Until April 10, 2023, the Foundry art space is hosting New Perspectives, a group exhibition displaying the paintings created by Syrian artists Monif Ajaj, Mohamad Khayata, Elias Ayoub, and Edward Shahda. The show is organised by the Atassi Foundation, which strives to support and promote Syrian art. The exhibited works are included into the foundation’s permanent collection that comprises more than 500 art pieces.
The themes Monif Aja explores in his art are various problematic subjects: political tyranny, imprisonment, tortures, and others. His artworks featured in the show, Fig 1 and Fig 2, were created after his residency in France. There, he worked with an organisation which cares for children who have psychological issues because of having experienced violence, addictions, etc. These are young immigrants who came to France without their families.
Mohamad Khayata’s art piece which can be seen in the exhibition is from his latest series, Above the Fray, that reflects his wish to escape from the focus on war. The artist has been living in Beirut since 2012, being witness to what is happening in Syria every day. For the artist, clouds are a depiction of an escape from what he sees around.
In Jasmine Falls, the artwork by Elias Ayoub included in the exhibition, he explores motherhood, journeys, and our connection to the earth. It seems to the artist that the jasmine flower’s journey is similar to a human’s own mortal one.
Edward Shahda is heavily inspired by folklore. As an artist, he delves into a range of themes: Assyrian figures, Palmyrian sculptures, the poets’ lives and Islamic ornaments. New Perspectives lets one have a look at his huge canvas with no title. It depicts life in a Damascene neighborhood and gives a viewer a sense of life and movement.
About the artists
Mounif Ajaj (b. 1968, Deir Ezzour) resides in France. In 1995, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, Belarus. After that, he worked as a teacher and illustrated children’s books. The artist’s drawings are mostly inspired by his life in Damascus and his childhood in Al Jezireh; his caricaturistic portraits depict Syrian society in a satirical way. Mounif’s solo exhibitions have been held in Olso, Amman, Paris, Marseille, Brussels, Dubai, and Damascus. The artist has his artworks added to the collections of the British Museum; Darat Al Funun, Jordan; and the Ministry of Culture, Damascus.
Mohamad Khayata (b. 1985, Damascus) got a degree in Fine Arts from Damascus University. Affected by years of displacement, in his art Khayata explores concepts of migration, nation, identity, and memory. He has participated in many exhibitions which include 392rmeil393, Beirut; Journeys Festival International, Leicester; the Beirut Art Fair; and others.
Elias Ayoub (b. 1986, Damascus) graduated from the Department of Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University. After that, he graduated from Kursk State University, Russia, with a Master’s degree. Now, he is working on a PhD at the Surikov Art Institute, Moscow. “The Human and his psychology” and “the rich culture and the deep history of the people in the Middle East” serve as the important sources of inspiration for Ayoub. The artist has taken part in different shows and art fairs: the Beirut Art Fair, Lebanon; Museum of Contemporary Art, Rostov-on-Don, Russia; and others. His art can be found in public and private collections in the UAE, Egypt, Sweden, France, and other countries.
Edward Shahda (b. 1952, Damascus) studied at the Suhail Ahdab Center, Hama, and at the Damascus University (the Faculty of Fine Arts). After that, he undertook a residency at the Anatoli Klankov Atelier, Russia. In his art, Shahda works with the shape of the human body; according to his own words, he is fascinated by it. He also says that colour is his greatest passion. Shahda has had his works displayed in exhibitions in Syria, Russia, Lebanon, Egypt, Dubai, Turkey, the US, Canada, France, Switzerland, and China.
About the Atassi Foundation
Established in 2016, it is an independent, non-profit organisation; its main aim is to promote Syrian art through the broad collection of Mouna and Soudki Atassi, parents of Shireen Atassi, the director of the foundation. The collection includes about 500 works created by more than 80 modern and contemporary artists. The Atassis family began to collect art pieces from Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq in the 1980s. Due to the civil war in Syria in 2011, the entire collection had to be shipped to Dubai in 2012.
Collaborating with museums and art institutions across the world, the foundation aims to promote wider awareness, understanding and research of Syrian art through exhibitions, seminars, publications, and grants to Syrian artists, art critics, and historians.
To learn more about the New Perspectives exhibition, please visit its official web page.
You may also be interested in visiting Risham Syed’s “The Seven Seas”.