Bashar Alhroub, Silent Garden #3, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 200 × 200 cm

Zawyeh Gallery at Alserkal Avenue launched its permanent group exhibition which provides the opportunity to see Palestinian art across the spectrum all year round. The exhibition opened on the 15th of June and includes the works of six Palestinian artists: Sliman Mansour, Nabil Anani, Bashar Alhroub, Rana Samara, Hosni Radwan and Tayseer Barakat.

In the exhibition one can view a few pieces from Bashar Alhroub’s Silent Garden project which revolves around the artists’ experience of isolation within society.

Bashar Alhroub, Silent Garden #3, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 200 × 200 cm
Bashar Alhroub, Silent Garden #3, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 200 × 200 cm

Part of a series of artworks that revolve around the artists’ experience of isolation within the society he lives in. Alhroub makes his home garden with its exotic plants, the center of his attention. His Silent Garden transforms into a healing escape rather than a physical space. It becomes a sanctuary that provides therapy to the stranger in Bashar’s soul, bringing about the peace and tranquility that he strives for in pursuit of his inner reality away from the outside world. The artist places himself on par with the plants in the visual sense. In front of the big canvas, we are overwhelmed with the dominant tall plants and can sense a conversation between them and the artist, as if the plants have turned into his intimate soul mates.

Young artist Rana Samara’s Intimate Space artworks explore spaces of intimacy behind closed doors in the context of a nation still struggling under years of military occupation.

Rana Samara, Untitled, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 161 × 202 cm
Rana Samara, Untitled, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 161 × 202 cm

In Rana Samara’s artworks we are witness to what appears to be a typical domestic scene, but on closer inspection small details become large clues – lingerie peeks out from beneath rumpled sheets, belts hang from the bedstead, a half used pack of Viagra lingers – these telling signs provide a narrative for the foregone ‘crime’ or proscribed act. These bedrooms are familiar domestic spaces, but in these paintings they are transformed into the repository of social neurosis and taboos that Samara seeks to scrutinise and demystify. Virginity. Intimacy. Sexual desire. Gender. Social norms. These issues, so pertinent in both the female realm and the society at large are often hidden, unexplored or even dismissed at an artistic level in the context of a nation still struggling under years of military occupation.

Nabil Anani’s In Pursuit of Utopia series that stems from his fascination with the Palestinian landscape and rural life scenery.

Nabil Anani, In Pursuit of Utopia #21, 2021. Mixed media on canvas, 100 × 100 cm
Nabil Anani, In Pursuit of Utopia #21, 2021. Mixed media on canvas, 100 × 100 cm

In pursuit of utopia, one might never arrive at the destination, although could get close to it. The perfect place keeps running away further ahead like a shadow running from its owner. Utopia might be an impossible imaginary situation that will not necessary materialise fully, yet it stays central to dreaming, since our utopian thinking fuels the pursuit of our dreams that keeps us alive with motives to realise them. The word utopia comes with a certain criticality as it can voice dissatisfaction with the status quo and/or holds a vision of the future that differs in at least some aspects from the present. It is in this sense that Nabil Anani sees Palestine: a prosperous thriving place free from occupation; a land that takes pride in its nature and parades it jubilantly; a dream worth to pursuit. Anani’s work stems from his fascination with the Palestinian landscape and rural life, which are subjects that he has addressed throughout his artistic journey. In this series of work, one can rarely spot a human or their shadow, for the primary focus remains on the aesthetic of the place, giving the audience the chance to ponder and appreciate the scenic terrain

Sliman Mansour focuses on artworks that rely on natural materials. The combination of mud and acrylic reflects the tension between the rough cracks which is dominant, in contrast to adjacent areas of smoothly painted colours.

Sliman Mansour, Temporary Escape, 2019. Mud and acrylic on wood, 110 × 110 cm
Sliman Mansour, Temporary Escape, 2019. Mud and acrylic on wood, 110 × 110 cm

Mansour’s works represent the stalemate situation in the Palestinian current reality and the subsequent changes that permeate the nature of Palestinians as people. They suggest a slow transformation of colourful vibrant figures into disintegrating characters broken into many colourless pieces. Yet, it is not all dim and gloomy, his Temporary Escape gives some hope that this transformation is only transient.

Meanwhile, Hosni Radwan’s Cityscapes artworks, focus on the significance of the old city of Jerusalem as a vibrant and lively space.

Hosni Radwan, Jerusalem Sky, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 79 × 117 cm

Hosni Radwan, Jerusalem Sky, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 79 × 117 cm

The significance of Jerusalem as a national symbol permeates the artworks of Hosni Radwan titled Cityscapes. The iconic representation of the Dome of the Rock comes to the fore as the artist celebrates the old city via focusing on its landscape. He explores the aesthetics of old buildings via the scenery he draws; its mosques, churches, small houses, windows and arches. He uses daring colours of gold and orange to reflect the vibrancy of the city that can be found beyond its old buildings.

Tayseer Barakat’s wooden work reminds of early cave drawings with animals, abstract figures and alphabet-like symbols – representing a past phase from the nineties, in which the artist primarily examined details of his personal life in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza as if writing a prolonged detailed memoir.

Tayseer Barakat, The Camp, 1992. Wood burning (pyrography), 197.5 x 45 cm
Tayseer Barakat, The Camp, 1992. Wood burning (pyrography), 197.5 x 45 cm

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