Syr­ian art of­fers a new per­spec­tive

Week­end, Oc­to­ber 13-25, 2017 Works of 19 ac­tivists give glimpse of wartorn coun­try Calgary

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - CALGARY - Aaron Chatha Metro | Calgary

The only way Paul Craw­ford could get these Syr­ian paint­ings to Canada was through the black mar­ket.

The work of 19 Syr­ian artists is on dis­play at the Univer­sity of Calgary’s Founders’ Gallery at the Mil­i­tary Mu­se­ums in Calgary. Most of those 19 artists are still in Syria.

Through the art, he hopes Cal­gar­i­ans can build a greater un­der­stand­ing of the Syr­ian peo­ple and what’s hap­pen­ing in the coun­try right now.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is called Be­hind the Lines: Con­tem­po­rary Syr­ian Art.

It’s a wide range, too. One artist ex­plores the beast present in man by paint­ing a half horse, half man star­ing at him­self in the mir­ror.

An­other, a pho­tog­ra­pher, shoots a re­flec­tion of Syria through bub­bles, with a seem­ingly straight­for­ward mes­sage: ‘Make bub­bles, not war.’

One of the more pop­u­lar artists is one of the rough­est — a young woman sketches out car­toons to send back to fam­ily in Canada.

“This is now rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the makeup of Calgary,” said gallery cu­ra­tor Lind­sey Shar­man.

“We now have a lot of Syr­ian refugees who have come to Calgary and made this their home, so this ex­hi­bi­tion is def­i­nitely now rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Canada as well.”

The Syr­ian civil war has killed nearly half a mil­lion peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to Syr­ian Cen­ter for Pol­icy Re­search. The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to help­ing more than 25,000 refugees en­ter Canada in 2015, at least 4,000 of which came to Calgary.

It was soon after that when Craw­ford got in touch with an art gallery cu­ra­tor in Da­m­as­cus (Hu­mam Al­salim, 21 and still a stu­dent), and they be­gan for­mu­lat­ing a plan to bring art­work to Canada, to help these artists spread their mes­sage.

Craw­ford in­cluded many of the artists’ emails in the gallery brochures, so Cal­gar­i­ans can reach out and learn more about the Syr­ian cri­sis from peo­ple who are still liv­ing there.

“The prospects of ac­tu­ally show­ing these artists’ work in a com­mer­cial or public gallery was pretty much nil,” said Craw­ford.

“They would do shows in Syria and Da­m­as­cus, but they were preach­ing to the con­verted. Shar­ing their own sto­ries and keep­ing their spir­its up by cre­at­ing cul­ture in a waste­land. It’s art made for art’s sake — it wasn’t made so it could sell. It’s a tes­ta­ment to that mo­ment in their lives.”

It’s art made for art’s sake — it wasn’t made so it could sell. It’s a tes­ta­ment to that mo­ment in their lives.

Paul Craw­ford

AAron ChAthA/Metro

Paul Craw­ford had to bring the paint­ings in through syria’s black mar­ket.

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