“We are witnessing something unreal in Syria, the destruction, death toll, sound of rockets, bomb explosions you can’t even define its location or how far it is from my studio or house! This is all new to me, as a person, Syrian and artist… I can’t describe how it feels, I find my salvation in art, stating the feelings I can’t explain of a view too ugly to absorb!”
– Fadi Al Hamwi.
The work of Fadi Al-Hamwi, a painter from Damascus who also now lives and works in Beirut, shows this same preoccupation with translating the human experience of war, rather than producing art with a political message.
Fadi, had moved to Beirut almost two years ago.
His art explored the lack of humanity in the Syrian war, exposing men and woman stripped to the structure of their bones. He gives a face to war and has offered a fresh and human perspective on the conflict.
“Silence” and “Curiosity” (both 120×100 cm) are intriguing depictions of owls. The first piece depicts a white owl, standing atop a gift-wrapped package tied with a bow. The second work is a rendering of a black owl, with a flower in its beak.
The owl has been associated with several myths and legends. For some, it embodies wisdom and is associated with the Greek deity Diana. For others, the creature is associated with the hunt itself. It may be that this dichotomy is reflected in Hamwi’s decision to depict the beast in white – suggesting wisdom – and black – evoking darkness.
My work employs sarcasm as a tool to criticize social traditions, beliefs and superstitions. Sarcasm triggers the viewer’s attention and curiosity through critically addressing comic-tragic realities. Humor allows the viewer to enter the space of criticism without directly activating defense mechanisms. Society minus 180° invites the onlooker to rethink social structures and his/her position within this structure. Social and environmental imbalances are prominently accentuated through war and mass death.
From a social context, the work moves closer to the individual‘s naturalistic form expressed through its human-animal relationship. Using techniques, such as x-ray, to go beyond the obvious and into the unseen of the individual form. This takes the concept of addressing human social nature to instinctual animal physicality and psychological human states of mind.
The “x-ray” technique exposes layers and realities that adds a harsh element to the human nature. It expresses the animal-human relationship through symbolism and the connection of bones; the recurring human jaw element allows the viewer to connect to the animal container and receive it as his own regardless of its challenging cruelty. The works portray imperceptible thoughts of violence and brutal instincts of killing and how war provokes them manifesting the dark side of humanity.
My works shifted from a wide social perspective in the early works of 2010-2012 to an uncensored scrutiny of psychosomatic dimensions in 2013 – 2014 and recently onto the marriage of both.
An installation by the artist last year featured broken concrete blocks with a television sitting on top. Visitors were invited to climb the rubble to see what was showing on the television. Once there, they were presented with live footage of themselves standing amid the debris and destruction. Hamwi said his aim was for visitors to feel for a moment what it would be like be victims of the Syrian conflict.
“And a body lost in the void, searching for a steady place to stand on
The rubble of a house immersed in the memories, the voices and the perfume of its people.
You stand there by yourself, until the tragedy becomes your own”.
Installation (Syria contemporary art fair 2013) · Taken in Beirut, Lebanon.