss: an unromantic commentary on the Syrian conflict” – blog post
- Review of ‘The Art of War’ by Tammam Azzam in The Londonist by Tabish Khan
- View/download press release for Tammam Azzam: I, the Syrian
- View/download exhibition guide/publication Tammam Azzam: I, the Syrian [PDF]
Exhibition details: Work by Tammam Azzam in “I, the Syrian” is on at Ayyam Gallery, 143 New Bond Street, London W1S 2TP, from 12 December 2013 – 30 January 2014, coinciding with a show of his work at Ayyam Gallery Beirut from 5 December 2013 – 30 January 2014.